What is a backpack?
Well, it is many things. The name originates back in the US in 1910 and is a straightforward name for a straightforward carrying bag that sits on the back. Backpacks are designed for many different loads and purposes and can be found in small fashionista versions or large military or emergency service versions.
There are four main types of the backpack, and they are separated by constructional differences;
Frameless, external frame, internal frame, and bodypack.
Frames are used to increase the pack’s strength, as well as to give it support. Frameless packs are just bags of cloth with straps to support on the back. Framed packs take into account distribution of weight and are usually found in packs that will be used for heavier loads or for orthopedic considerations.
All backpacks come with shoulder straps, pockets, compartments and some come with solid back support that stops unusual objects from poking the back of the wearer.
The basic backpack design is a frameless one, usually made of simple materials with non-enforced straps. These come in a variety of designs and are usually fashion statements or cheap, quick carry bags. On the more practical side of the scale, some frameless bags come in various materials such as leather and have elegant straps, locks and other assorted straps and aids. These packs are not usually designed for heavy loads and come in smaller sizes for practical everyday use.
Backpacks designed for sports are different to standard backpacks. These come in two forms, a hydration handling backpack which is a large water bladder that you can carry like a backpack. The other form is a tight fit backpack that you can carry with you as you jog, run or work out.
External frame packs are designed for heavy loads (>20 kg). The external framework provides extra support for the wearer and is made of a lightweight, yet sturdy material. Most backpacks that have an external frame are usually found in the military or in mountaineering.
The external frame is most probably a lightweight metal alloy of aluminum or in some more expensive instances a titanium or carbon fiber skeleton. The back of the backpack is usually covered with a solid barrier, most probably made of some synthetic material to protect the back of the wearer.
Due to the size of these packs, as well as the weight, many come with a rear air-flow solution, usually a solid gap made between the frame and the back of the backpack, that allows air flow between the wearers back and the pack.
Internal frame models are a recent development, since 1967, and have slowly replaced the external frame backpack as a more viable option. The internal frame is made of strips of metal, usually aluminum or titanium alloys, that have the compartments strapped to them. This allows for a better distribution of weight as well as a stronger spine effect.
The only drawback to these packs is the necessity to strap them tightly to the wearers back, which leads to a hotter load.
The main reason why internal frames have taken over external ones is that an internal frame will not limit the size of the compartment attached to it, and larger compartments can be attached in many configurations to a strong internal frame.
Eberlestock has developed The G4 Operator which is a military backpack used by special operation forces. This pack is considered to be the first choice among hunters and snipers. The Operator’s backpack and scabbard are sewn tether, and the whole system is held with a large aluminum frame and a reinforced holding mechanism and straps for a tighter fit.
When the scabbard is not in use, it folds into the bottom of the pack. The remaining space can be used for holding a lot of other types of gear. There is a GSTC butt cover as well as a full pack pull over rain cover.
The G4 comes with two front-loading compartments, multiple exterior pockets, and a removable LP1 Fanny-Top goes bag.
The backpack volume reaches 4,100 c.i. and the scabbard holds 500 c.i.
An empty G4 Operator pack will weigh around 10 pounds.
- Main bag: 27″h x 12″w x 10″d;
- Scabbard: 34″L x 10″W x 3″Diameter, this includes a 26″ circumference opening.
The material is 500 deniers waterproof ripstop nylon Cordura.
I personally like this backpack due to its no-nonsense approach to what is needed in the field. I don’t carry a rifle anymore, and instead, I use it for my long-range camera and other electronic surveillance that is used for wildlife and nature photography. The camouflage effect is perfect when you don’t want to be seen with a large red bubble on tour back.
If you are seeking a trendy backpack for college or just getting around town, Then the Gootium Canvas Backpack is your choice. This is an excellently sized pack with great material strength and is frameless, so it conforms to whatever you put in it.
The pack is designed with a trendy European retro style, lots of lovely buckles and straps combined to provide a full Tyrolean effect. It comes with a top handle too so you can carry it in your hand when traversing a room or courtyard.
The 21101 is made of cotton, all-natural pure thick fiber canvas. It has a large compartment that will house a 17” laptop easily, as well as two side pockets and an internal zippered compartment for valuables.
The Gootium 21101 capacity is 3 liters and weighs 2.2 lbs when empty. Its dimensions are 3.5″L x 8″W x 17.7″H for the larger pack and 12″L x 8″W x 15″H.
If you are a winter sports person, or just a hiker that wants the lightest option to carry all your needs during a hike or sporting event. Then you will prefer the 4 L Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 2400 Windrider.
