How to choose the right backpack for your next adventure

The right rucksack can make or break your trip. So, it’s worth investing some time and research when choosing a backpack for outdoor adventures.

Lowe Alpine

by Angele Karsan |

Are single days on well forged trails your go-to? Or is it the call of the wilderness that draws you to spend many days trekking off grid? In this guide we’ll cover what to look for and why, so you can make an informed decision and stay comfy on or off the trail.

Packs for Day Missions

Single day trips and hikes, where you expect to be reasonably active. Recommended pack size. 18-35L should be large enough to hold extra layers, food, water, first aid kit and waterproofs, with some stash pockets for items that you need to access quickly.

Useful features

  • A breathable back system with a waist belt is great for ventilation and stability.
  • Lightweight webbing as a waist belt may suffice if you don’t plan to carry heavy loads.
  • A sternum strap will give you security when moving on uneven ground.
  • A front stretch pocket to hold your waterproof is super useful in case you get caught in a shower.
Lowe Alpine

Packs for Fast Paced Days on and off the Trails

Single day fast-hikes or mountain runs covering long distances at pace, or days when you’re straying away from the trail. Recommended pack size 8-20L depending on the complexity of the terrain and the length of time you plan to be out. You may only need to carry water, a spare layer, a snack and a phone or GPS.

Useful features

  • A moulded EVA back panel that is flexible and form fitting is ideal for dynamic movement.
  • On the go access pockets are handy for grabbing and stashing gear without stopping.
  • Hydration compatibility for at least a 1.5L bladder is a must-have for hot climates or high energy hill days.
  • A body-hugging harness is key for moving quickly or for negotiating tricky terrain.
Lowe Alpine

Packs for Overnight Trips or Complex Objectives

Overnight bivvies, short, multi-day adventures, or committing objectives, where you may ascend to colder altitudes or experience a greater variety of conditions. Recommended pack size 30-45L packs will hold all the kit that you need including a thermos or stove, insulating and protective layers, as well as additional equipment from tarps and sleeping bags, to ice axes and helmets.

Useful features

  • A heavier weight waist belt and a stiffer back system start to become important for this type of pack. They keep your load balanced between your shoulders and offer better stability on the hips.
  • An adjustable back system to ensure the fit is snug and comfortable can be useful if you’re wearing your pack for extended periods of time.
  • Walking pole loops and additional lash points are handy for extended hiking trips.
  • Look out for ice axe carry and a helmet stash if you’re planning to spend time in complex terrain.
  • Waterproof fabric and taped seams may be a consideration depending on your destination.
Lowe Alpine

Packs for Multi-day Treks

Multi-day hiking trips, backpacking adventures, and mountain treks. Recommended pack size 40L and above depending on the length of your trip and whether you plan to be self sufficient or stay overnight in huts.

Useful features

  • An adjustable back system that can be fitted to your frame will be invaluable for your comfort. Most reputable outdoor stores can help measure your back length and find a suitable pack to fit your body.
  • A strong but lightweight injection moulded back panel with a spring steel frame will provide you with stability and maintain the integrity of the pack when carrying heavy loads.
  • A good, padded hip belt to carry most of the load through the hips is very important. You will be wearing the pack for several days with a reasonable load, so you don’t want your shoulders to be straining with the weight.
  • Shoulder and sternum straps are used for stability on the move and keep the load close to your centre of mass.
  • Base access and stash systems such as a bungie cord or a floating lid add extra volume and make your pack easier to organise.
  • A well-ventilated back system will keep you cool on steep sections of trail or in hot climates.

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