This is the first of two notes dedicated to choosing the backpack. Why? It is the inseparable companion of all campers, and that is why many of us forge a relationship that, more than friendship, is almost a romance. But because it is an expensive and sophisticated item, your choice cannot be left to the price or visual impact. There are other things to keep in mind, and here we tell you which ones.

Since time immemorial, a backpack has been synonymous with travelers. It is not by chance that many campers, especially young people, are generically referred to as “backpackers”. Habitually, the backpack is the first camping item that is bought, and because it takes many hours, days and years almost glued to us, it transforms over time into an extension of our body. Therefore, all campers and hikers develop a kind of “romance” with her.

As we always say in the articles of this section, all the equipment that accompanies us in our excursions must be of good quality, since it will be subjected to a rigorous treatment: blows, scrapes, excessive loads, etc. The best way to decide on the team is considering the use that we will give, the technical specifications and especially the advice of old campers. The economic products are not the most recommended since at any time they “leave us to leg”. It is always preferable to choose between reliable brands and recognized. Personally, I have a top brand backpack for more than fifteen years. With her, on my shoulder, I climbed several times in the Andes, toured several countries in America and Europe, made hundreds of camping trips. I never had to make an arrangement, and it is in very good condition.

Practical Guide to Choose a Backpack


Before buying a backpack, you should think well about three aspects: what we are going to use it for, how we will transport it in most cases, and what our physical structure and physical strength are like.

Why We Are Going to Use It

Before buying to buy, we have to take into account if we need a backpack only to replace a travel bag, or to fulfill its function: allow us to move with our free arms and a certain comfort. Also, if we will use it for short trips or outings or for many days’ expeditions, in which besides clothes we will load equipment and food, which are the heaviest of our luggage.

The capacity of a backpack is measured in liters, according to its volume. Knowing what type of backpack is appropriate can be facilitated with a simple guide:

  • Short trips without the need of equipment: backpacks between 40 and 55 ltr.
  • Excursions between two and six days, with moderate equipment: backpacks between 55 and 75 Ltr.
  • Extended excursions of more than five or six days: backpacks of more than 75 liters.

Currently, backpacks are available with very ergonomic and highly sophisticated designs, with accessories of all kinds. Still, I know several experienced climbers who prefer their backpacks as simple as possible, since they follow the maxim: “the fewer accessories you have, the less chance you will have to break them.” In a hostel, a backpack is repaired easily, but not so much in a tent at 4500 meters high, or in the middle of a glacier.

How Will We Transport It?

That it is a bag with possibilities to be carried on the back does not mean that backpacks always go to the owner’s shoulder. In many of my camping trips as a scout, I practically do not charge her more than for a short outing, and the rest of the time is in my tent or shelter and travels in a collective or truck. On the contrary, when I go climbing I wear it for hours, and with much more weight since I carry food and equipment.

If I buy a backpack because it is more comfortable and perfectly replaces a bag or suitcase, but I will take it mostly in a collective or car, it can be a less sophisticated one: with fewer pockets, fewer straps, and simpler adjustment systems and hooks. On the other hand, if you travel many hours on top of us, if we walk or climb with it, it should fit perfectly on our back, and for that, it is necessary to be more complex. Also, that allows to fasten trekking poles or have on hand for items such as a bottle of water, sunglasses, a GPS or a map, a radio, toilet paper, some food, etc.

Practical Guide to Choose a Backpack

Our Body Structure and Physical Strength

It is not advisable for small people to carry large backpacks, not so much because of the weight but because of the way it will unload on their body, probably causing discomfort, pain and maybe even injury. It is essential to regulate the backpack to the size and structure of the body to avoid this type of mishaps. The larger backpacks have limits on their straps, and surely no matter how much they fit they will be “long” for a person of short stature. The same goes for the smaller ones: being short, the fanny pack does not rest on the hips of tall people, and all the weight falls on the shoulders.

A well-armed backpack usually stands on the ground, indicating that the weight is well distributed. Once armed, you have to regulate all the straps according to the structure of the body. The weight should be even on both shoulders and carry mostly on the waist, and the straps should not over tighten. Before each exit, it is advisable to check the condition of the clasps and seams to prevent breakage, since an expensive broken backpack has the same utility as a burlap bag. A backpack with large pockets on the sides allows quick access to many items, but sometimes it can cause the body to become unbalanced, or it may cost a lot to match the weight on both shoulders.

Practical Guide to Choose a Backpack


In the ascents, the heavier objects must go in the upper part of the backpack, and this one must be carried more “high” in the back. In the reverse descents. The objects of primary use (penknife, compass or GPS, first aid kit, toilet paper, maps, etc.) should always be within arm’s reach, in pockets or on the lid. At the moment all the fabrics of the backpacks are synthetic, and for that reason, they are almost impermeable. And I say ALMOST because the problem is not the canvas but the seams. Therefore, all items must go inside the backpack(A common joke among scouts is that the difference between a scout and a backpacker is that the scout carries things inside the backpack …!). It is always convenient that they are protected inside nylon bags, especially the sleeping bag. The backpacks are not completely waterproof, but it is always convenient to use them since they protect them from dust, dirt, and scratches.

In the next edition, we analyze fabrics, models, and clothing to give you a more detailed guide when opening your wallet.

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