The Best Backpack For You

If you walk any distance over one mile in the out-of-doors, you should think about getting a backpack. Sure, cargo pants, fanny packs, and khaki vests with a bajillion pockets are attractive and plenty effective at carrying up to 15 pounds of essentials, but for real carrying capacity, you need a backpack.

If you read outdoor magazines, you are familiar with many types of backpacks, including but not limited to The Best Weekend Backpacks, The Best Winter Backpacks, The Best Backpacks For Travel, The Best Backpacks For Dayhiking. Obviously these are all the best backpacks, so if you have read an outdoor magazine and find a backpack in a color you like, purchase it immediately. If not, I’d like to help you with a few ideas for buying The Best Backpack For Dominating Any Type Of Terrain.

I have worn backpacks for at least 180 days a year starting in 1984, my first year of kindergarten, when I accidentally dropped my 4-liter backpack on the sidewalk and shattered a jar of grasshoppers and was unable to complete my Show and Tell assignment for Mrs. Honeyman’s class. Since then, I have used them for a variety of purposes: carrying beer across my college campus as an underage freshman; carrying water on my back on a mountain bike while subjecting it to repeated jumps up to one inch in height; filling them with grocery store items for walks up to 30 city blocks; using them to carry burritos and those little cans of coffee for XTREME snacking on technical mountain summits; and for “trekking”—which I believe is the same as hiking—for up to seven days at a time.

As an expert, I have high and very exacting standards for the gear I use. I look for four things in a backpack. The right backpack:

  • carries all my shit
  • doesn’t poke me in weird places
  • doesn’t rip easily
  • doesn’t make me feel like a 7-year-old kid is hanging off my trapezius muscles when I walk more than one mile

When you are buying a backpack, you will ask yourself many questions, such as What Brand Properly Expresses My Taste In Outdoor Gear And Apparel, What Color Will Match My Hiking Shoes And/Or Bring Out My Eyes, Does The Backpack Come With An Itemized List Of At Least 40 Pockets So I Know Where To Put All My Gadgets, and Are There At Least 6 Daisy Chains On The Outside Of The Pack Even If I Don’t Know What They’re For?

If you find a backpack that can answer “yes” or “blue-ish green” to 3 out of 4 of those questions, then you’ve got a good candidate. Here are some other points to consider:

  • Ueli Steck wore a backpack when he climbed the South Face of Annapurna last year in a 28-hour solo push. Thusly, a backpack might be a good idea on your next hike.
  • Backpacks are equally as proficient as briefcases when it comes to transporting all your important business stuff from your home to your office.
  • Some backpacks employ high-tech ventilation systems to maximize airflow between your back and the backpack itself. It is totally possible to wear one of these packs and still sweat your ass off.
  • Backpack owners can go months or even years without knowing what certain features of their pack do.
  • Stowing a water bottle on a pocket on the outside of your pack does not guarantee you will be able to reach that pocket without taking the pack off, or asking your friend for assistance.
  • Taking a backpack to the grocery store prevents the use of those flimsy plastic bags that fly into the ocean within six weeks of your using them.
  • A bunch of people have climbed Mount Everest without oxygen, but pretty much nobody has done it without a backpack.
  • People who thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail all carry their stuff in backpacks, not those cylindrical NFL team gym bags everyone had in the ’90s.

Backpacks are available worldwide in stores and the Internet. To find a place to buy a backpack, go to Google.com and search for “backpacks.”

-Brendan

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16 Comments

  • Strange coincidence. Your criteria for a choosing backpack are exactly the same as the criteria my wife used in choosing a husband.

  • Why are the hip straps always so excessively long?! I mean are there really that many 400 lb people with 64″ waists buying packs like these? Even the biggest of my friends always have a huge surplus of waist strap!

    • I cut a good foot off each side of my new Osprey (new from REI garage sale at least), and I still have a good foot left.

