Ultimate Backpack Buying Guide: All Backpack Features Explained

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A simple backpack requires minimal explanation. Fill it with your belongings, secure it with a clasp or zip, put your arms through the shoulder straps, and go!

Backpacks for hiking, trekking, and backpacking, on the other hand, are significantly more complicated. Not only are there many more components and elements to a hiking backpack, but each one serves a distinct and (usually) required purpose. And, with ever-evolving features that all claim to revolutionize your backpacking experience, knowing and understanding precisely what you’re getting is critical.

The Backpack’s Anatomy

anatomy of a hiking backpack
Image courtesy: coolofthewild.com

After reading the remainder of this post, you should have a better idea of how you prefer to utilize your pack and what you will and won’t be bringing with you. Then you can get back to work with the specifics, knowing what to look for in a new backpack for your hiking and trekking trips.

Why it’s important to know the different parts of a backpack.

Understanding the anatomy of a backpack will go a long way toward assisting you in selecting a pack that is suitable for your hiking and backpacking needs and preferences. Many of the features listed below will be overkill if you plan on hiking for short day hikes. You’re best off going directly to our hiking daypacks guide in that case.

However, most of the structural elements of a backpack will be required for multi-day hiking excursions to give maximum support and comfort.

When it comes to overnight hiking backpacks, many of the storage and usage aspects are a matter of personal taste. They are determined by how you prefer to organize your belongings in your pack and what you want to carry.

Ask yourself the following questions before going into the nuances of backpack anatomy for hiking:

  • Do you prefer to drink from a hydration reservoir, a water bottle, or a combination of both?
  • Do you use trekking poles or an ice ax when hiking?
  • Do you prefer to eat while on the go?
  • Do you like to organize your belongings by category or put everything in at once?
  • Are you a hiker who prefers to carry as little as possible?
  • Is the concept of many compartments making it even more difficult for you to stay organized?
  • Do you despise the thought of having extra gear on the outside of your pack?

Consider those principles when you examine the various components of a backpack in further depth.

Backpack Features Explained

Ultimate Backpack Buying Guide

Most current multi-day hiking and trekking backpacks include an internal frame that gives the pack rigidity and offers support to the wearer. To conserve weight, certain ultralight backpacks are frameless, and external frames are used in relatively few backpacks these days, though they are still made.

Bag Accessories

Backpack accessories refer to a variety of things that may be used to enhance the functionality of a backpack, such as a waterproof backpack cover or a handle wrap.

Load Lifters

These adjustable straps connect the top of the shoulder straps to the rest of the pack, moving the weight of the pack closer to your body. This helps to keep the load from moving about unintentionally. They also assist in lifting some of the pack weight off your shoulders when properly fitted.

Bag Bottom

A bag bottom is a panel at the bottom of the bag that supports the main compartments while also providing extra strength to prevent the bag from harm. This can take the form of a single material panel or several bag feet/base studs.

Sternum Strap

A sternum strap’s height can generally be adjusted up and down the shoulder straps, and the straps may be tightened and relaxed across your chest. Some buckles even come with a built-in emergency whistle!

Bag Charms

Backpack charms range from a hanging tassel to a baggage tag to a bag fob or charm to give personality and touch to a backpack.

Hip Belt

A decent hip belt should be cushioned and breathable, with adjustable straps that allow the belt to be tightened or loosened for the optimum fit. Hip belts that swivel on the rest of the pack are available on certain high-end backpacks. This allows the weight to walk alongside you rather than against you.

Hip Belt Pockets

Although not all hip belts have pockets, they are ideal for holding small goods such as hiking foods, a GPS device, sunscreen, and other essentials on the path.

Bag Opening

The bag opening is the primary means of accessing a backpack’s biggest compartment, and it has a significant impact on the backpack’s design and appearance.

Haul Handle

Haul handles make it much easier to pick up and move your load.

Binding

Binding is a method of sewing and attaching different elements of a backpack together, such as the lining and interior compartments with the bag’s outer shell.

Back Panel

A decent backpack’s back panel should be soft, supportive, and breathable. Some back panels are thickly cushioned, while others have a trampoline-like design. Air may readily travel between your back and the rest of the pack because of this.

Buckles

Buckles are used to attaching the harness to the strap of a backpack with a shoulder harness or sternum strap.

Shoulder Straps

Padded, fitted to your body, and breathable shoulder straps are ideal. They will also have an adjustable base.

