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How to choose a backpack for hiking and traveling


If you started reading this article, it means that you likedhiking in the mountains and you are ready to open up new horizons. And the first thing you need to buy yourself a backpack. But how to choose a comfortable backpack? What is the difference between urban and hiking, men’s and women’s backpacks? What to pay attention to when choosing? – Read about that below.

We share both general recommendations and personal experiences.

The tourist backpack differs from the urban one in one important detail – the waist belt. Thanks to him 70-80% of the weight of the backpack is transferred to the pelvic area and legs. This belt is the main “secret” of hiking: because to carry a weight of up to 20 kg on your shoulders for a few days – it is very tiring and you can earn yourself a back problem. Remember: almost the entire weight of the backpack is held on the belt, and shoulders just hold it by the straps, so it does not fall back.

What are the main types of backpacks?

Backpacks for hiking and travel, roughly speaking, divided into two types of designs: soft and frame.

Frameless backpacks for hiking – pros and cons

Soft (or frameless) are backpacks with a padded back. In the presence of ties, additional pockets and accessories they are not inferior to the frame backpacks. In these models, usually instead of a frame use karemat (mat).

мягкий походный рюкзак

Pros of frameless backpacks

  • compactness: folded to a minimum size;
  • lightweight: weighs two or more times less (in comparison with frame backpacks);
  • relatively low cost;


  • do not hold their shape – you need to know how to properly pack a backpack;
  • Limited load adjustment between shoulders and belt;
  • discomfort with the high weight of the backpack;
  • limitation of high-volume models.

Conclusion: an inexperienced hiker model with a soft frame, most likely, will not seem quite comfortable to use. The first few years is better to go to the mountains with a rigid backpack.

Frame backpacks – pros and cons

Frame (stiff) – backpacks with a frame system. In models with a small volume, the frame may be a plastic plate, and in models designed for greater weight, the role of the frame is a system of arcs made of light-alloy metals (e.g., duralumin).

каркасный рюкзак

The advantages of hard backpacks:

  • fully adjustable load distribution;
  • allows you to comfortably carry a lot of weight for a long time;
  • a wide range – a choice of models for every taste and wallet;
  • the ability to properly pack a backpack is not critical;;


  • The relatively large weight of the backpack. On average, 2.5-4 kg;
  • Average and high cost;
  • an empty backpack can not be compactly rolled

Conclusion: despite some disadvantages of these backpacks, it is the best choice for the beginner hiker. So let’s dwell on them in more detail.

What are the differences between women’s and men’s backpacks?

The main differences are the shape and volume of the backpack.

It is known that the female body has different proportions than the male one. And that’s not to mention the individual characteristics of each person. Backpacks marked “women” take these nuances into account and offer models that are anatomically better suited to women.

женский рюкзакмужской рюкзак

The desirable volume of a woman’s backpack is 50 to 75 liters, a man’s – 75 to 100. In addition, the weight carried by women should be 20-30% lighter compared to men. I’ve seen such instructors who load fragile girls along with themselves with the words: “Why? She eats and sleeps in the tent, too. So let her carry it! So I appeal to the male half: in the mountains let us also observe tolerance and take care of our dear ladies. ☺

What to look for when choosing a backpack

What’s the optimal size of a backpack for travel?

As one experienced hiker said: “First you choose a backpack, and then – the rest of the equipment that fits into it. But not vice versa. So the first thing you need to decide is the liters (internal volume) of the backpack.

литраж рюкзака

20-35 liters – backpack for day hikes or climbing. It can hold everything you need: rain gear, thermos, sandwiches, first aid kit and personal items. Models with this capacity are suitable, for example, for trips to the Carpathian Mountains, when you live in a comfortable cottage and go hiking in the nearby mountains. In addition, they are convenient to use in the city or while traveling.

35-50 liters are storm or mountaineering backpacks. Given the cost, these backpacks are usually used by freeriders, climbers or rescuers. Ordinary people can come in handy during a vacation at the ski resort.

In this range of liters there are simpler models. For the beginner hiker this will be the best choice. Designed for 2-3 day light hikes.

