Choosing a Multi-day Hiking Backpack

Choosing a Multi-day hiking backpack for your outdoor adventures may not be easy with so many different types, sizes and designs on the market, but it is definitely very important. You want your pack, which carries an important gear to be comfortable on long journeys just like on shorter ones, be big enough to accommodate everything you need with you, and be stable enough for a good balance. To help you decide on what Multi-day hiking backpack to choose, here is some important information you should know, before buying one.

Where to start?

When choosing your multi-day backpack first thing you should think about is the size of the pack you will need. The amount of days you’re planing to spend in a backcountry will determine what type of multi-day pack you should get:

  • A weekend pack (35-50 litres) – A weekend pack normally will be used for 1-3 day backpacking trips. If you’re packing and organising the items in your backpack wisely, a light and well organised pack can make a big and positive difference on your trip
  • A weeklong pack (50-80 litres) – This is the most popular backpack size, usually used for trips up to 5 days long. It will have enough room to fit extra food, cooking gear, bigger tent and warmer sleeping bag
  • An Expedition pack (80 litres and more) – This pack is also popular for family trips, where dad will carry most of the gear for kids and needs a larger pack or for winter camping, where you need to take warmer clothes, bigger 4-season tent, warmer sleeping bag, and pad. Expedition packs will hold everything a weeklong backpack will, plus mountaineering gear or bear canister

Frame type

Internal frame backpacks are generally narrower and closer fitting, than external frame versions and they’re best choice for dynamic activities like climbing, skiing or trekking, where you need good arm clearance and a tight center of balance. Some models, designed specially for warmer weather, have a trampoline style back, which allow air circulation to your back, without any major loss of stability

External frame backpacks have a higher center of gravity than internal frame packs, which gives excellent weight transfer to the hips and it allows you to walk with a more upright posture. They also offer lots of airflow between the pack and your back, which is great for long, sweaty days where heat is a factor. External frame backpacks may be an appropriate choice if you’re carrying a heavy, irregular load, like an inflatable kayak to the lake or going bouldering with crash pad on your back


A backpack that fits right grips snugly on your hips and is a right size for your torso length. To determine your torso length, bend your head forward and reach behind your neck, then find the bone that sticks out the most on your upper spine (it’s called C7 vertebra). Next, locate the iliac crest, which you’ll find on top of the hip shelf on the sides of your hips. Get somebody to help you measure your torso length, just simple measuring tape will do. Measure the distance from the C7 vertebra down to the point of your back that’s at the same level as your iliac crest. This distance is your torso length. Everyone has a different torso length – a tall person can have a short torso, whereas smaller person may have a relatively long torso. All full-size backpacks normally will list a torso-length range in inches. Some backpacks may have an adjustable torso length, where you can adjust the distance between the shoulder straps and the hip belt

Suspension types

Fixed Suspensions often come in a variety of torso lengths to accommodate different sized people. The advantage of a fixed suspension is that it has fewer moving parts, therefor a very solid connection between the wearer and the pack, which improves stability. When choosing fixed suspension backpack, make sure the pack fits you perfectly, because there’s no wiggle room

Adjustable Suspension backpacks have a shoulder yoke that moves up or down in the center of the back panel, which lets you adjust the space between your shoulders and hips. Another good feature on adjustable suspension system is that you can change the way your pack fits if you develop some sore spots

Interchangeable Suspension system offers the best of both types and is especially good for people with unordinary size and weight. These backpacks offer ability to customize a pack by buying different size hipbelts and shoulder straps

Backpack’s features

Hip Belt will support up to 80% of your backpacks weight. Backpacks designed for long-distance hikes will use a heavily padded and rigid hip belt that anatomically wraps around your hips, but smaller packs, which are built for lighter loads, will have hip belts with less padding or some will have no padding at all. Climbers and skiers may want to choose minimal hip belt to increase their freedom of movement. Some manufacturers makes BioForm and IsoForm custom moldable hip belts that can be heated up and then molded to your hip shape to create a perfect fit

Shoulder Straps should curve to anatomically conform to your body shape and should be comfortable to wear, with no chafing or pinching. The padding doesn’t have to be very thick because most of the weight will be transferred to the hip belt

Load-Lifter Straps attach the top edge of the backpack to the upper portion of the shoulder straps and adjusting them allows you to lean the pack toward or away from your upper body and keep the balance over your hips. You should see the load straps forming a 45° angle to the top of the pack, when looking at it from the side, if the angle is drastically off, you may need to adjust the torso length or choose a different pack

Sternum Strap is located just over your sternum and connects both shoulder straps together and adjusting this will help to keep the pack steady

Compression Straps helps pulling the contents within the pack toward the body for better balance and stability

Back Panel is the padded part of the pack that presses against your back. Padding helps preventing pack’s contents from poking you in the back, but also makes your back to sweat. Most backpacks will have build in air channels into the back panel to allow some airflow and reduce sweating

Spindrift Collar extends from the main compartment upward and allows you to stuff more gear into the pack, often more than stated volume

Attachment Points allows you to strap or clip your gear and and extra clothing to the outside of your pack

Rain Cover will protect your backpack’s contents from getting wet. If your rucksack doesn’t come with a built-in rain cover, it is possible to buy rain covers separately, but make sure it is the right size to fit your backpack

Buying advice

When choosing your backpack, make sure it feels comfortable on your back. Go to your local outdoor shop and try few models on to see what fits best, load the pack with weight up to 20 pounds (9kg) and walk around shop. If there are any uncomfortable points, make sure all straps are adjusted properly, and if it still feels uncomfortable then try a different pack. If you find a comfortable pack with all the features you want and correct size, don’t rush buying it – now that you know the make, model and size, you can check online first for better deals.

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