Panel Decorative

A decorative panel is used for decoration and aesthetic purposes on some backpacks.

Shoulder Harness

You should be able to adjust the shoulder harness of your backpack up and down to get a custom fit for your torso size. The breadth of the shoulder straps may also be changed by moving the harness laterally on high-end backpacks.

D Ring

A D Ring is a component of a zipper puller that refers to the “D” shaped element that links the zipper teeth to the puller. It can be constructed of metal or plastic and comes in a range of colors and finishes.

Hydration Hose Port

To be hydration-compatible, a backpack should include a port or hole where a hydration hose may be passed from the main compartment to the shoulder strap.

Handle

A handle on the top of a backpack is often used to carry and hold a backpack for short distances.

Hydration Hose Clip

Some backpacks feature a clip or connection point for your hydration hose on the shoulder strap. The aim of this is to keep the hose’s end from flying about while you walk.

Hardware

Backpack hardware includes all of the bag’s physical hard components, such as buckles and zippers.

Water Bottle Holder/Side Pockets

Water bottles may be readily reached without taking off your pack thanks to the side pockets. They’re generally constructed of mesh or another light fabric with elasticized tops to keep the contents of the pockets secure.

Hip Padding

Padding that reaches from the rear of the backpack to the front straps. Hip padding, like the sternum strap and shoulder harness, is most often used in outdoor and travel backpacks to help distribute weight.

Compression Straps

Backpacks generally include compression straps on the sides and bottom. They may be used to fasten goods to the exterior of the pack as well as cinching down the inside contents to keep the bag compact and sturdy.

Interior Zipper Pocket

A tiny pocket in one of the bag’s sections meant to keep small things for quick access is known as an inside zipper pocket.

Gear loops/daisy Chains

Gear loops can be found on the exterior of a backpack in a variety of places. They’re utilized to attach supplementary gear that requires quick access. Things that don’t fit in your pack or are too damp or dirty to put inside your pack.

Bag Bottom

A bag bottom is a panel at the bottom of the bag that supports the main compartments while also providing extra strength to prevent the bag from harm. This can take the form of a single material panel or several bag feet/base studs.

Bag Charms

Rucksack charms range from a hanging tassel to a baggage tag to a bag fob or charm to give personality and touch to a backpack.

Base Studs / Bag Feet

A plastic or metal plate that covers the bottom of a backpack from dirt and damage. This is popular in purses and other forms of crossbody bags, and in a backpack, it will most likely be utilized to protect leather bags from outside harm.

Bag Opening

The bag opening is the primary means of accessing a backpack’s biggest compartment, and it has a significant impact on the backpack’s design and appearance.

Binding

Backpack

Binding is a method of sewing and attaching different elements of a backpack together, such as the lining and interior compartments with the bag’s outer shell.

Buckles

Buckles are used to attaching the harness to the strap of a backpack with a shoulder harness or sternum strap.

Panel Decorative

A decorative panel is used for decoration and aesthetic purposes on some backpacks.

The D-Ring

A D Ring is a component of a zipper puller that refers to the “D” shaped element that links the zipper teeth to the puller. It can be constructed of metal or plastic and comes in a range of colors and finishes.

Handle is usually found on the top of a backpack and is used to carry and hold it for short distances.

All of the hard physical components of a backpack, such as buckles and zippers, are referred to as hardware.

Zipper Pocket on the Inside

A tiny pocket in one of the bag’s sections meant to keep small things for quick access is known as an inside zipper pocket.

Laptop Compartment

Laptop pockets are common in backpacks designed for business, vacation, or everyday usage, as carrying a laptop has become a necessity for many people. Padding on both the walls and the bottom of laptop compartments is common to keep a secure laptop while on the move or in the case of a bag drop. Separate laptop pockets are available in certain backpacks, allowing for quick and simple access to the laptop.

Ice Ax Loops

Ice ax loops, which are usually placed at the bottom of a backpack, are meant to retain the ax’s head while the handle is fastened to the pack through another attachment point or compression strap.

Lining

The material used within a backpack’s compartments is referred to as the lining. These can differ based on the form, price, and construction of the bag, but they are generally.

Walking Pole Attachment

If you hike with trekking poles, having the ability to keep them on your pack while not in use is essential. The connection points, which are generally on the sides or front of the pack, might be buckled webbing straps, bungee cord loops, or compression straps.

