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This article explains the main factors one should consider when shopping for a hiking/weekend/multi-day backpack.

The best way to buy a pack is to go into a brick and mortar store and plan to spend an hour or two trying on all the packs they carry in your size. There are several factors that one may want to consider when buying a pack, but fit is by far the most important.

Fit

The only way to ensure a proper fit is to physically try on each bag. There are many variables that need to be considered and not enough dimensional information provided by the manufacturers online to make an informed decision. Even if it was all there, it would be a real challenge to be able to visualize how it would sit on your back. If no one sells gear like this locally, you can do your research online, buy from someone like REI (which has a good return policy) and exchange as needed. B&M REI stores will fill each pack you’re interested in with weights and let you walk around the store so you can get a better idea of how a Backpack feels under more realistic, loaded conditions.

A pack should transfer most of its weight (~80%) to your hips. You don’t want the straps to rub your neck or shoulders. The pack should fit the curvature of your back so that there is little to no gaping. The hip belt should fit snugly across your torso, below your natural waist but above your hip bones. It should not feel top-heavy when loaded, but balanced. Taking the time to get the right fit is worth the effort, especially when you’re dropping a couple hundred bucks and planning to wear it a couple hundred miles at a time.

Internal vs external frames

One of the first things you may notice when looking at packs is that some are made with external framing, usually aluminum, while most utilize internal frames made of plastic and/or composite materials. While you will find devoted people in both camps, internal frames seem to be more popular, more comfortable, and weigh less.

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