How To Choose Good Backpacks – 9 Most Important Tips

How To Choose Good Backpacks – 9 Most Important Tips

When looking for a new backpack you have to make sure you’re asking yourself the right questions on how to choose good backpacks, as there are so many differences in style and materials, size and weight, features and comfort.

And of course the right choice will depend on what you’re planning on doing with your backpack. Are you going on a long hike? Are you going on a short camping trip?

Are you going on vacation with lots of short trips to cities or short hikes? Are you looking for a backpack for school or college? Or do you need it for sports?

Many times you will find that backpacks are quite versatile and can be used for many different occasions.

Below you will find an overview of the most important questions you should ask yourself before you’re deciding on the perfect backpack for you.

The first question you should ask yourself is this:

What are you going to use your backpack for?

Is the backpack designated for one certain activity or usage, such as daily college or will you be using it for many different occasions?

For example, if you’re planning on using your backpack as a carry-on you’ll need to make sure it’ll comply with airline size restrictions to fit in the overhead compartment.

Depending on your answer, think about what you will carry in your backpack daily. Sometimes it helps to lay out all the items to get a better idea of the size you will need.

Many times people go overboard with their packing, myself included. I don’t know how many times I have carried things that I never needed.

Apart from choosing the right size think about what style you’d like it to be? Do you want something old-style with just one top opening to throw everything in? Or do you need many pockets for laptop and phone and maybe a mesh pocket for your water bottle and also a rain cover?

If you are going to use the backpack as a school bag, it would be good to choose a sturdy and roomy pack to fit big textbooks and folders inside. An outside mesh pocket for a drink bottle might be great too.

If you are planning on going camping or hiking, a backpack with an internal frame and additional padded straps will go a long way for your comfort. You’d also be wanting lots of pockets.

If your backpack is designated for sports, also find a sturdy and roomy one to fit all of your equipment comfortably.

And remember, you don’t want to carry any additional weight from a very heavy backpack, so find one that is lightweight, especially so if you’re going on a longer hike, where every gram counts.

The next question you should ask yourself:

What material should the backpack be?

If you’re choosing the cheapest one you might end up with lightweight material, but it might not last very long as it might be prone to tearing. This is especially the case with cheap nylon and polyester.

Of course not all polyester is cheap. If you want to get something that’ll last, check the denier rating is at least 1200, as it’ll last longer.

Another alternative would be leather, but be careful to choose genuine or full grain leather, as other leather might be thinner and won’t last as long.

There are also hard sided options for backpacks. Summed up they are sturdy and durable and offer great protection, but they might be too rigid and feel a bit uncomfortable to carry. They also usually cost a bit more than the soft sided backpacks.

If you want to read up a bit more about the different materials, have a look at my other post Luggage Materials Comparison.

An easy way to test your future backpack for strength of material and sturdiness is this:

Place a finger on the inside of the bag and push gently against the side, then press another finger against it from the outside. Can you feel your finger touching distinctly? The less you can feel your other finger, the thicker the material seems to be and should therefore be sturdier and support weight.

Material is quite important also when it gets to wearing the backpack for longer periods or during strenuous activities. You don’t want a cheap backpack material that gets sweaty and starts sticking to you. Make sure to find a breathable good quality material.

The next question you should consider is this:

What features should your backpack have?

If you’re after quality in your backpack, the following are a few features you should be looking out for, starting with the most important ones.

Zippers

If you’re looking for extra safety features, make sure the zippers on your backpack can be locked together.

If you’re doing a lot of air travel, you might want to make sure your zipper locks are also TSA friendly, which means the authorities can easily open and close your backpack without damaging it.

Metal zippers will usually last much longer than plastic ones.

An easy way to test your zippers before purchase is to pull the zippers back and forth a few times to see whether they work well and easily slide back and forth without resistance or getting caught on the seams.

If it’s a good zipper, it should move back and forth smoothly without getting stuck.

Stitching

Good quality backpacks should have double, multiple or zigzag stitching at stress points, which are seams, handles and straps. This will ensure your back lasts longer.

