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.

  • Not a full duplicate but it might contain useful information: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/17/… Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 14:23
  • 3
    away from food and water up to 1 week Huh? Are you saying that you're going to carry a week's water on your back? Most people drink about 2 to 3 liters of water a day, and if you plan to cook food, you'll also need water for cooking. If you need 4 liters a day for 7 days, that's 28 liters of water, which would weigh about 60 lbs.
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


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.

  • Interesting. I think this shows that preferences are very, very personal. The two qualities you list as must-haves -- waterproofing and durability -- are way at the bottom of my list of priorities. I use a non-waterproof pack, and in case of bad weather I carry along a big freezer bag into which I can fit all the stuff that I don't want getting wet. Durability is not an issue for me, since I use an ultralight pack, which is cheap and not designed to last for a long time. I seem to wear out a Gossamer Gear G4 in about 3 years, and after that I just buy a new one -- they're not expensive.
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 23:16
  • Oops, I said freezer bag, but I meant trash compactor bag.
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 23:26
  • @BenCrowell That is interesting, definitely shows personal preference. I used to wrap everything up in waterproof bags inside the rucksack, but then after getting a good, waterproof bag I've never had to do this (and never looked back.) I still think durability is something that I'd prioritise on a week long trek though - I wouldn't mind for a couple of days, but I'd want to be confident that for this length of time the rucksack wouldn't suddenly produce a large hole (or break a strap, or similar.)
    – berry120
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 10:59
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    Yeah, I can see your point of view. I hike mostly in California, where it doesn't rain much in summer, so it's not worth it to me to carry a heavier pack just for the added convenience of not having to bring the trash compactor bag. Are you in the UK? If so, then I can see how the much wetter conditions would influence you. For the record, the ultralight pack I use (Gossamer Gear G4) doesn't just fail unexpectedly. It just tends to gradually fray and wear, sort of like a pair of pants that eventually develops a hole in the seat.
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 20:04
  • @BenCrowell Yup, UK based here so the weather is definitely a huge influence on the gear I choose to get! It's less the fabric wearing on cheaper packs that I've seen, more some of the straps failing (what appears to be) suddenly. I'm sure many are fine, I've just erred on the side of caution since, especially for longer hikes with little contact with the outside world.
    – berry120
    Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 23:26

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.

  • Interesting pack the gossamer gear g4. I've never seen something like that. I've been looking at ultralight options. The most comfortable I've tried is a lowe alpine airzone pro, but I was also looking at the quechua forclaz speed backpack which seems good value. Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 23:31
  • @AndrewWelch: I don't know much about those other brands. The G4 has worked well for me except for a tendency for the top portion to bend backward or to one side. I like the foam pad they sell to go with it.
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 3:29

Might help if you were more elaborate with "trekking", "fast-paced", and "away from food". You didn't even mention terrain, experience, group or individual, seasons, etc. That could be anything from a large day pack to a full loaded backpack, depending on what you really have in mind, how much experience you have, the terrain, etc. Most people carry food while backpacking (everyone should), and it's a bad practice to head out with less than you'll need, for example.

To the backpacks. No, I would never recommend someone buy a backpack based on "comfort", and I and my family have bought 16+ backpacks and done dozens of backpacking trips over the past 30 years. What you find "comfortable" in the store may turn out to injure you in the field or fall apart on you. When you first put on a pair of sandals, they'll be pretty comfortable, but you shouldn't go backpacking in them. A good pair of boots won't be nearly as comfortable in the store, and may need break-in before you actually want to wear them much, but they're a much better choice for backpacking.

A backpack first has to be fit for purpose (which is why you need to define those terms some more), second has to fit you and be fitted to you, third has to be durable/fixable enough to get through the trip, and then has to be something you like and can afford. I'd recommend nailing down what kind of trip you're really planning, after talking to people experienced in that kind of trip, then go to a good reputable shop, tell them what you're doing, and see what they recommend. If you can, go to multiple stores. Lookup what the manufacturers recommend for what you're doing. Then choose your pack. If at all possible, have it fitted to you in the store by someone who knows what they're doing.

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