4 Simple Tips to Find the Perfect Hiking Backpack

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A backpack that hangs too low, doesn't carry enough stuff or falls awkwardly on your back as you trek up the mountain can make for a miserable experience. When you consider size, organization, features and versatility you can find a bag that's comfortable and fits all your gear. Here's what you need to know to choose the right hiking backpack.

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Consider Pack Size

While the size of your pack depends on how much you bring you up the mountain, a standard day hiking backpack should be about 3 to 7 gallons (15 to 30 liters). If you plan to hike in the winter—when you need extra gear, water and warm food—go for the larger sized pack that's still small enough for summer hikes.

If you use your pack for day hiking, weight may not be the most important feature.

More: Hiking Checklist: What to Pack for the Trail

Put Organization Before Style

"If you don't plan to hike long or far, or you plan to use your daypack primarily for around town, weight may be of little concern and organizational features are more important," according to McKenzie Long of OutdoorGearLab.com.  

Just be careful not to overload the pack. Robert Earle Howells, the gear guide editor for GORP.com, warns that too much organization, in the form of many pockets and compartments, can lead to overloading. When you put too many items on the perimeter, you throw off the weight and your balance.

Some of the organizational features Howells believes to be important include:

  • Small front pocket: This should be big enough to carry a light jacket.
  • External mesh pocket: This is good for carrying wet or dirty items on the outside of your pack.
  • Water bottle holsters: One on each side is enough.

More: 8 Must-Trek New Hampshire Hiking Trails