Buying Your First Backpack.

The three questions you must answer.

All your peeps are planning an epic hike, and you're tired of them making fun of you for carrying your necessities in your 1980's fanny pack and the grocery bag from last night's dinner! You need a backpack, a "real" backpack and you have no clue where to start. There are just too many choices to choose from, and your head is swirling! Well, my friend, you have come to the right place. Know this, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but read on, and I will cover three of the most important questions you'll want the answers to before making your choice. This won't be a one-size-fits-all, but it should get you through 90% of your adventures.

  1. "What kind of hike is this next trip going to be?"
  2. "What kind of hikes am I most likely to go on in the future?"
  3. "How big of a backpack do I really need?"

The Upcoming & Future Adventures:

Loaded backpack and sleeping pad ready for the mountains.

The first thing to consider is the type of trip this is going to be. As this will be your first trip your new backpack, it's important to know how long the trip is going to be, and what kind of terrain you may encounter. Let's start with the length of the journey. If it's only a day trip, getting a daypack for the hike might be your best option. They are not bulky or expensive and fit like an internal frame backpack would. Longer trips, heavier loads, wonky terrain, and the need for more gear need further considerations. Daypacks are also great accessories to both external & internal framed backpacks, especially if your camping. They allow you to take short hikes from camp without having to bring "all" your gear.

More than a short hike?

Lighter loads, uneven & rough terrain frequently call for the use of an internal frame backpack. The reason being is your load fits snugly to your body, which allows all the weight to move with you, providing better balance and agility on even the most uneven trails.

Heavier loads or easy, moderately flat terrain would require the use of an external framed backpack. With heavier loads and an external frame, the weight is placed more squarely on your hips, which is more comfortable and much easier on your back. Because the heavier load is fitted more loosely in the frame and doesn't move with you, external frames packs are not preferred for uneven terrain as they can cause you to become unbalanced and lose your footing.

The Fit:

Lastly, you want to consider the fit of the pack.

  • How large or small does the pack need to be to fit comfortably?
  • How much adjustment space does a particular style offer?
  • Are you a tall, short, skinny or heavy person?
  • Do you have wider hips, and broad shoulders?

These are all questions you should be asking yourself as you consider a specific style of backpack. I would recommend that you get fitted at some place like REI or even a small outdoor gear boutique, with people that can help with your decision, even when considering buying online. When looking at a pack, look at all the dimensions. If you're at a store, ask to try it on, ask if they have some weight to put inside so it'll feel more like it would while you're on the trail. REI and others have obstacles to get the feel of uneven terrain. Another option is to rent a couple different types, styles and sizes so you can actually try them out first.

Side Note: If you are going to try a small boutique or even REI, it's not a bad idea to buy from them even if the price is a little higher,. The relationship you build with them has more value than the couple of bucks you save online.

Now that you have a basic understanding of your needs selecting the perfect backpack should be easier.

SummitRocket™ 30

The Mountain Hardwear Summit Rocket is made of ultralight materials and versatile design make for the perfect daypack for the serious alpinist climbing uber-fast.

DirettissimaTM 50

The Mountain Hardwear Direttissima is the choice of guides and alpinists, hitting the sweet spot of durability, versatility and weight. OutDry™ waterproofing technology provides protection against the elements.


The Kelty Trekker keeps tradition alive with excellent load carry, ventilation, and plenty of places to tie down your gear. Super efficient at carrying heavy loads, the external frame Trekker 65 is a backcountry workhorse.

Chris Sgaraglino

Over the past 37 years of my adult life, I have gained a very diverse portfolio of adventures from which I have been blessed to be a participant. This wealth of experience and knowledge has defined my character, my morals and values, and my healthy respect for people and the great outdoors. It is a true definition of an Outdoorsman!