  • My husband just yesterday was giving some love to osprey (on facebook) in appreciation for our backpacks. We have cycled over 540 miles, as of today, and our backpacks carry all our shit, have secret pockets to hide our chocolate stash from our moocher children, who are not pedaling enough to counter how much they weigh so do not deserve any chocolate (just a joke, we give them chocolate even though they barely help – dont want to be turned into CPS). I feel naked when i take my backpack off, it has become an appendage on this trip. We have about 500 miles left to go. I feel overly emotional when I think about the day this trip ends and we have to take the backpack off and go back to real life. Life lived with a backpack on is really the only way to go, eh?

  • My comments on your site always disappear into never never land….hmm, maybe a hint I should stop commenting?

    Well, as a blogger who never gets comments, I like to let you know I appreciate your posts so I will just try again. Our family is on a 7 week bike trip. We are 4 weeks into it, cycled 540 miles and our Osprey backpacks are KEY to our survival. As we lug our 40 and 70 pound children (not to mention the 100# of gear) up a huge hill, we have water on our backs and chocolate hidden in the secret places that our children cannot find (since they do not pedal anyway!!) My osprey has become an appendage and I will cry when this trip ends and I have to get back to “real life”. the only real life is the one where I get to wear a backpack and lug it over mountains and hills and rivers. Thank the heavens for OSPREY!!!

  • Don’t forget the golden rule: when choosing a pack, the colour you pick must NOT clash with that of your wife’s pack. Think of the photographs!

    (I also wonder about the hip straps. Those on my hiking pack would fit round two of me while wearing all the winter gear I could ever bother to carry.)

  • When choosing a backpack I generally focus on comfort first. This includes ensuring that the backpack carries on your hips and not on the straps – the last thing you want on a trip is a backpack gnawing into your shoulders. “Doesn’t rip easily” is a close second. I’ve had way too many backpacks giving in on me while on holiday – so paying a bit more for quality is always worth it. I would recommend that those interested in buying a backpack check out http://www.bestbackpack.com/. The site has some good advice on choosing a backpack and a lot of backpack reviews.

    • Thanks Ben, you provided more useful information on the topic than the author of this post, who seems to think it’s hilarious that anyone would find it daunting to shop for a good backpack.

      Sorry, I’m just bitter that I googled “backpack” only to find an article by an experienced outdoorsman who provided no actual guidance beyond telling me to google “backpack.”

  • I have found it absolutely impossible to exist without at least 7 backpacks. You never know when you will need a backpack that carries exactly 23 liters worth of stuff. So how could you ever life without one?

  • I have 7 different packs for different uses and pretty much use 6 of them fairly regular between bike commuting, work, hiking, and traveling. Big fan of EMS and Kelty, and use a Deuter Speedlite for work. Use a Kelty Shrike for trips of 7 days or less and would give up one of my arms before giving up this pack.

  • Grandma Gatewood, the first female AT thru hiker, eschewed such frivolous backcountry luxuries like backpacks and tents in favor of a homemade sack she’d sling over one shoulder to carry her stuff and a plastic shower curtain used for shelter. That’s one hardcore lady.

    Great writing as usual. Looking forward to your book, I’m saving it for my Seattle-San Francisco-New Orleans road trip in September. I figured it was only appropriate to read it on the road.

  • I like that every backpack comes with an ice ax loop. Osprey biking bags, The North Face school specific bags, Jansport wonders. All of them! Are there really this many axes on the market?

  • New boyfriend walks into my garage/gear closet, after we’d gone shopping for his first real technical backpack. Upon seeing my wall of packs ranging from 12 to 65 liters, raises eyebrows and first comment: “Well, that’s a lot of backpacks.”

    Yeeep. And they all match my complexion. Matchy matchy is all that matters.

  • “A bunch of people have climbed Mount Everest without oxygen, but pretty much nobody has done it without a backpack” Pure Genius right there Brendan, props

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