How to Choose the Right Backpack for Your Activity

Whether it’s for your morning commute or a mountain hike, there’s a backpack designed just for your outing.

June 25, 2015

The key to selecting your backpack is to first decide how you will use it. Backpacks come specially optimized with a variety of features and compartments. You can carry as much or as little as you need with the latest styles.


School Backpacks

  • School backpacks are designed to carry multiple books, papers, travel accessories and more
  • Generally soft-backed or frameless
  • Internal pockets can fit all your gear
  • Many are laptop/ tablet compatible
  • All-purpose bag that can go anywhere
  • Easy-access pockets for storing smartphone, school supplies and more
  • Best for school, work and travel


Day Hiking Backpacks

  • Daypacks are intended for use by hikers and campers on shorter trails and trips
  • Generally soft-backed or frameless
  • Lightweight and intended for lighter loads over shorter distances
  • Waist belts prevent loads from continually tapping against your back, focusing weight on the hips
  • General capacity range is 500-2,500 cubic inches
  • Back panels for comfort
  • Extra pockets to store your gear
  • Best for single day hikes, climbs, bike rides, travel


Hydration Packs

  • Provides water while you're on the move
  • Users drink water via a tube equipped with a non-leaking valve
  • Hydration daypacksoffer the most water capacity and storage space
  • Hiking Hydration Packs: Cargo capacity along with hydration that can carry your lunch, binoculars, first aid kit
  • Biking Hydration Packs: Backpack style with a hydration tube so you can sip water without taking your hands off your bike
  • Winter/Snow: Extra carrying space and tubes are insulated so that the water does not freeze
  • Run: Specially designed for carrying hydration, fuel and recovery items during longer runs


Internal Frame Packs

  • Internal frame built into the pack behind the shoulder harness gives you a narrow profile, permitting more freedom and movement
  • Frames have flat bars or "stays" that can be removed and bent to fit the user
  • More flexibility than external packs, they move with your body
  • Hugs the body to hold equipment on the hips, giving you better balance and stability
  • Compression straps keep loads from shifting inside the pack
  • Adjustable suspension system designed for optimal fit
  • Most include built-in sleeve for hydration
  • Most popular style of pack for hiking designed to include extra features
  • Best for off-trail hikers on rough terrain, climbers, mountaineers


External Frame Packs

  • External frame supports heavy loads from attached pack and harness
  • Evenly distributes weight between hips and upper back
  • External frame packs have a high center of gravity, which has two advantages: It gives excellent weight transfer to the hips and it allows you to walk with a more upright posture
  • Cooler to carry in hot temperatures because the pack does not rest against your back, allowing air to circulate. Great for long hikes on hot days
  • Offer multiple external lashing points for attaching extra gear
  • Good for growing scouts because they have more adjustability in terms of fit
  • Best for all levels of hikers traveling long distances to remote locations while carrying heavy loads


Sport-Specific Packs

  • Sports-Specific packs are specially designed to help meet the needs of your favorite sport. From carting your gear to supplying hydration, these packs help you stay on your game.
  • Baseball bags or bat packs often include specialized compartments or straps for your bat
  • Many lacrosse bags include compartments for your stick, helmet and cleats
  • Tennis bags often include space for your racquet
  • Hydration compartments are great for storing your water bottle
  • Vented areas help air out your gear
  • Cleat compartments keep your footwear away from your uniform and other items