How to Choose the Right Backpack for a Trek

Buying a backpack that suits you is almost as important as buying a shoe that suits you. Your backpack is your companion throughout your trek. It’s either going to make your trek a pleasurable one or is going to be a burden on you. To make sure you buy the right kind of backpack, here are some tips.

brahmatal - how to buy a backpack - indiahikes
Having the right backpack on a trek is as important as having the right shoe. Picture by Raghavendra S N

What capacity of the backpack should you go for?

The first thing to do is consider the total weight you are going to carry. This will depend upon the duration of the trek. Are you going for a day trek without overnight camping? Or are you camping for multiple days? Are you planning to take your backpack for summit climbs and difficult terrains that require carrying more gear?

| One-day treks

One-day treks can be done with day packs. They are lightweight, sturdy enough to carry 5 kg of load. Always look for the one with a hip belt to distribute the weight evenly. They come in 20 to 30 L (litre) sizes. You can use such a backpack on short weekend treks or day treks in the Western Ghats.

| Longer treks

These treks require backpacks with greater capacity, like 40, 50 and 60 L. These bags can carry gear ranging from 8 to 13 kg. They come with wider straps and hip belts to help you distribute weight evenly and minimize discomfort. A 40 – 50 L backpack may suffice for a weekend trek. A trek up that’s around five days long can be done with a 60 L backpack.

These backpacks are ideal for treks which are longer than a day or two and up to a week. For example, you can buy such backpacks for treks like – Hampta Pass, Valley of Flowers, Kashmir Great Lakes and Tarsar Marsar.

Read: Why Treks in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir are so different

| Expedition-style treks

Trek that are more than a week long, such as the Rupin Pass Trek, Har Ki Dun Trek and Goechala Trek will require you to carry more load. Hence, they require more durable backpacks that can carry extra heavy loads. Expedition Backpacks come in various sizes of 70, 80, 90 L and can carry loads ranging from 15 to 30 kg.

They have a durable internal frame made of aluminium or stainless steel. This also adds to the weight. The trade-off over weight and durability is based on the use of the backpack. Go for light frame backpacks for short and easy treks. For long and difficult treks, go for durable backpacks.

Brahmatal - how to choose the right backpack - Indiahikes
It is important to choose a backpack according to your height. Here’s Trek Leader Vishal with his backpack on the Brahmatal Trek. Picture by Vishwajeet Chauhan

How do you choose the right backpack for your height?

Once you have decided which type of backpack to buy, get your torso measured. Backpacks these days come with specifically designed sizes, based on different body sizes. Take a measuring tape and start measuring from the back of your neck, right where you feel a prominent vertebra protruding out, and where your shoulders meet your neck.

Put your hands on your hips and feel the top of the hip bone. Spread your thumbs out towards your spine. Have someone measure this imaginary line between your thumbs. This will give you your torso length. The following chart will help you in selecting the right size.

Backpack Size Chart
Handy Size Chart for choosing backpacks

Tips to choose the right backpack

1. Try your backpack and inspect its straps by loosening them

Start with the hip belt. The top of your hips should be anywhere from the middle to the top of the waist belt. Ensure you have at least one inch of adjustment to either tighten or loosen the belt.  Now, test the lower shoulder belts by pulling them up. Look for a good consistent curve of this strap around your shoulder front to back. Inspect how wide the shoulder straps are across the chest.

Now load the straps on top of your shoulder straps. You can adjust the angle of these straps as they come off the shoulder straps. An ideal angle would be 45 degrees. Keep the angle in between 25 to 60 degree at all times. You can always adjust these straps while trekking uphill or downhill to help you be more comfortable with your backpack.

2. Toss in some weight when testing it

It’s always a good idea to test the backpack with some weight before buying it. You won’t be trekking with an empty backpack, therefore test the backpack with weight and see if you’re comfortable with the way the backpack distributes the weight.

3. Inspect the features and align them with your needs

Look for features such as a backpack with lightweight material, a compartment for a hydration pack, better ventilation system, more compartments for keeping essential gear.


Conclusion

I hope this guide helps you decide on the right backpack for your next Himalayan trek.

If you have any questions or if you have any more tips to choose the perfect backpack, just drop in a comment below!

Vaibhav Chauhan

Vaibhav Chauhan

Vaibhav was associated with Indiahikes as a Writer & Chief Explorer. He is an avid traveler with a passion for trekking in Indian Himalayas. With his roots in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh, the love for the mountains is in his blood. When not travelling he likes to spend time interacting with like-minded trek enthusiasts and read books on travel and mountaineering.