What To Look For When Shopping For
Backpacking Backpacks

Backpacking backpacks are an obvious item of equipment to have when planning a trip. This item is probably the most crucial of your purchases. However, buying a backpack is not simply a matter of going to the store and picking one out. There are things to take into consideration when you choose your backpack. Below is information to help you sort out what to look for in a great pack.

Types – Internal Frame vs. External Frame

Backpacks come with either an external frame or an internal frame. Simply put, an external frame backpack has rigid framework connected to the outside of the pack, while an internal frame backpack has the framework sewn into the backpack. Each type has pros and cons. The main thing to keep in mind is that each serves a different purpose.

External Frame Backpacks


  • Generally less expensive.
  • Allow for better ventilation for your back.
  • Usually make it easier to access the contents of your backpack.


  • Difficult to maneuver on narrow trails.
  • Center of gravity is higher and therefore can easily thrown off balance.

Internal Frame Backpacks


  • Usually better padded and considered more comfortable.
  • Usually have a greater carrying capacity.
  • Allow you to place more weight on your hips for better balance.


  • Don’t have the needed support to carry heavy loads.
  • Can be cumbersome and off balance if you attached too many items on the outside.

Internal frame backpacks tend to be the industry trend. We personally prefer them for the comfort and maneuverability factors.


In considering the size of backpacking backpacks, an important thing to remember is that bigger is not necessarily better. It is tempting to find the range you think you’ll need and then add on a couple hundred cubic inches just to be safe. But keep in mind that you will have to carry everything you are able to fit into that spacious backpack.

When it comes to backpacking, it is best to find the size range you need for the type of trip you will be taking and then stick to the smaller end. More space will only tempt you to fill it up with potentially unnecessary items.

This is especially important when ultralight backpacking. For more information on lightweight backpacks, visit our ultralight backpack page.

The following backpack sizing guide is a suggestion to the range you will look into for your needs:

1,500 to 2,500 cubic inches – This size is great for a small daypack or an ultralight overnight pack.

2,500 to 3,000 cubic inches – This size is perfect for a large hiking daypack or ultralight overnight pack, as well as a smaller ultralight weekend pack.

3,000 to 4,500 cubic inches – This size is perfect for three-season weekend trips or a 4-7 day ultralight pack.

4,500 to 6,000 cubic inches – This size is the right-hand man for the frequent backpacker. It is ideal for 4-7 day trips.

6,000-plus cubic inches – This size is perfect for gear intense outings such as a month-long trip or a longer winter backpacking journey.

Additional Tips

Test out backpacks before buying one. All packs fit differently and it is crucial for yours to wear comfortably. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most expensive backpack out there - if it is uncomfortable to wear, it’s a bad purchase.

Make sure your backpack has hip belts and tightening straps. Hip belts help keep the weight on your hips, which can carry more weight than your shoulders. The straps can assist in taking stress off certain parts of your body and place it elsewhere.

Pack properly. Packing your backpack properly is important. It can help you have better balance, save space and avoid searching for important items. For more information, visit our page on packing a backpack.

All in all, get out there and have fun testing backpacking backpacks and finding the perfect one for you!

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