The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Hiking Backpack

Consider getting a backpack that is suitable for any outdoor activity? Go for a good hiking backpack. More than just a piece of luggage, your backpack will be your best travel companion. Whether for a day hike or a trek for several days, you have to make a careful decision so that it will meet your needs and requirements in the long run.

We understand that a good hiking backpack is essential for every journey, so choosing the right backpack can be tricky. Many factors should be considered, such as materials, weight, and capacity, which is why we are here to help you discover a wide range of hiking backpacks and make your final choice.

What Will You Do?

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

Choosing a hiking backpack based on your needs and wants.

The golden rule of choosing a good hiking backpack is to buy it last. Will you camp at a well-equipped shelter or carry a full backpacking setup? Are there water sources along the trail, or will you need to carry extra water? Adjust your backpack size and features accordingly.

The capacity of a backpack is measured in litres, and the right size depends on the trip duration needed. Keeping the pack’s weight in check is vital for comfort. Aim for a pack weight that does not exceed 20% of your body weight for day trips and 30% for longer treks.

If you plan to combine day hiking, urban exploration, and flying, we recommend taking less than 7kg—most airlines carry on weight restrictions.

  • Day Hikes (up to 10 miles): For shorter adventures, a backpack between 10 and 25 litres is ideal. This provides enough space for essentials like water, snacks, a first-aid kit, rain gear, and a light layer.
  • Overnight Backpacking (1-3 days): As your trip extends, so do your needs. Look for backpacks in the 20 to 40-liter range. This allows for additional gear like a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent (if not using shelters), and extra food and clothing.
  • Multi-Day Expeditions (4+ days): For longer journeys, prioritise a pack between 40 and 60 litres. This space accommodates all your overnight gear plus additional supplies like cooking equipment, water purification tablets, and more changes of clothes.

Right Fit For Comfort

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

A properly fitting backpack is essential for comfort and efficiency on the trail.

A backpack's back length refers to the height portion of the bag that interferes with your back. This feature does not necessarily depend on the size of your whole body. Proper fit depends on your torso length, not your height; a very tall person may have a small back, and vice versa. 

To find a hiking backpack that fits your back, measure the distance between the iliac crest and the 7th cervical vertebra. Some backpacks have adjustable torso-length straps, which allows you to find the one that suits you best. You can get this measurement at the backpack store or on your own. Learn how to find your backpack's fit here.

But that’s not all. We all know the feeling of aching shoulders and a sore back. A good hiking rucksack can easily migrate those problems with a heap of ergonomic features. A properly fitted hiking backpack would send most of the weight to your hips while the shoulder straps support the weight and keep the bag tight on your back. 

  • Hip Belt: The hip belt should sit comfortably over the hip bones, bearing most of the pack’s weight (around 80%). Ensure that the belt’s padding fully wraps around your hips.
  • Shoulder Straps: Look for adjustable, contoured shoulder straps that distribute weight evenly without pinching.
  • Sternum straps: They provide extra stability and reduce the strain on your shoulders and upper back.
  • Load Lifters: Straps located at the top of the shoulder straps that help pull the weight of the pack closer to your body.
  • Compression Straps: Help stabilise the load and keep the weight centred.

Travel bags can be good for day hiking and commuting. However, if you want to do some serious hiking, look for packs with the above-mentioned features and extra bells and whistles to keep you going on the trails.

Features To Look For In A Hiking Rucksack

When choosing the right backpack, several factors come into play. To make the process easier, first thing first, you need to consider what gear you will be carrying with the backpack. Several basic elements would help you decide which cool backpack is suitable for you, such as: 

Durability

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

A reliable hiking backpack can withstand the rigours of outdoor adventures. 

Generally, there are many pointers to a durable, long-lasting backpack made from fabric. One of which is the Denier Rating (D). It is a measurement used to describe the thickness and durability of the fabric used in hiking backpacks. The higher the denier, the thicker and more durable the fabric, but it is also heavier. So choose wisely.

Ripstop nylon or polyester is durable, lightweight, and a good indicator of a long-lasting hiking backpack. While you are at it, check the zippers and buckles, both of which often experience the most wear and tear. YKK zippers are renowned for their reliability and durability, so check if your pack has them.

Waterproofing

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

Crucial for protecting your gear in wet conditions.

We tend to carry electronic items that are vulnerable to moisture. The good news is that most hiking backpacks offer decent water resistance along with durable materials. However, you should also be aware that if the backpack is regularly exposed to water, there is a risk of leakage. So make sure you check how water-resistant/waterproof a backpack is.

