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Guide to Hiking Backpacks—Styles and Uses

When it comes to hiking backpacks, the style options are seemingly endless, but don’t get overwhelmed! Based on what adventures you have planned with your backpack, here’s a quick guide to get you started:

Guide to Hiking Backpacks—Styles and Uses

Day Packs: Backpacks for Day Activities

Day packs are typically smaller in volume (most are 30 liters or less), but this can vary greatly. They also tend to have many different features, including lots of storage space for small items and a space for a hydration bladder or water bottles. Sometimes day packs can be broken up into “technical” and “casual” categories. These packs can be specialized for hiking, mountain biking, climbing and trail running—just to name a few.

Overnight Packs: Hiking Backpacks for Weekend Overnights or International Travel

These packs are usually between 30 and 50 liters. For most hikers, these packs can also be used as oversize day packs or as good packs for one or two nights out in the wilderness. These backpacks are where you’ll see top-loading features, single-body compartments and a top lid (due to the space benefits). The 30–35 liter range of this pack is a great “all-rounder.” It’s ideal for people who want a pack that can do a little bit of everything.

Backroads Pro Tip

Do yourself (and your back) a favor. Keep an eye on what you’re toting in an overnight pack. It can become uncomfortable if you overload it beyond what it’s designed to carry.

Multi-day Packs: Hiking Backpacks for Multi-day Adventures

This style of backpack has volumes ranging from 50–70 liters—with 60 being the most common. This is the classic pack size for hikers who are interested in spending more than a couple of evenings in the wilderness. These bags are different from weekend packs because they’re designed to carry more weight. You’ll notice the shoulder straps and hip belts on these packs are usually more padded. That’s for greater comfort while carrying heavy loads.

Expedition Packs: Backpacks for Remote Expeditions

Any backpack with a volume of 70 liters or more falls into the category of “expedition pack.” These packs are designed to be virtually indestructible, and they’re capable of carrying weight that far exceeds what most hikers would be comfortable carrying.

Backroads Pro Tip

These packs typically are used in mountaineering settings or on expeditions that take place in extreme wilderness. Only consider an expedition pack if your next adventure is extreme enough to warrant one.

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