This backpack weighs in at under 1 lbs and has a capacity to hold 2,441 c.i. The material is strong and light Dyneema and includes a lightweight inner aluminum frame.
This backpack was specifically designed for snowy terrain and includes loops for various icepicks, ice-axes and other mountaineering and winter sports goodies.
The Exos 58 is a popular choice for hikers, especially those seeking their thrills on the Appalachian trail. This backpack comes with the Osprey AirSpeed suspension that is designed to provide a lightweight yet snug ergonomic torso contouring suspension.
The material is an ultra-modern synthetic surrounding an aluminum (6065 alloys) peripheral frame, and the support pads are made of EVA foam that breathes. It comes with the standard (expected) full body rain cover and is waterproof.
This is an exceptionally designed backpack for professional hikers and campers seeking that ultra-light, ultra-modern backpack.
This is Osprey Packs highly versatile Osprey model that has a new hybrid wire frame that distributes the strength and weight of the pack all around. This is an ideal backpack for a one-day trip hiking around the various natural sites from canyons to mountains, woodlands to deserts.
The Kestrel 38 has the classic Osprey mesh for wearer comfort. Walking for hours with this backpack will allow the air to breathe along your back and reduce sweat.
This model comes with the expected rain cover and is found in its own little pocket at the base of the pack. They added a zippered sleeve for sleeping bag packing, so that makes it easier to stow and open.
There is an external harness for your hydration bladder, this makes it easier to take off and refill when needed.
The Kestrel 38 has a side zipper for quick access to contents, which is very useful when you don’t want to take the whole pack off during a hike, your partner can access the content easy and from a standing position.
The pack comes with various tool loops and tie offs as well as a good sized front pouch.
If you are a military buff and want a great used army surplus bag that has proven itself millions of times in the past, then look no further. This is the military large ALICE field pack that holds just over 2,200 c.i. and holds over 70 lbs of content.
This surplus army product has all the necessary features for a strong backpack alternative, and it comes with a rubberized Top Flap with Velcro-Closure Pocket.
This is a multi-compartmental system pack, so rather then one large compartment, you have a lot of different sized compartments that are all segmented for quick and easy access to specific items. This is a great backpack for those special treks where you want every item group separated and ready for immediate access without having to open up the nerite pack and rummaging around to find what you are seeking.
It is military, and as such is designed, and proven in battle, for quick access to every feature. Is sturdy and withstands a lot of wear and tear. It is a framed backpack with a cross-braced aluminum frame.
This is an official USGI surplus backpack.
The ACT Lite is a German feat of engineering designed to provide you with the ultimate lightweight, the durable experience you would expect from a backpack designed for us in the Alps. The design is for a close body experience and provides Deuter’s AirContact back support system that allows the wearers back to breathe, relieving any overheating or sweat issues. It has proven that it provides 15% less perspiration than most other backpack designs.
The backpack uses an internal aluminum x-frame which allows for full body weight distribution and is designed to follow the wearer’s body’s natural contour.
The Deuter ACT is everything you would expect from German engineering, where technology meets innovation from an engineering point of view. This comes with all the basics such as a rain cover, multiple straps and holding sleeves for hydration and sleeping bags. Loops for holding tools and other mountaineering implements.
The material is a 35-65 mix of Super-Polytex and Ripstop 210 nylon. This is perhaps one of the best super-backpacks to take with you on a long cold trek in the mountains, or when you want to take a long rafting walk through the rivers of Colorado.
Chinook’s Shasta 75 Multi-Day, Expedition Pack Features is a high tech backpack that provides all the right details in a solid and comfortable package. The Shasta is made from 600 HDTEX Polyester and can handle 4,575 c.i. (75L).
Chinook has its property Air Flow mesh webbing that provides a comfortable and reduced sweat wearing experience.
This backpack is a campers dream pack, it is less suitable for mountaineering since it comes with fewer loops and compartments for those extras required by mountaineers. However, for camping and hiking, this is a great option and comes with a full pack rain cover.
What can I add to this popular Badlands backpack? A camouflaged para-military style backpack that brings the military to civilian. This is a great backpack that many hunters and campers prefer.
The LS is constructed out of Ultralight Ripstop Nylon and is covered in many features and pockets for distributing your items in a compartmentalized manner. This allows for easy and quick access to any special item you don’t want to be packed in the main compartment.
The LS has a Hypervent Suspension system built into its framework, this prevents wearers overheating and sweating during a hunting expedition.
The LS frame is designed for stealth, so expect it to be much quieter than most other models. The camo is designed to blend into most terrains.
The LS design includes a special rifle sheath and integrated pistol holder, as well as a bow-straps. The frame allows you to attach a 3-liter hydration unit and the whole package comes with 7 external pockets.
