In order to better understand what is a hiking backpack, let’s look at its typology. When are you actually hiking, and when are you a trekker? It depends on where and how long you’re traveling. Trekkers are anyone who takes a trip off the beaten path far from civilization and hikes for several days. You will usually have to carry a tent, food and everything else with you.
Also, hikers can spend several days on the trail, but with overnight stays in huts and mainly on paved trails.
We have created packing lists for you to consider if you need a hiking backpack. You take other stuff with you on a hike than on a trek. Therefore, we have created a packing list for you to consider.
How to choose a backpack for hiking
- Internal-frame backpacks: REI currently sells a majority of body-hugging, internal-frame packs that conceal the back panel’s structure. As well as incorporating a variety of load-support technologies that all function to transfer the load to the hips, they keep hikers stable on uneven, off-kilter terrain.
- External-frame backpacks: An external-frame pack shows off the aluminum hardware (usually) that supports the load. If you’re carrying a heavy, irregular load (such as an oversize tent or inflatable kayak), a backpack like this may be a good choice since the frame extends beyond the package. Packs with an external frame offer good ventilation and a variety of gear organization options as well.
- Frameless backpacks: Those who prefer to hike fast and light may opt for a frameless pack or a climbing pack that has a removable frame, but they are much less comfortable under heavy loads.
You tend to get sweaty-back syndrome with internal-frame packs that ride against your body if your pack has a suspended mesh back panel. Known also as tension-mesh suspension, this suspension rides a few inches away from your back, where the highly breathable mesh instead rests against it. To resolve the same issue, some packs will have ventilation channels (sometimes referred to as “chimneys”) in the back panel.
Top-loading openings are pretty standard. Since items at the bottom and sides are the most difficult to access, smart packers will keep overnight gear there and items they need during the day closer to the top. Some packs, however, have panel access, so you can unzip the main pack bag without unloading it from the top. Keep in mind that additional features like this tend to add both ounces and dollars.
There are people who like lots of things, while there are others who prefer a more streamlined pack. It’s important to consider the size and placement of pockets when evaluating them. For example, elasticized side pockets lie flat when empty, but stretch out to hold a water bottle, tent poles, or other loose items. When hiking, you will often be able to reach your hip belt pockets, which can hold small items such as your phone, snacks, lip balm, or sunscreen. Pack bag shovel pockets are essential flaps stitched to the front with buckle closures. Originally intended to hold snow shovels,
Most 3-season packs now include pockets for storing loose items, such as a map or jacket.
In addition to the top lid pocket, the top lid compartment (sometimes called the pack’s “brain”) is also a personal preference. Some people prefer a single compartment for things like sunglasses and headlamps, while others prefer multiple compartments.
In some packs, a removable daypack can be used for shorter trips such as summit bids or supply runs during a thru-hike. The removable daypack usually attaches to the top lid or reservoir pocket of the overnight backpack: When detached, it converts to a lightweight backpack or hipbelt pack.
Sleeping Bag Compartment
There is a zippered stash area near the bottom of the package. If you don’t want to use a stuff sack for your sleeping bag or want to be able to pull the sleeping bag out of your backpack without unloading other gear, it’s a useful feature. Although it’s designed for carrying a sleeping bag, it can also hold other items you’d like to access easily.
It is possible to suffer sore spots on your hips, lower back, and shoulders if you are using a lightweight pack with a fairly minimalistic hipbelt and lumbar pad.
It is rare to find a pack without at least one pair of tool loops if you frequently carry an ice axe or trekking poles. Also, look for the following features:
- Daisy chain: A length of webbing attached to the outside of a pack that can be used to attach items such as helmets, tools, wet gear, etc.
- Reinforced crampon patch: By making the patch burlier, you can avoid crampon points going to holes in your pack bag.
- Extra gear loops: Hipbelt and low backpack loops can be used to clip extra gear, especially larger items such as skis.
Water can seep through seams and zippers on your pack, and the fabric’s exterior absorbs some water weight during downpours. Pack fabric interiors are usually waterproof, but water can seep through seams and zippers.
In windy conditions, lightweight stuff sacks can be a better option since strong gusts can easily tear pack covers. (DIY version: You can line your backpack with a plastic garbage bag).
Most packs include an internal sleeve that holds the hydration reservoir (almost always sold separately), along with a portal or two for the tube.
A typical packing list for a small hiking backpack
There is usually less space in a hiking backpack compared to a trekking backpack. There are several sizes available, but most of them are between 15 and 30 liters in size. The reason is that you do not need certain equipment since you will not be camping overnight. You should pack the following items for a one-day hike:
- rain jacket
- Replacing socks with additional ones
- sufficient water
- snacks (cereal bars, fruit)
- Camera-equipped cell phone
- hiking map
- hiking sticks
For a one-day hike, you don’t need a big trekking backpack with lots of volumes. Too much volume encourages you to pack unnecessary gear. We suggest a small hiking backpack such as the Storm or Hiking Pack series for one-day hikes.
There are three sizes of Tatonka Storm hiking backpacks: 20, 25, and 30 liters.
Several days of hiking equipment
When you plan one or more overnight stays in huts, you will need more backpack volume. Food, sleeping bags, and other necessities will need to be carried. Here are some examples of the contents of your hiking backpack:
- rain jacket
- two pairs of socks
- spare shirt(s)
- hut sleeping bag
- hut shoes
- enough water
- Snacks and food (for several days if necessary)
- cell phone including camera
- hiking map
- hiking sticks
An average hiking backpack for several days has a volume of about 35 liters and goes as high as 55 liters.
Frequently asked questions
Can you use a regular backpack for hiking?
While regular backpacks work for day hikes, hiking backpacks offer many advantages over regular backpacks if you go hiking often or need to carry a lot of gear (such as on overnight hikes).
What is the importance of a hiking backpack?
Typically, backpacks are used on hiking trips to carry water, food, clothing, and other necessities
How do I know what size hiking backpack to buy?
When choosing a backpack, you first need to consider the length of your hike. For a day hike, you should be able to pack between 10 and 25 liters. In this pack, you could pack your water bottle, picnic, jacket, and sunscreen, so that you could be prepared for any weather condition!