There are two basic kinds of hiking backpacks: Frame packs and Frameless packs.
The first, frame packs, are used for overnight excursions and in general trips where you’ll need to carry lots of things in order to be bale to stay for a number of nights in the wilderness. Some frameless packs can be used as well for these kinds of longer expeditions; however, they more often than not are better packs for day drips and in general shorter, less serious excursions into the Wild.
Frame packs can have either an “external” or “internal” frame. This means that the main support of the pack is either outside or inside the fabric that comprises the pack. Both kinds of frame packs are resistant and sturdy, especially with large volumes and weights. Internal frame packs are usually leaner, elongated, and in a word, neat. External frame packs are utilitarian. The support, which more often than not is a lightweight metal bar, is visible, and can be used to attach things like a water bottle that you want handy on the trail, or an outer layer like a fleece or poncho that’s good to have in reach in case of inclement weather.
Frameless packs are more like rucksacks. Their body is less stable than frame packs, but sometimes more flexible. There are usually less compartments in a frameless pack than in a frame pack.
What makes frameless packs attractive is their easy open and close features. Most frameless packs have one large compartment that is accessed from the top of the pack. If the pack is not filled completely, it is very easy to synch down and in a sense shrink. It is more difficult for frame packs to offer this feature because of the presence of the bar or plastic piece that acts as the support.
On all backpacks, there are straps. These straps are important. You’ll want to make sure that the straps on your pack are comfortable. Remember, you’re going to have an intimate relationship with your backpack, (Yup, you’re going to be close to it for a very long period of time!) so it’s a good idea to get one that fits well and that is comfortable. Shoulder straps and waist straps are among the most important, and these are easy to feel out when you’re trying the pack on. Usually outdoor sporting goods providers will describe the model of strap cushions for a given pack. If they don’t, you might want to ask.
Chest straps are also important to consider when thinking about which pack is going to be the best for you. These should be comfortable and adjustable. All straps on backpacks are made so that they can tighten down and loosen up. Make sure that your pack does both because you’ll want to have both options. Making on the fly adjustments can ease the burdensome weight from tired muscles and redistribute it to other, stronger ones.
For people with back problems, it’s really very important to buy a pack that has good, functioning and comfortable straps. Any hiker will attest that uncomfortable straps can easily ruin a camping trip.
While your ultimate source for size information should be directly from the provider of your pack, here’s a general guide for thinking about which is right for you:
Good luck and happy hiking out there under nature’s hood!
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