50-100 liters – a full-fledged hiking backpack. It will hold everything you need for a hike of 4 to 20 days: warm clothes, tent, sleeping bag, boilers, and food. And if something does not fit, there are special straps on the outside, which can be attached karemat, tent or other things. On the other hand, in this case, you should take a good look at its contents: maybe accidentally grabbed something extra?

100-150 liters – expedition backpacks. Such a volume is suitable for complex sports hikes or expeditions lasting from 20 days to several months. With such a backpack – 140 liters – I was over 4 years, and I can say with confidence: You have to try very hard to fill it to the brim. Even if you managed to do this, I do not guarantee that you will be able to carry such a weight for a long time.

Backrest design of hiking backpacks

выбор рюкзака для походов

The standard backrest is a simple construction of two metal rods with possible curves.  The cost of such backpacks is usually quite adequate.

Orthopedic backrest – a more complex system of rigid elements, which allows you to take the maximum load off the spine. Not every backpacker can afford such a pleasure.

Stationary back – a rigid frame with a suspension, on which the thing-bag or other bulky cargo is attached. Used for expedition purposes. Such “mammoths” came across my eyes very rarely.

In most modern backpacks (except stationary) to properly adjust the back allows numerous ties and straps, located on the shoulder straps and waist belt. The “correctness” of the adjustment can be advised to you by the store consultant, or already a guide Couloir in the hike.

Hiking backpack weight

The weight of the frameless backpacks is 1 to 1.5 kg, and the weight of the frame backpacks is 2 to 4 kg.

The most optimal weight is 2.5 kg. Although there are models – such as the German manufacturer Deuter – that weigh almost a kilogram more, but win in quality of materials and usability.

Pockets and additional features

When choosing a backpack for hiking and travel, special attention should be paid to the presence of pockets and other additional chips that can greatly simplify your life in the mountains.

из чего состоит рюкзак

The flap is the upper lock that gives access to the main compartment. This element is necessary to protect things from moisture and reduce the volume of the backpack.

Additional pockets – small, but very handy detail, which is sure to help you more than once in the hike. They are located on the main cylinder of the backpack, in the valve and in the waist belt. Their main function is quick access to the map, compass, water and other small accessories.

In addition, popular models with a split into two sections or access to the lower compartment of the backpack: for easy extraction of the sleeping bag or boilers.

Compression straps – located on the sides of the main department. They reduce the volume of the backpack and additionally fix the equipment (trekking poles, mat or tent).

External fasteners and loops – are used to secure mountaineering equipment: carabiners, ice axe, crampons and ropes. Such backpacks are called “assault” or “mountaineering”. Some models are equipped with special fasteners for skis, snowboarding and avalanche equipment.

Radial backpack – in some models “made in Ukraine” – Fram Equipment and Turbat – the valve or external pocket can be unhooked and can serve as a small backpack for radial outings to neighboring peaks. At foreign manufacturers, I have not seen such a thing.

Rain-cover – well known brands are not lazy to add to their backpacks rain protection. It is a piece of water-repellent material on the size of backpack, which can be easily hidden in a small pocket. Less common in budget models, but a must-have!


It is very important when choosing a backpack to pay attention to the quality of zippers, fasteners (clasps) and locks. After all, in a hike there is not always the time and mood to replace broken parts.

Quality accessories makes a Japanese brand YKK. If the inscription “YKK” on the above parts, it means they will serve you for a very long time.

How to properly try on and buy a backpack in the store

The choice of backpack for hiking is made, now it remains to buy it. The ideal purchase is to test the specific model on a hike. Borrowing a backpack from friends or renting, a few days in the mountains will be reliably known how much it suits you. And when returning to town just buy the same model in the store.

Otherwise – backpack did not fit or have not been in the hike – take with you a friend-tourist and together choose what you need. If you do not have such friends – no problem! After all, most sales consultants in travel stores – are people who have been in the mountains more than once. They will help you choose the best option, given your height and body proportions.

Of course, in the forums there is a lot of information about backpacking and descriptions of different models. Successful selection of a backpack remotely takes a lot of time and it is very difficult to do.

Examples of good models, the cost of backpacking for travel

The range of backpacks in travel equipment stores is very large. Therefore, you will find enough information about them. The price range is from 2000 to 8000 UAH (100-400 USD).

