View Full Version : How do you know what pack is for you?

Earl Grey
08-16-2006, 11:10
How do you know what features, size etc. you need? For instance ive been looking at an Osprey Aether 60 and 75 which are internal frame packs. Is there a guide to help with this process?

08-16-2006, 11:19
you put your stuff in it and then put it on and see if it feels ok

08-16-2006, 11:25
It's not as easy as you might think if you don't have a lot of backpacking experience and a "style" that you know works.

Mingo's suggestion is an excellent starting place in terms of pack "size". Lots of hikers go the opposite direction and buy a pack first, based on a recommendation from an outfitter, without deciding up front what you are going to be carrying.

But then starts the real fun. Do you go External Frame or Internal Frame ?? Do you go for a lighter weight pack or one that weighs more and carries a heavy load more comfortable.

Bottom line is that you might be happier renting or borrowing a few packs in the beginning to see what you like/dislike about them and then go from there. Most of us who have been hiking for a while own more than one pack in fact many of us own several.

Good luck. Happy Hunting ...


Time To Fly 97
08-16-2006, 11:25
Do some initial research online first using review pages, WB, outfitters to get an idea of types of packs, features and hiking styles (ultralight, vs. comfort, etc.) that are out there.

If there is an outfitter in your area with a good return policy, go and check them out in person. They can help fit you (torso length, etc.), give you limited advice and assist you with feature comparisons. You will also have an opportunity to check out the packs to see if the pockets and layout makes sense for what you will need.

Once you decide on a pack that seems just right, this is the time for the most important and funnest part of your decision - time to test it out. Buy it and try carrying weight in the pack to see how it feels - use water in milk jugs, etc. or something else that won't dirty the pack in case you decide to return it and just walk around your neighborhood or take on some nearby trail. Take time to adjust the pack straps to the best comfort for you (ask the outfitter if you are unfamiliar with this) - this may take a little while - be patient as this is the most important step.

There are many excellent packs on the market and each has advantages / disadvantages over others. You will spend many, many hours with your new pack. Have fun making an informed and personal choice.

Happy hiking!


hammock engineer
08-16-2006, 11:35
Lots of good suggestions. I second the go to the outfitter and try on a lot of different packs and get your torso length. I went about it backwards and got the pack first. Mainly since it was he one thing keeping me from overnights. I have since upgraded a granite gear vapor trail (which seems to be a popular pack). If you can hold out, get the pack last. Be careful of some of the advice you will get at an outfitter. Some of them still have the older mentality which will result in heavier gear. Like anything else shop around and read reviews.

Here is a good website with a lot of gear reviews. http://www.backpackgeartest.org/

If I buy another one, I will serously consider the ULA packs. http://www.ula-equipment.com

08-16-2006, 13:06
We have a place that will let us take the pack home and walk around the neighborhood to see if it fits and carries gear well. See if they will let you try out packs at home. I know some hikers have ordered from REI which has liberal return policies - and if you pick it up at the store, that helps with shipping. I realized I needed more of a lumbar pad for my spine - so that's what I am leaning toward Gregory (the Granite Gear and Osprey just didn't have enough lumbar padding for me).

08-16-2006, 18:47
the best advice i can give, although there are many more options, is to make a pilgramage over to neel gap in georgia, and visit with the good folks at mountain crossings. they are world renowned in pack and boot fitting. tell them what you would like to carry, or better yet, take it with you, and they will fit you with the best possible pack for your specific body type.

08-26-2006, 00:08
You need to go find a expert outfitter store and get with some one who knows a little bit about packs. Dont take 1 persons Opinion as the perfect Opinion for you, but it is a starting point.

Watch out for REI, Dicks/Galyans, EMS, and other stores that dont have very knowledgeable staff.

And remember than when you goto your local expert shop for the advice, they need to make the extra 5% of selling you the pack instead of trying to save $5 at one of those other places above.

08-26-2006, 08:03
Mingo was a little brief.

When considering packs, first buy all your other gear first. Then take all your gear, several days worth of food, fuel, and water and go to your local outfitter. Be prepared to spend an afternoon loading everything into different packs and see what fits you best.

08-26-2006, 08:13
I have always had good luck at my REI store. Heck, i went in there one time with my youngest son and a hand me down pack for him and they helped get it adjusted for him even though i wasnt buying anything. After 35 years of external frame packs (my first pack when i was 11 was a World Famous Everest, it is still hanging up on my garage wall)
I switched to an Osprey Aether 70 which i tried out on the trail last weekend and loved. I thougt about it, trying on many packs and asking questions for 2 years before making a decision.

08-26-2006, 10:30
Watch out for REI, Dicks/Galyans, EMS, and other stores that dont have very knowledgeable staff.
I have found both good and not so good staff at REI and EMS stores. The EMS store near me has very inexperienced staff. The EMS store in North Conway, NH, has excellent staff. Often it depends on the store, the season, the day of the week, and the time of day. Ask the person in the store how long they have backpacked, how long they have worked at the store, etc. Make your own judgement about their experience. If the staff seems to lack the expertise, you might try again another time. I have been in outfitter stores that have had excellent reputations, but the "experts" wern't there at the time.

08-26-2006, 22:40
Lots of factors in this decision. The most important one is experience i think.
You may start out loving all those external pockets, but eventually you find that they are just added weight and the stuff you really need to get to fast can be placed on top of a simpler pack.
Also, you may find that you thought you needed a hipbelt but after seeing professionals (sherpas in nepal for instance) hiking without them, you try it and it's ok (as long as you are not carrying too much weight)
For ultra lighters, it is important to keep it simple.
For someone who's been carrying an external frame 8,000 cu. in pack all their life, a 3,000 cu sack with 2 shoulder straps might not feel right at all.
I wouldn't listen to salesmen in an outfitter's store. They are paid to sell and many won't want to talk you into the simplest bag which just may be the best for you.
My advice: get a cheap pack, go out and hike around a lot of thru's (hopefully when they are near the end of their hike) and talk to them about what they would do different and what they like or dislike about the packs they have or have seen.
I started out with an external frame, big pack, and now use a go-lite day pack with about 2,500 cu in!
I never would've thought i could get my stuff in something like this back in the beginning.

08-27-2006, 04:20
My most expensive pack cost me $385 my cheapest pack just $5 at Costco
I am at my wits end trying to find a pack that will serve me for the JMT and I am about to use my trusty comfortable tiny Mountainsmith Tour Fanny daypack with my cheap Jansport Day pack for the two of them combine feel the best and I can hike the longest with them with no trouble. I am only wondering about that darn bear canister. (When I go to REI in person I may find something better...who knows)

So it is a trail and error I would say...I read about packs for months...listened to hundreds of different advice...spent way too much money and I agree with what has been stated above. You will find what works best for you...there does not seem to be an easy answer for everyone.