Find the Perfect Outdoor Backpack – Part 3

I see a light at the end of the tunnel, is that a train or sunlight?

You’re almost finished, your perseverance will be rewarded.  This is the final part of this article; Leo Tolstoy has nothing on me.

Part 1 reveals the styles and sizes of backpacks

Part 2 discusses how to measure yourself for the perfect fit

Part 3 (this section) talks about the options and features available

Alright, you know what size of outdoor backpack, you know your torso size, now onto the fun stuff, options and features.

Backpack Loading Options: (He’s Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother)

Backpacks come in three flavors when it comes to loading:

  • Panel-Loading: There are multiple large “pockets” within the main bag of the backpack where you can separate out your gear.  These are accessed through U shaped zippers on the bag.  Their main advantage is ease of finding that exact piece of equipment and not having to hunt through piles of stuff.  Unfortunately, they don’t pack quite as efficiently as a top loading backpack.  Another problem is with multiple zippers, one is bound to break at the least convenient time.
  • Top-Loading (Do You Stuff?): The top-loading models are one big compartment.  You open up the top and stuff your equipment inside.  When packed properly, it is very efficient use of space.  You can have a problem if the required item is at the very bottom of the pack and you need it immediately.  Less zippers mean less probability of something breaking on the trail, a real plus.  Also, these can be lighter due to the decrease amount of material and zippers.
  • Combined Loading: These are a combination of the two above.  Normally, a Top-Loading design but, with side pockets.

Pockets (The 8 Ball in the Zippered Pocket)

  • Water Bottle Elastic Pockets:  These are located on the outside of the backpack and when empty, lay against the main pack bag.  They are used to stuff water bottles, tent poles or other objects into.
  • Shovel Pocket: These are fold over pockets on the front of the backpack (The part farthest from you when you have the backpack on) with a clip to keep it closed.
  • Hydration Pocket: Most packs offer a hydration pocket.  If this is important to you, make sure that it has two holes (one on each side) for the drinking tube to stick out of.  If you like the drinking tube to be on your right and it only has one hole on the left, that feature may become a nuisance rather than a help.
  • Hipbelt Pocket: Very self explanatory, it’s a pocket located on the hipbelt.  These pockets are great for carrying snacks or other small items.  These are extremely easy to get to, so any small item that needs quick retrieval could be stored here.
  • Tool Loops: These are loops on the backpack that can serve to carry trekking poles, ice axes or anything that you think needs to be on the outside of the pack, very helpful.
  • Top Lid: This is a small pouch that is connected to the top of the back.  These pockets are great to store items that need to be accessed quickly.  These are also detachable.  Some serve double duty and can be converted into a hip pack for short trips away from base camp.
  • Shoulder Strap Pocket: These are an added accessory.  They attach to your shoulder strap and can carry items that need quick access.  Some have a slot for headphone (ear bud) cable access.

But Wait, There’s More:

  • Material Durability: Find a pack that has very durable fabric.  If purchasing an ultra-light backpack, look especially close to the fabric if you are backpacking off trail.  If weight is a real factor, a more durable fabric will probably weigh more.
  • Back Ventilation: Some newer models have come up with ways to help keep your back cooler through ventilation options.  Some are just “vents” in the padding on your back and others are an elastic mesh that your back rests against instead of the backpack bag.
  • Rain Cover: You can get a rain cover for your backpack or a plastic garbage bag (cheaper, but doesn’t fit tightly).
  • Compression Straps: These pull the pack’s bag tighter if it is not fully loaded.

Finally, The End:

The most important ideas about choosing a backpack are; Fit, Comfort and Size.  After these have been accomplished, then go for the options that you like.

Enjoy finding your next outdoor backpack!

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