Unfortunately, foreign manufacturers (Deuter, Osprey, Black Diamond, Pinguin) tied the price of goods to the dollar and not everyone can lay out more than $ 200 for a good backpack. But there are a few Ukrainian brands that have proven themselves, and their price tags are not shocking to the buyer:

Terra Incognita – development takes place in Ukraine and production is in China. Snow-Tech backpack – for two years helps me while biking, snowboarding and on small hikes. The price range – from 1000 to 5000 UAH.

Fram Equipment – a Kiev brand of ultralight equipment. Frameless backpack Osh used by my more experienced travel mates. I myself go with him for 3 months. Prices for a small range of backpacks – from 300 to 1700 UAH.

Beskid – backpacks Alexander Volkov. The variety of choice and the quality of materials you get for a fair price, and the simplicity of design will allow the beginner hiker to easily operate these backpacks. The Terskey 110+30 has served me well for almost 5 years, and has held up well even after challenging sports hikes. The price range is from 1000 to 2000 USD.

A few more domestic manufacturers – Travel Extreme, Commandor and Turbat – I often saw during hikes with other tourists. Their quality and convenience of use is not worse than above-mentioned. Their prices range from 600 to 2,300 UAH.

[blockquote]Useful! Our customers can buy equipment at a discount in many travel stores. List of stores here. Contact)) [/blockquote]


Take your time choosing a backpack for hiking and traveling! The more comfortable the backpack, the more comfortable you will feel while hiking and get the most out of it.

And finally: if you’re the kind of person who is always looking for something new, then no one forbids you to have several backpacks for different types of tourism and travel 😉

Author: Maxim Khomyakevich

Personal experience – choosing a backpack

Of course, general information is useful, but much more interesting and useful personal experience in using different models. We share ours, you share yours – it will help those who choose a backpack for a hike.

Personal experience: Taras Pozdnii, founder and guide of Kuluar

Hi all! To be honest, I’ve carried a lot of backpacks. I’m not sure I can remember all the models and names, but I’ll try. Let’s go.

Self-stitched backpack – since I’m a hiker I inherited, I started backpacking with a self-stitched anatomical backpack. In fact, he little differed from the current frame-less. But it was different: the straps were too hard, and you had to put a jacket underneath them, and there was no belt. Yes, we carried our considerable load only on our shoulders. And a big thank you to my parents for having such a backpack, and not a “kolobok” or “stationary” backpack – it was just hell.

Personal rating: 7 out of 10 – adjusted for the time.

The Travel Extreme Scout 65 and 80 was the next step. A frameless, lightweight and comfortable backpack. They used to make very good quality and even now there are a couple of “those” Scouts in good condition. There are also a few new ones I bought for rent. So, in terms of durability, they don’t compare to the old ones. The old ones were very reliable and only after a year or two of active use the zippers and zipper locks would fly off. The new ones are much worse: the fabric is softer, it quickly falls apart at the seams on the straps and sides, the zippers are very cheap, they jam right away, the “doggy locks” are even worse, they fly in the first trip, the fasteners are also bad. In general, there are much more minuses than pluses. On the plus side – the price, light weight, compactness, and convenient pockets. Buying a backpack like this, you need to immediately stock up on strap kits. It used to be reliable.

Personal rating: 6 of 10. Perfect for those occasional, uncomplicated hikes.

Backpack Volkova KODAR 90, 110, 130.

Рюкзак Волкова KODAR 90, 110, 130

I was growing up and the scout was already small. Since I was almost always the instructor’s (my father’s) son, I had to carry the biggest backpack. We considered the 90-liter version as a woman’s version, but we went with 110 and 130. A good volume, where you can fit everything, and even a volleyball. And sometimes a soccer ball. The ball used to be a must-have camping accessory, at the boiler level. But back to the backpack. It was stitched well, not torn. It’s been 10 years since then and these backpacks still serve us. Sometimes the fasteners fly, but it’s not critical. I tried to use the clumsy and inexpensive backpack, but it was good value for money. To me, 110 liters is almost always too much. Worth buying 90.

My personal rating: 8 out of 10 – not a bad backpack model.

