Trekking backpacks, in contrast to your daily backpacks, are a little more complex. There are several parts to it and not without reason.
On a multiple day trek, your backpack becomes your home. You live out of it every day.
So naturally you want to choose a pack that provides easy access, comfort and space.
Below, we list out 22 features any good trekking backpack should have.
Do keep in mind that not all features may be applicable to you.
To find out which ones are relevant, we suggest you think through these questions first before going through the list.
> What type of trek are you going on? (Independent vs Assisted)
> Do you use trek poles/ice axes while trekking?
> Do you use water bottles or hydration packs or both while trekking?
> Do you prefer to compartmentalise or pack all your gear together?
> Are you okay with having extra gear attached to the exterior of the backpack?
> Will multiple people be using the backpack or will it be used by you only?
Parts of a Backpack
Starting with the Basics
Most backpacks today are made with an internal frame. This is the best option to choose for multiple day hikes. It provides structure to the pack and support to the wearer.
Some backpacks are made frameless to make them ultra-light.
And lastly, while not as preferred as the other two, some packs continue to be made with external frames today as well.
2. Haul Handle
Although tiny, the haul handle is one part of the backpack you will be using often. It is used to hoist the backpack onto your shoulder.
We have noticed that many of our trekkers lift their backpacks by the shoulder straps.
This not only wears out the shoulder straps pre-maturely but also places unnecessary stress on the trekker every time they hoist the pack onto their shoulders.
A backpack worn incorrectly can tire you out quickly. Give this guide on How to wear a Backpack Right a read to avoid some common mistakes.
3. Back Panel
A good backpack will have a mesh like ventilation system built into its back panel to allow easy circulation of air. It will also contain a lumbar pad at the lower end of pack. A lumbar pad cushions and supports the load against your spine and protects it from injuries.
4. Shoulder Straps
Go for shoulder straps that are padded and adjustable at the base.
5. Shoulder Harness
Some backpacks come with adjustable shoulder harnesses.
This allows you to adjust the pack to fit the length of your torso.
Further, some shoulder harnesses can also be adjusted laterally there by allowing you to change the width of the shoulder straps in accordance with your torso size.
Note: This features is particularly useful when multiple people use the backpack.
6. Load Lifters
These are adjustable straps between the top of the shoulder straps and the rest of your backpack.
These straps draw the weight of your backpack towards your torso.
When adjusted right, it also lifts some of the weight off of your shoulders.
To know how to adjust them, refer to our guide on How to wear a Backpack Right.
7. Sternum Strap
Adjustable straps that run between the two shoulder straps.
When buckled across your chest, they help disperse the weight of your backpack from your shoulders.
In some backpacks, the height of a sternum strap can be adjusted as well by moving them up and down the shoulder straps.
8. Hip Belt
Adjustable straps that wrap around your hips from either side of the backpack.
When adjusted right, these straps shift around 80 % of the weight off of your shoulders onto your hips there by ensuring your legs carry most of the load.
To know how to adjust them, check out our guide on How to wear a Backpack Right.
9. Hip Belt Pockets
Easy access spots to store small items (lip balm, sunscreen, snacks etc) you may need while trekking.
10. Top Lid
Most backpacks close with a top lid that buckles down over the front of the pack.
These lids have pockets underneath them for storing items.
And some of the lids can be detached from the main pack entirely to save weight or convert into a day pack.
11. Kangaroo Pocket
Kangaroo pockets are essentially large pouches that don’t zip up or close securely.
They are excellent for temporarily storing things you may need to access while on a hike. Eg: Wind cheaters, jackets, gloves etc.
12. Top Pocket
Top pockets should be large and ideally have some water resistance to protect the contents in it.
This is generally used to store items you need easy access to when you stop on the trails.
13. Bottom Compartment
This compartment is generally used to store your sleeping bag.
In some packs, this compartment is totally separate from the main compartment while in others it is separated by a piece of fabric.
14. Rain Cover Compartment
Not all backpacks come with a rain cover. But the ones that do contain a separate compartment to store them in.
Smaller but Handy Components
15. Side Access
In addition to top access, many backpacks also provide a side or a front access to the main compartment via a zip.
This is especially useful when you need to retrieve items from the bottom of the pack.
16. Walking Pole Attachment
These are bungee cord loops or compression straps that can be found on the sides or the front of the pack.
The pole can be secured in them when not in use.
17. Ice Axe Loops
These loops can be found at the bottom of the sack.
They are used to secure the head of the ice axe while the handle is secured using another attachment point.
18. Gear Loops
Found in different locations, these are loops that are used to attach items that cannot be placed in your backpack (Eg: Items that are wet or dirty).
19. Side Pockets
These are generally used to hold water bottles and can be accessed without having to remove the backpack.
They also have an elastic band on the upper end to ensure the bottle remains secured to the backpack.
20. Hydration Pack Sleeve
This is located inside the main compartment of your backpack and is used to hold the hydration pack in place.
21. Hydration hose port
A small opening through which the hose of a hydration pack can be fed out of the main compartment of the backpack down to the shoulder strap.
Some backpacks also have a facility to clip the hose to the shoulder strap to prevent it from dangling in front of you while hiking.
22. Compression straps
These can be found on the sides or/and the bottom of the pack.
They are used to compress the pack tighter around the contents inside eliminating any empty/unused space.
They can also be used to hang some items to the exterior of the backpack.
A wrong backpack can turn any fun hike into a frustrating one. Apart from the 22 features listed above, the material of the pack and fit are vital factors to consider when choosing a backpack.
Read our article on How to Choose a Backpack? to know more.
In case, you have any queries, feel free to drop in a comment below. Our team will get back to you.
Images by Ayush Magotra