Expert advice to find a backpack with the fit and function you need for high-altitude adventures of any duration

Few things are as freeing as putting your feet to the earth and exploring new trails. Hiking cures restless soul syndrome in adults. Teaches kids to be fearless. Creates bonds with canine companions. At times hiking is challenging— few people enjoy steep switchbacks on a south-facing slope—but the relaxing stretches in the shade of the pinion pines and the inspiring views from the top are worth it. The physical, mental and emotional benefits are profoundly rewarding. Whether you’re gearing up for your first hike ever, retiring and replacing a well-traveled knapsack or adding to your evergrowing collection of backpacks, it’s important to select a style that suits your unique needs. Don’t select a pack based solely off a friend’s recommendation or a rave review you read online. Ask yourself a few questions before making a purchase. Your answers determine what the best hiking backpack is for YOU.

Our general rule of thumb for choosing the right size pack.

For day hikes up to 12 hours, a 15-30 liter pack will carry the essentials and a few extra items. Single overnight trips usually require 25-50 liter bags with your sleeping bag attached to the exterior straps, which most packs of this size include. For a weekend trip (up to 2 nights) we prefer bags between 45-55 liters. If we're going for a multiday hike between 3-5 nights we'll pack between 50-80 liters. Any expedition trips of 5+ nights definitely require more gear, 75-105 liters, especially if the season requires heavier layers.

Care and Storage

The last thing you want when out on the trail is for a zipper to fail. Like any outdoor gear, it’s important to give your hiking backpack a little love and attention so it remains committed to your cause. Dirt, sap and salt can ruin a pack if allowed to accumulate in zippers or penetrate the fabric. We recommend gently brushing zippers and spot cleaning the interior and exterior of the hiking backpack after each trip. Wash your entire pack according to the manufacturer instructions as needed, and make sure it is completely dry before storing it. No one likes the sight or smell of mildew! This is especially true when it comes to hydration reservoirs. For packs with this feature, it’s also important to keep the bladder clean and dry between uses. Use purifying tablets occasionally and don’t neglect the tubing. Yeah, we know it’s a pain. But there are plenty of size-specific brushes, drying systems and other products available to simplify the process.

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