Travel Extreme Denali 90.

Рюкзак Денали

To be honest, I don’t really remember if this was my first frame backpack or not. Let’s start with the Denali, since I’ve worn them out at least three times. They are relatively new backpacks from Travel Extreme, frameable and not very expensive. In general, the first couple of trips are not bad – sit well and comfortably. But by the third, or maybe earlier, the filler in the straps fuses and they begin to press. Also, by this point usually fly all the zippers and locks. Proven to be a good backpacks for one or two hikes. But who buys a backpack for two hikes? On the downside: poor sewing (threads stick out everywhere), the worst zippers and “dogs” that I’ve seen, very uncomfortable side pockets, frankly shitty fasteners, stupid system tightening the valve, poor quality materials. On the plus side, you can mention a small price, and that’s it.

Personal rating: 6 out of 10. Actually, if you go hiking 1-2 times a year, you can take it. But it’s better to buy the Commodore. This is not an easy thing – choosing a backpack for a hike in the mountains.

Backpack Commandor Caravan 90 – the old version?

Командор Караван 90

I don’t remember the exact model, and now I can’t find it on the website. Perhaps only on this backpack did I understand what quality fasteners and zippers are. Everything was well made, sturdy and reliable. Not a single problem after a few trips, and I took it used on a tip from Lesha – thanks. The only negative thing was the complete lack of pockets. I’m not used to it. Everything else is a plus: good straps and waistband that after 5 years and a ton of trekking was not broken (unlike Travel Extreme), very good quality zippers and fasteners. Thick and strong fabric. In general, there were no problems.

Personal rating – 7.5 out of 10. Underestimated because of the lack of pockets.

Commandor Sherpa 100

выбор рюкзака для похода

Another Commodore backpack. But I liked it a lot less than the previous one. Mostly because it was too big and the waist belt was too big for me. I just couldn’t tighten it as much as I would have liked, and that made the adjustment of the backpack go astray as well. Zippers, fasteners, fabric – for my money, everything is very good. Probably one of the best models of large budget backpacks. For smaller sizes I recommend the Caravan 90 and Expert 75. I haven’t worn them, but I’m sure they will be good.

Personal rating: 7 out of 10 – turned out to be big on me.

Vaude Terkum 75+10

в Непале с рюкзаком Вауде

At the moment it goes with me everywhere. Definitely the best backpack I’ve ever carried. For some reason, I chose the Woude over the Deuter last time, and I didn’t regret it. This time, though, I’ll take the Deuter. So, the main advantage of the Turkum is its incredible comfort. With it I walked in Norway, carrying 42 kg (only groceries were 26 kg, such a campaign came out: 18 days, just the girls and me. And they are also not much overload). And with that, my back was okay with this anguish. With any backpack from the past it would have been almost unreal. I’ve been carrying it everywhere for two years now – which means more than 180 days a year. And so far it’s doing great, though of course it’s wearing out a bit. I love that there are two zippers along the entire backpack, which makes it easy to get to any part of it without having to repack everything. The only downside is the small volume. Now I always have the tent on the side and it’s not a fact that all the stuff will fit. Therefore, the past two years, I go with two backpacks. Ahead of another 30-liter Osprey. And I like this scheme, because with the small you can at any time to get the camera, card, gps, and other things you need.

Personal rating: 9 out of 10. I generally really like the firm Vaude.

I have already made a tour of its main models. Next time my choice will fall on one of the Deuter models, most likely. Interesting to try them out. Hopefully someone will find my experience helpful in choosing a backpack for a hike, and someone might want to share theirs.

Personal experience: Maksim Khomyakevich, Kuluar teamleader

Terskey 110+30 is a “Volkov” backpack that was purchased in 2012. Survived numerous hikes in the Carpathian Mountains, the Crimea and Turkey.



Conclusion: a good backpack for novice travelers, but I advise to buy a model with a smaller capacity: 90-110 liters.

Snow-Tech 30 – “Terr’s” 2014 model I use all the time during radial outings, biking and snowboarding.



Conclusion: for my money and ability to use – a great backpack. My only regret is that I did not buy the model with a volume of 40 liters.

Share your experiences in the comments!


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