Luggage Strap

A luggage strap is a flat piece of material attached to the back of a backpack that is used to slide over a baggage handler, making it convenient for travel.

Top Pocket

To preserve its contents, a decent top pocket should be big and, preferably, water-resistant. It’s a great spot to keep anything you need quick access to when you stop.

Main Compartment

The main compartment of a backpack will be the bag’s largest storage space in terms of volume. This will be accessed by a zipper on the bag’s outside, with the location of the zipper varying depending on the form of the backpack.

Top Lid

The lid of most backpacks buckles down over the front of the bag. Some lids are adjustable, allowing you to put items beneath them as well as on top of the main area. Some are totally removed to reduce weight or convert to a summit pack.

Materials

A backpack can be built out of a single material or a mixture of materials. Even though a backpack is composed of a single exterior material, such as leather or ballistic nylon, the inside lining is usually made of a separate material.

Side Access

Many backpacks offer side zip access to the main compartment in addition to top access. This makes it much easier to organize and reach your gear, especially the items towards the bottom.

Padded Shoulder Strap

All Backpack Features Explained

In contrast to a strap with only one material type, a padded shoulder strap includes extra padding or support in the form of padded material like foam (such EPE or EVA) or mesh.

Sleeping bag compartment

Sleeping bag compartments are usually found at the bottom of the pack and provide access to items (such as sleeping bags!) that are stowed there. Some compartments are completely distinct from the backpack’s main portion, while others are divided by a zippered or detachable piece of cloth.

Shoe Compartment

Shoe compartments are common in the gym or sports backpacks because they allow you to arrange and separate items like shoes and sweaty garments from the rest of the bag.

Rain Cover

A rain cover for your rucksack is an essential feature that not all backpacks provide. The packs that do include them generally have a special pocket for them. Some are even permanently connected to the pack, despite the fact that the majority are detachable.

Shoulder Harness

Shoulder support is provided by the upper portion of the backpack straps. Outdoor or travel backpacks with a lower weight load on the shoulders are common, while everyday or work backpacks are less common.

Hydration Reservoir Sleeve

This is generally found within a backpack’s main compartment. It should be large enough to fit a 2 liter (or bigger) hydration reservoir inside. To hold the reservoir in place, some sleeves feature a clip or loop at the entrance.

Sternum Strap

When the backpack is worn, a strap stretches over your chest. It’s most often found in bigger backpacks for outdoors and travel, similar to a shoulder harness.

Front Kangaroo Pocket

Kangaroo pockets are big pouches that don’t zip up or seal closed, and they differ from pack to pack. They’re great for temporarily keeping items like coats, maps, and gloves when hiking – anything you need to get to fast.

Stitching

Stitching may be seen all over a backpack, from the straps and materials on the outside to the major pockets on the inside. Different stitching methods are required for different backpacks, ranging from bar-tacking for added durability and strength to leather backpacks that require more stitches per inch than a woven material like nylon or canvas.

Front Pocket

Many backpacks include zipped compartments on the front of the pack, in addition to a kangaroo pocket, to assist keep your items organized and compartmentalized.

Strap

A woven cloth piece that links the top of the backpack to the rear of the backpack, which is designed to fit over your shoulders. They come in a variety of materials and are frequently constructed of the same material as the bag’s outer shell.

Tri-Glide / Strap Adjuster

A strap adjuster, also known as a tri-glide, is a plastic or metal device attached to a backpack’s strap that allows you to modify the height of the bag’s webbing to change how high or low it sits on your back.

Trims

Trims are utilized as an aesthetic detail inside a bag’s compartments or on the exterior facing portions of the bag, such as straps or pockets, and are often found in leather bags.

Water Bottle Pocket

Water bottles can be stored in a water bottle pocket on the exterior or inside of a backpack. On-the-go access is facilitated by an exterior pocket.

Webbing

A piece of woven cloth (typically a type of nylon) that links the bottom of a backpack’s strap to the bottom base of the backpack is known as webbing. A strap adjuster may be used to change how high or low the bag sits on your back by adjusting the webbing.

On multi-day backpacking journeys, finding the appropriate hiking backpack to meet your requirements and tastes may be a game-changer. Your time in the outdoors can quickly become unenjoyable if your back and shoulders are uncomfortable. Similarly, if the backpack’s design doesn’t suit your gear or the way you use it, you’ll quickly become dissatisfied and waste time and energy trying to make do with what you have. If you get it properly, each journey will make you fall more in love with your backpack!

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