By Michael Lanza

If you’re super fit and strong, hike with a pack of any weight 50 or more days a year, and have never known any sort of injury or ache in your body, then don’t bother reading this article. But for everyone else, knowing how to find the right pack for backpacking and other outdoor activities—and for your body—will make a world of difference in your enjoyment when carrying that pack for hours a day on a trail or up and down a mountain. This article will lead you through five steps to accomplish exactly that—helping to ensure that you spend your gear money smartly.

These tips reflect what I’ve learned from field testing all kinds of packs for backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing over a quarter-century of testing and reviewing gear—formerly as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for about 10 years and for even longer running this blog.

Follow these tips in chronological order and you will find the pack that’s right for you (or maybe more than one pack).

Please share any tips of your own or your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker hiking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Mark Fenton backpacking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park. Click photo for my e-guide to “The Best First Backpacking Trip in Yosemite.”
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”598″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?resize=900%2C598&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park.” class=”wp-image-37990″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?resize=1024%2C680&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?resize=300%2C199&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?resize=768%2C510&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?resize=1080%2C717&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Yos11-011-Hiking-Clouds-Rest-Yosemite-N.P.-CA.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Mark Fenton backpacking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park. Click photo for my e-guide to “The Best First Backpacking Trip in Yosemite.”

#1 Decide What It’s For

It’s tempting, especially when you’re on a budget, to want to buy one pack that will serve every possible need for which you can imagine using a pack. While that approach is understandable, unfortunately, setting such broad expectations takes you in exactly the wrong
Did you miss our previous article…
https://www.mansbrand.com/an-adventurers-guide-to-the-peak-district/

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