Choosing an Alpine Backpack

In Choosing an Alpine Backpack you need to remember Alpine packs are slim and made from durable materials so they can be hauled up a climb after you have reached the top. They feature a large main compartment and lid pocket, and mainly are available in 30-60 litre range. Their foam back system fits close to the body for greater precision when climbing and compression straps on the side and an expandable lid give you more options for carrying alpine gear.

Difference between hiking backpack and alpine backpack

Specialised technical attributes that alpine backpacks feature, as well as their robust design with no unnecessary straps and pockets that could get in the way while climbing, makes them unique. Alpine packs have cylinder shaped bodies without any external pockets, external points of entry and no water bottle holders or stretchy mesh pockets on the outside, and usually alpine backpacks will be water resistant or even waterproof. The only external lashing points on an alpine pack are specifically designed to safely hold sharp gear like ice axes and crampons. Unlike most hiking backpacks, you also can remove features like the brain pocket on top of the pack and hip belt in order to reduce weight and bulk for ascents.

Features to look for in your alpine backpack:


Alpine packs are most likely to face harsh abuse – rock abrasion, sharp gear use, bushwhacking and elements, which means that they must be made from quality durable fabric. Lighter fabrics will be generally less durable than heavier fabrics, so in this case durability may be more important than weight. Some packs will have more durable fabric only in areas most exposed to abrasion, like pack’s bottom as well as ice gear attachment areas, and the rest of the pack will be made from strong, but less durable fabric, to save weight. Also pay attention to durability of all the other features, like ice gear attachments, zippers and straps, which can be a weak link in otherwise great backpack. Go with top reviewed packs and pick best brand names, which use quality fabric for their backpacks, and have earned customers trust over the years, unless you want to be adventurous and stand out with something less known.


Carrying backpack that have bad fit can be dangerous. Having a comfortable backpack is more important than you may think, it can make all the difference between successful climb and staying healthy or having a miserable and painful day on the mountain.

Determine your torso length – 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.

Backpacks for women – there are pack’s designed specifically for women and there are unisex packs. Women’s packs ill have shorter torso lengths, narrower hip belts, and shoulder straps shaped to better fit a woman’s body. Women’s packs also tend to be slightly smaller in size, compared with male counterparts, so make sure your pack still fits the volume requirements you will need.

Choosing a backpack’s size:

30 litre range packs

They are lightweight, compact and low profile, which can make your climbing experience much more comfortable than climbing with a larger pack. This is a perfect size for day climbs, but it also may work for trips longer than one day, if you use ultralight sleeping gear. Climbing with smaller and lighter pack obviously is more enjoyable, but you need to make sure that everything you need for your climb will fit in your pack

Best for day climbs, but can be also used for multiple night climbs, if you use ultralight sleeping gear

Should hold food, water, insulating layer, rope, helmet and ice gear on the outside of the pack

40 litre range packs 

These packs will offer more space to accommodate the additional items you need with you on your climbing trip, like sleeping and cooking gear. 40 litre packs may be the best choice if you want to own only one alpine pack – instead of going for two different sizes for different trips, you go with a middle option what can be good for both. These packs are still relatively small with light frames, therefor still very comfortable for climbing

Best for 1-3 nights long alpine trips

Should hold everything a 30 litre pack will + extra food, cooking and sleeping gear

45 litre and bigger

These packs are designed for your multi-day trips and they will accommodate all gear you will need for extended alpine adventures, but won’t be a good choice for day or weekend climbs. Also on most models you can extend the collar to pack beyond stated volume, which is good for sticking to smaller rather than larger and more uncomfortable pack to climb with

Best for extended alpine climbs, 4 days and more

Should hold everything a 40 litre backpack will hold + more food, warmer clothing layers and warmer sleeping gear

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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