Make sure you check both zippers and stitching, as those features are the first ones to break on cheap backpacks.

Other features

  • Additional top handle for easier carrying. Especially good when lifting pack in and out of cars.
  • Internal pockets – great for organising your items small and large
  • Padded internal pockets – extra protection for your laptop or other gadgets
  • External pockets for quick access
  • External mesh pocket for water bottle
  • External elasticized pocket – great for bulky items such as a soccer ball – pocket lies flat when not in use
  • External loops or daisy chains for additional attachment points – for example for climbing hooks
  • Straps or clips to attach to other luggage
  • Rain covers that are built in
  • Watertight sections – great for the serious hiker
  • Pockets for hydration packs

Of course you might not have need for many of these extra features, as it depends on what you want out of your pack.

Many times a good backpack only has to have good zippers, reinforced stitching, a sturdy and roomy main compartment with a few smaller pockets inside and out.

If you’re looking for more versatility and might want to use the backpack for hiking, you’ll be looking for many of the above mentioned features.

Of course this might determine the price for the backpack as well, but it might also make it from a good backpack to a great one.

This brings us to our next important point, which is

Comfort

Especially if you’re planning on carrying your backpack for a longer period of time, you’ll want to make sure you make the best choices for a comfortable experience.

Straps and Belts

One of the most important points of having a comfortable back pack is having padded straps. This is just a small point, but can make a big difference, especially if you’re wearing your backpack for longer and might carry heavier items.

Apart from having padded straps, also make sure they can be adjusted properly and to your needs. You don’t want the straps too loose and dragging you into bad posture and eventually giving you a backache. After adjusting the straps, are you still able to move comfortably? Or are the straps too tight?

If you’re a hiker, you might also want to have hip belt and a sternum belt to help distribute the weight evenly and away from your shoulders, as well as give you more stability.

The right fit

Especially for hikers, finding the right fit is very important. If you’re planning on going hiking for a few days or weeks or maybe even months, you’re likely to be carrying a lot of weight around with you.

It is fairly easy to find the right fit by measuring your torso length. If you’re going to a specialty shop, the sales assistants should mention this to you and also should be able to measure you for the right fit.

Even if you’re not a hiker it might be worth it in the long run anyway to make sure your backpack fits properly. Your back will thank you for it. Sometimes all you need to do is try on the backpack and adjust the straps to see if it fits your size.

Remember when I mentioned that breathable material is important? To make it more comfortable to wear, backpacks have one of two options:

The cheaper ones usually have breathable fabrics and/or foam padding, which also helps to retain structural flexibility.

The pricier backpacks many times come with contoured back panels, which keep the pack somewhat rigid and in shape.

Again, if you can, try the backpack on for size and comfort. Or, if you’re buying online, read the reviews of other customers.

I hope you enjoyed this post on how to choose good backpacks and got the answers you were looking for. If you would like some recommendations, have a look at the best backpacks for traveling.

Let me know if you have any thoughts or comments below in the comment section and I’ll get back to you soon.

Happy and safe travels and adventures!

4 Replies to “How To Choose Good Backpacks – 9 Most Important Tips”

  1. I am currently planning my summer vacation and I am in need of backpack with a lot of compartments, a laptop compartment for sure, as well as for it to be waterproof because I will be camping and you can never know what might happen outdoors.

    Do you happen to have any recommendation which could fit my needs?

    Thank you in advance for your reply!

    1. Hi I sure do have a recommendation. Check out the Osprey Farpoint 55. Plenty of room, laptop compartment and water resistant too. 

      If you want a rain cover instead of just a water resistant coating, check out the Wasing 55. Plenty of room and compartments plus rain cover. 

  2. Backpacks are definitely something I’m interested in as a frequent traveler and hiker so this post is much appreciated. Leather is a fine choice on some occasions but I would definitely steer clear of cheap polyester. 

    Good quality zippers and stitches are things to look at closely as they play a vital role, I will definitely remember this. Comfort is also really important as I’m hiking for longer times during my holidays. 

    I can’t wait to see some of your recommendations for backpacks.

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