The Outdoorsman

10 must have features for a backpack

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More from Outdoor Living Newsletter June Outdoor Living Newsletter
Camper with blue backpack
Typical camping backpack

Nowadays, everything seems to be high-tech. Even outdoor gear can be technically mind-boggling. Some backpacks have incredible features and capabilities, but for most Americans who cycle, hike, or backpack, pricey rugged gear is not necessary. Something that does the job and is affordable will do.

Despite the huge amount of tweaks which backpack manufactures highlight in their products; the most critical part to any pack is the suspension system. It provides the carrying comfort you need. The basic rule of the suspension system is: Internal Frame = Day or Overnight Trips. External Frame = Extended stays with a high carrying weight.

The Camp Trails Sirocco is a good example of a mid-level pack with all the basic necessary features you may need on a weekend or day trip. For more serious backpacking or cycling trips, you may want more of the features found on higher-range packs.

Here are ten suggestions of features good to know when buying a backpack:

  1. A comfortable yet tight padded hipbelt with at least a 1/4-inch of foam padding. The other, less desirable, option is a mere seatbelt webbing hipbelt, which does not provide much comfort. More padding doesn't mean more comfort however. In fact, too much can restrict your movement.
  2. To prevent chaffing, curved, tapered and padded shoulder straps are the way to go. For females, narrower shoulder straps offer a better fit.
  3. A sternum strap holds the shoulder straps in place and prevents the pack from shifting around.
  4. Top stabilizing straps will let you position the pack closer or further from your body so that you can manage the weight up and down hills.
  5. Stays built into an internal frame pack help support the weight of the contents.
  6. Mesh backpacks give lots of air circulation which can cut down on the heat and sweating. More deluxe packs have mesh-covered, padded backpads with ventilated channels.
  7. Durable cloth is a requirement. The pack will be constantly dropped and moved or adjusted, and so a fabric such as Kodra, Cordura, or Armatech is useful to protect the bottom of the pack, which takes the most abuse.
  8. Braided seams are the best option to keep water out of your pack and to prevent fraying. Also, a rain cover will ensure your pack and contents stay dry in rainy conditions.
  9. Most packs come with multiple organizer pockets, but at least make sure to have easy access to a water bottle, emergency supplies, as well as rain gear.
  10. A rain cover will ensure your pack and contents stay dry in consistently rainy weather conditions

To get answers directly from the manufacturer and to compare multiple packs easily, look online before you shop at a retailer.

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