A backpack is definitely a must for anyone who intends to travel long distances on foot or by bicycle. This includes hikers, sportsmen, backpackers, hunters and fishermen who all need to carry their food, water and equipment as comfortably as possible.
It’s worth taking the choice of backpack seriously as it will determine how quickly you’ll tire and how memorable your next adventure will be.
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All backpacks can be categorised according to their use, with the most popular being urban, trekking, multisport, expedition, cycling, assault, hunting and fishing backpacks.
The urban models are simple and usually have a medium capacity and a small width, allowing you to travel comfortably in the flow of people. They are not too rugged, but are well suited to everyday commuting – for example, to work or university. They often have interesting colours and designs.
Trekking backpacks are the most popular type among hikers. They are very capacious (up to 80 litres) and suitable for long cross-country trips. Their design often puts the user’s maximum comfort at the forefront.
Multisport models are used by athletes, e.g. skiers, freeriders and snowboarders. They have a special design that protects the back and does not interfere with performing tricks.
Expedition backpacks are designed for longer hikes and typically have a large capacity of 80 litres or more. Such backpacks can hold all of your essential gear and a considerable amount of provisions.
The shoulder bags are quite small and come in both classic and triangle shapes. They allow for good ventilation of the back and streamline the cyclist so they don’t interfere with the ride. Often fitted with everything necessary to accommodate a drinking system and complete with reflective elements for safety on the road. Some specialised models are designed to be carried on the luggage rack.
Assault models are used by climbers for short outings from the base. They do not have too much volume and are only needed to carry the essentials.
Hunting and fishing backpacks are roomy but simple models, which differ from the trekking backpacks in slightly different dimensions and are often painted in khaki or green.
Virtually all backpacks are either soft or anatomically designed.
A padded backpack is essentially a bag with straps to secure it to the wearer’s back. Its main drawback is that the weight is unevenly distributed, so comfort levels suffer. However, such backpacks are noticeably cheaper than anatomic (carcass backpacks) and, importantly, take up little space when folded.
The anatomic (carcass) models have special plates (plastic on the cheaper models, metal or carbon fiber on the more expensive ones), which ensure their vertical stiffness. A carcass backpack is much more comfortable to move over long distances, but other things being equal, it will cost more than a soft backpack.
You can also find machine backpacks on sale that have a frame construction. You can attach bags, padded backpacks, inflatable boats, tents and other loads to them. If you must carry a really heavy load, an eastern backpack is the best choice.
The most common backpacks on the market are the unisex type that will work equally well with both women and men. Some models, however, are better suited for only one of the sexes, thanks to the special positioning of the anatomical plates that take into account all kinds of body features.
Children also go camping and may need a backpack. Children’s backpacks are available in special child-friendly designs with a capacity of 10 to 20 litres.
Number of straps
Most backpacks are traditionally fitted with two shoulder straps. They provide a uniform load and are very handy when carrying bulky loads.
Single-belt backpacks are most often used in urban environments or by hunters. They are not as good for long-distance hikes, but they allow for greater freedom of movement – if you do not need to carry too much, backpacks with one strap can be a consideration.
Room for all compartments
The meaning of this figure can vary from rucksack manufacturer to rucksack manufacturer. Some honestly state the volume of the main compartment and outer pockets separately, others include everything in one number.
The volume you need depends on where you will be taking your backpack. In general, it is worth considering this factor once you have decided on your destination, so it will not be a big issue.
Maximum carrying capacity
It’s worth remembering that even the strongest models have a limit – their seams will split if you pack too much on the backpack. If you find yourself backpacking over long distances, you might want to take lots of food and gear with you.