Some backpacks come with an integrated rain cover, which is an added layer of protection against wet conditions. If yours lacks this feature, you can easily buy a separate rain cover for your hiking backpack of choice.

Breathability

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

Padding cushions the load and reduces pressure points.

One thing to note is that all heavy travel backpacks have foam padding for extra comfort, while lightweight backpacks might not have foam padding at the waistband or shoulder straps. Backpacks with a well-ventilated back panel can help reduce sweating and keep you cooler on the trail.

Accessibility

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

Check how easy it is to access everything, from the main compartment to exterior pockets and attachment points.

Organisation is of utmost importance if you plan to carry significant stuff during your hike. A backpack's number of outer and inner pockets and compartments proves its distinct advantage, with plenty of access points for creative packing.

A dedicated sleeping bag compartment, hydration sleeve, and side pockets are particularly useful. A clamshell opening makes it easy to reach what you need on the go, be it a map or snacks.

Frame Type

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

Frame type significantly impacts the pack's stability and overall comfort.

Internal frames provide stability and a snug fit for navigating rough terrains. External frames offer more ventilation and organisation but are bulkier. Frameless packs are lightweight but lack support for heavy gear.

If you plan to carry heavy loads or travel in hot weather, an external frame might be the best choice. For lighter loads and cooler climates, an internal frame or frameless pack could be more suitable.

Budget

How to choose a hiking backpack - CabinZero

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Hiking backpacks can cost from £50 to well over £300. No pack is 100% perfect, especially if you want something that excels in price, performance, and durability all at once. Determine your desired features in order of importance and go from there.

What features are most important to you (hydration sleeve, pockets, ventilation, etc.)? Or do you prefer lightweight over durability? What activities are you going to do? Ask yourself as many questions as possible. 

Warranty

If you plan on doing frequent hikes or backpacking trips, investing in a higher-quality pack with a longer warranty might be worthwhile. It can save money in the long run if the pack lasts many years.

Test a Hiking Backpack Before Buying

Before making a final decision, test the backpack with a load similar to what you’ll carry on your hike. Most stores have a tool or guide to help you measure your torso length. Once you know your measurement, choose a pack with an adjustable torso that aligns with your range.

Next, ask the store if you can load the backpack with some weight. Once done, put it on your body and adjust everything. The shoulder straps should rest comfortably over your shoulders, and the hip belt should fit snugly on your hips (not your waist). If you find the shoulder straps slipping, fasten the sternum strap across your chest.

Play with the adjustment to find the position that feels most comfortable and balanced. Lift your arms overhead and bend at the waist. Does the pack restrict your movement? Can you easily reach what you need without completely taking the pack off? Is the ventilation good?

Move around, bend, twist, and simulate trail movements to see if the pack stays secure and comfortable. Pay attention to any pressure points or areas of discomfort. Remember, a well-fitted backpack is an investment in your comfort and safety on the trail.

Best CabinZero Hiking Backpacks 

CabinZero's minimalist and versatile backpacks are designed for both everyday use and outdoor activities like hiking or sporting activities. 

CabinZero Classic Pro - Lightweight Backpack For Hiking

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Features:

  • Perfectly sized for carry-on 
  • Side compression straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Padded back panel and shoulder straps
  • Padded waist belt
  • Internal frame sheet
  • D-ring connectors to attach gear
  • 10-year warranty, which can be extended to 25 years.

Capacity: 32L-42L | Water-resistant: Yes | Colors: 4 | Material: 600 Denier Polyester

CabinZero Military Backpack - A Tactical Daypack for Hiking

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Features:

  • Perfectly sized for carry-on 
  • Side compression straps
  • Padded back panel and shoulder straps
  • Top tension/load lifter straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Waist belt (only on 36L and 44L)
  • Front MOLLE webbing to attach gear
  • 10-year warranty, which can be extended to 25 years.

Capacity: 28L-36L-44L | Water-resistant: Yes | Colors: 3 | Material: 1,000 Denier nylon fabric

CabinZero ADV & ADV Pro - Daypack For Adventures

Features:

  • Perfectly sized for carry-on
  • Side compression straps
  • Stowaway straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Padded back panel and shoulder straps
  • Padded waist belt (only on 42L variant)
  • Internal frame sheet
  • D-ring connectors to attach gear
  • 10-year warranty, which can be extended to 25 years.

Capacity: 32L-42L | Water-resistant: Yes | Colors: 10 | Material: Matt finish Nylon 500 Denier Rip-Stop fabric


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