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How To Choose A Hiking Backpack: 5 Key Factors To Consider

Posted by Luke Green

A backpack is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you need for hiking.  A good hiking backpack needs to be the right size for your requirements, whilst also providing you with the comfort and reliability that you need when trekking in the outdoors. Finding the right hiking backpack for you will depend on how far you’re hiking and the conditions that you’re hiking in. In order to choose the perfect fit for your next adventure, make sure to consider the following key factors:

Size & Capacity

It might seem like an obvious point, however the importance of  choosing the right size hiking backpack can’t be overemphasised. It’s crucial that your backpack has a large enough capacity to fit everything that’s on your winter or summer hiking kit list, whilst ensuring that you’re not carrying any excess or unnecessary baggage. Choosing the right capacity depends on how long your hike is i.e if it’s a short day trip or a longer multi-day expedition. The following guide outlines the correct capacity for different trips:

Day Hike =  20-30 Litres

This is the perfect capacity for shorter day trips where you only need the basic essentials like water bottle, food, first aid kit and thermals/ sun protection depending on the time of year. The Red Original 30L waterproof backpack won the Indy Best Buy Award 2022 for best daypack, being recognised for its comfort and versatility among other attributes. This makes it the perfect choice to rely upon for those shorter adventures. 

1-3 nights = 30-50 Litres

If you’re planning an overnight trip where you’ll be camping then you’ll need additional space to carry cooking and sleeping equipment. For this we’d recommend something with at least 35L capacity. However, if you’re staying in a hotel or rented accommodation, for one or two nights, then the smaller 30L backpack should be sufficient as you won’t need to bother with camping/cooking gear. 

3-5 nights or more = 40-70 Litres

If you’re planning longer expeditions with lots of camping involved, then you’ll need a larger backpack so that you can be prepared for all eventualities. Support and comfort are key when carrying larger loads, and so make sure to look for backpacks with plenty of back support and padded straps that are adjustable. When camping out, it’s also a good idea to bring a waterproof dry pouch with you in order to keep essential valuables like phone and money secure, dry and separate from your main bag so that they are easily accessible.

Man carrying Red Original waterproof 30L backpack
Red Original waterproof dry pouch
Red Original waterproof cool bag backpack on the beach

Comfort & Support

It’s one thing finding a hiking backpack that fits all of your essential kit inside, however it’s just as important that the bag is comfortable and supportive to wear. Key features to look out for when finding a hiking backpack that is supportive over long distances include:

  • Padded airflow straps
  • Adjustable chest straps (and waist straps for very large bags)
  • Supportive back panels
  • Flexible to your individual requirements 
  • Lightweight

Ensuring the bag supports your back is crucial for preventing injury as well as helping to reduce fatigue. 

Weather

When packing for a hiking trip, it’s only logical to prepare for the weather conditions. The weather/climate also has an impact on choosing the best hiking backpack for your requirements. The weather will impact how much additional equipment/clothing you need. For example, if conditions are wet and cold, then you’ll need additional thermals and waterproofs. Even when hiking in the summer, it’s always a good idea to bring a lightweight rain jacket, just in case of showers, alongside sun protection. Your hiking backpack needs to be the right size to accommodate this whilst also protecting the contents from the weather. With this in mind, we’d always recommend choosing a waterproof design like our 30L backpack. Our waterproof backpack is made from CYCLEPET fabric which is 100% waterproof, whilst welded seams provide extra protection from the elements.On the contrary, when the weather is very hot, the specialist airflow pack panel works to keep you cool and fresh as you exercise.

Cost & Durability

When buying any new outdoor gear, cost will of course always play a key role. Whilst you don’t need to spend a fortune, it’s always a better idea to spend a little more on choosing quality equipment over cheap options. Cheaper backpacks won’t give you the same features and reliability, and will need replacing more regularly, which could actually end up costing you more in the long run. High performance products will last longer, and be more durable against the outdoor elements which is important to rely upon during your hikes. They’ll also be more comfortable and provide you with more practical features than cheaply made designs.

Additional Features

The best hiking backpacks will all have their own unique features that make them stand out. So, when looking for the perfect hiking backpack, it’s useful to look out for any additional features that they have. For example, one of the additional features on Red’s waterproof backpack is a reflective logo that provides visibility in low light conditions. Other features include roll top closure for extra protection from the elements, and a removable internal padded organiser. Looking for features like this is crucial for identifying the backpacks that stand out in terms of reliability and function.