The LS weighs in at 3 lbs 13 oz (1.9 kg) when empty, and its size is 21 x 17 x 10 inches. It can hold up to 3400 c.i.
This is your frameless Urban backpack, not to be used for camping or hiking. This is a fashionable inner-city backpack that comes with a unique Y zipper design for quick and easy access to your contents.
It is constructed out of a comfortable and tasty 500D Cordura Nylon and comes with some heavily padded shoulder straps to assure good and comfortable wearing. There is a 15” laptop compartment sleeve and has a double layered bottom for extra wear and tear.
The overall size is 23″ x 13.5″ x 10″
This is not your standard backpack. It is a 72-hour emergency backpack designed for both recreational uses as well as for mountaineering conditions and extreme cold (and wet) climates. Th reason it called a 72-hour bag is that it is sometimes used as a bug-out pack.
This amazing backpack comes from the world famous 5.11 and comes with the highest components you would expect from such a sturdy option. The zippers are all YKK, and the material of choice is Nylon.
The tactical Rush72 dimensions are 23″ H x 13.5″ L x 8.5″ D
- A large Admin panel is fleece lined and provides organized space for all your essentials.
- The internal zippered mesh storage space comes with elastic topped compartments that enable you to organize all your main equipment in easy to access and recognize units.
- The front panel compartment has three zippered units, and each one can be used for any number of items.
- There is a “shove-it” space between the main compartment and the front zippered units. This is usually used to store a helmet or clothing.
- The backpack comes with its own hydration unit, and you get the standard drinking hose attachment.
I have used this backpack and was comfortable and satisfied with its ease of use and segmented compartments. I prefer organized structures, and this one is extremely organized.
The Eberlestock Blue window pack is a modular unit that you can attach other Eberlestock items to it for better efficiency. However, the basic model is extremely versatile by itself.
This is an aluminum framed backpack that provides extreme strength and rigid support for a heavy pack. Its designed for hunting and camping, and military purposes.
This tactical backpack is scalable and contains a 2,300 c.i. compartment around an internal frame. Since the system is their patented cam expansion frame, it can go from anywhere down to a small bag, and up to an 8,475 c.i. giant.
This ultimate backpack unit includes the Skycrane II pack system with the J70 outer pack and the G1 Little Brother pack. They threw in the removable LP1 Fanny-Top just for fun.
How to fit a backpack
Before you go out and buy your perfect backpack, make sure you don’t fall into the mistake a lot of amateurs make. Take these professional tips and save yourself a lot of pain and cussing.
The first reason why backpacks don’t fit is due to incompatible torso size. Remember, we are all built differently, some are short, and others tall, some are fat and others thin. Fitting the pack to suit your body size and shape is ultimate.
The second reason why backpacks don’t fit well is due to incompatible hip belt sizes. You have to make sure that the backpack sits on you snugly, and that includes the hip belt section just as much as the overall size is important.
First Rule of buying a backpack: Never buy in a sale! It doesn’t matter how cheap the offer is if it doesn’t fit you it will be a waste of your money.
Fitting your Hip Belt
- Check to see if the hop belt is above your hip bone or on it. The hip belt should sit above your hip bone for optimum support.
- Your hip belt has to be tightened so that it sits just above your hip bone if it slips down it is not secured properly.
- If your hip belt is well above your hips, around your lower back, then your shoulder straps are too short.
- Fitting your Shoulder Strap’s
- Make sure the shoulder straps are arranged so that the hip belt fits snugly above the hips without sliding down over them when the belt is not tightened.
- Ideally, the shoulder straps should be secured in a way that there is no gap between your shoulder and the back of the pack.
The length of the shoulder pads should be such that the hip belt takes all the weight and not your shoulders.
Adjusting your Sternum Strap
- Make sure your sternum strap is secured and does not touch your neck.
- If you feel it on your neck, it’s too high. If the sternum strap does not help your shoulder straps secure the backpack to your back, it means that your backpack harness is too wide for your body frame.
Adjusting your Load Lifters
- Not every backpack comes with load lifters. These are reserved for the heavy duty backpacks.
- Make sure your head does not touch the top of your pack. Loosen the load lifter to relieve the height.
- Make sure your load lifters secure the load to your hips, tighten them to assure that the load is secured properly.
The bottom line is try on as many backpack types a possible, even if this means trying on 30 backpacks before you decide, then do so. Believe you me, when you go on a twenty-mile hike, and your backpack is not secured properly, you will walk exactly fifty yards and start to fidget and complain.
Bonus Video: How to fit a backpack: