I'm in the market for a backpack for fast paced multi-day hiking (away from food up to 1 week). I've tried some of the really big backpacks (65L) and found the padding bulky. I've tried some good ones around the 45-55L mark but I'm concerned about having space. There seems to be a cut off point where the newer backpack of the lowerage literage have less padding which offers a freer feeling. What kinds of other features exist on backpacks that are the most useful as there seem to be many.
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
I'll echo the most prominent theme in the related question, which is that above all else comfort is the most important consideration in any backpack. The worst backpack is one that ends up causing you pain after a few hours when you have to put up with it for the entire week - so trying on as many as you can is important. If you're at all in doubt after a few hours, then it's not good - that effect will multiple out many times over a week. Padding, strap size and placement, etc. will all factor into this comfort aspect, but it's difficult to advise just based on this since it's different for everyone. Some people require large amounts of padding, for others it's not an issue, some people (me) require straps that can usually be adjusted heavily, some don't really need it, etc.
In terms of other features, they're really, as far as I'm concerned, not much of an issue, with a couple of exceptions - that being waterproofing and durability. One of the worst feelings ever is arriving at camp after a rainy day and finding all your stuff soaked, and this can happen if the material leaks, or sprouts a hole somewhere (which will then clearly cause it to leak.) Lots of extra pockets, map holders, compass points, phone holders etc. are all a bit gimmicky to me and are things I rarely use - the above aspects are much more important.
This is a question whose answer depends a lot on personal style and preferences. I prefer an ultralight style of backpacking. For a week without resupply, I would use my Gossamer gear G4, which is a 66 liter pack that weighs 0.9 lb. It's basically a silnylon sack with two arm straps, plus some netting on the outside that contributes to the stated capacity of the pack. With that pack, for a summer trip, I would have a base weight (i.e., total weight without food or water) of about 12 lb. In addition to that weight, I would have about 8 lb of food. (I eat about 1.1 lb/day while backpacking.) This adds up to 20 lb on the first day, and that's a very comfortable amount of weight to carry with this style of ultralight pack.
As a matter of style or personal preference, some people like to use a type of pack that has a sophisticated suspension system, is somewhat stiffer, and weighs a lot more. People who use this type of pack are usually not practicing a very lightweight style, so their base weight for a 7-day trip would probably be a lot higher. The level of comfort when wearing the pack comes out about the same, because although they're carrying maybe double the weight that I am, they have a better suspension and more padding.