The Most Comprehensive Q&A In The Industry

Backpacks Q&A: "What"

Who | What | Where | When | Why | How | Misc.
  1. What’s the difference between a normal backpack and an outdoor one?
  2. What kind of backpack should I get?
  3. What size backpack should I get?
  4. What brand of backpack is best?
  5. What does a waterproof backpack mean?
  6. What backpack material is the most durable?
  7. What is backpack ventilation?
  8. What is chimney ventilation?
  9. What is trampoline mesh ventilation?
  10. What’s the difference between internal and external frame backpacks?
  11. What’s the difference between top and front loading backpacks?
  12. What backpacks are best for kids?
  13. What is a water reservoir/hydration bladder backpack?
  14. What size stove kit will fit in my backpack?
  15. What is a pig snout/lash point?
  16. What is a daisy chain?
  17. What are gear loops?
  18. What are hydration bladders/reservoirs?
  19. What are the functions of various sizes of backpacks?

What’s the difference between a normal backpack and an outdoor one?

Backpacks have come a long way from the days of the aluminum frame Kelty and the Jansport day bag. Each bag has a specific use with feature that make it tailored for that use. Normal backpacks are largely frameless and are comprised of thinner material, often incorporating laptop sleeves and pockets designed for the commuter or school student. While outdoor backpacks will have an internal pockets designed for hydration bladders, and larger pockets making jacket and snacks more accessible. The majority of outdoor backpacks will also have thicker more durable material that is weather resistant or weather proof

What kind of backpack should I get?

The type of backpack to get will first depend on how long you plan on camping/hiking. There is a specific backpack out there for everyone. From the Osprey Variant (an excellent option for the mountaineer) to the Black Diamond Cirque designed for the backcountry ski or snowshoe enthusiast. If you’re considering a new backpack and have questions contact our outdoor experts in the camping department for the appropriate options.

What size backpack should I get?

Frame size is perhaps one of the most critical steps in finding the correct backpack.

The torso length will determine what size backpack to get. Our knowledgeable staff can help you select the appropriate frame size and adjust it for you.

In regards to liter size there are many variables that come into play such as how much equipment you carry, the time of year you enjoy the outdoors, and how many people you are packing for. The most popular sizes are 50-65 liters and will accommodate a variety of needs. As this is a large topic, we have a gear guide article available for choosing the perfect backpack and we've also posted a blog article on how to choose an outdoor backpack.

What brand of backpack is best?

The best backpack brand is all subjective. If you want a practical, no-frills backpack for a long hike on even terrain, then look for a brand that specializes in just that. If you’re looking for an affordable backpack that double functions as a hiking backpack and a student’s bag, then find the brand that specializes in that. Each brand will cater towards a certain purpose, and it’s up to you to determine what purpose it is you’re looking for.

Selecting the “best” brand is more about determining the specific use, features, comfort/fit, and budget. We have a variety of backpacks to help you select the best backpack for you.

What does a waterproof backpack mean?

A waterproof backpack is at best, an extremely water resistant bag. Some rain, snow, or splashes of water on a waterproof/resistant backpack won’t get the gear inside wet. It doesn’t however, protect your gear from getting wet if you submerged the bag under water.

Few backpacks are truly "water proof" Often referred to weather resistant many bags may incorporate a highly water resistant fabric and water proof pack cover. However, if you are looking for a specific backpack that is water proof then take a look at the Arcter’yx collection. They have perhaps the best built backpack on the market. With rubberized ripstop nylon, tapped seams and zippers, their bags are designed to withstand anything mothernature can throw at you.

What backpack material is the most durable?

The more durable a material is, the heavier it will be. Rubberized ripstop, for example, is very water resistant, and the thicker material is less prone to tearing. Sil-tarp is lighter, but with that, less durable.

For the average user, traditional ripstop nylon will last a long time. For the ultra light hiker you may look at dynema or Sil-tarp material. For extreme weather enthusiast look into rubberized ripstop. It all depends on what your individual needs are.

What is backpack ventilation?

The wearing of a backpack can cause overheating, heat blisters, and heat rash if it is not fitted properly or ventilated efficiently. Many backpacks have taken steps to increase ventilation.

Backpack ventilation is ventilation for your own back. If you don’t like the feeling of a sweaty back or tend to overheat easily, a backpack with ventilation is best. There are two kinds: chimney and trampoline mesh.

What is chimney ventilation?

Chimney ventilation is when grooves are hollowed out in the back padding of a bag to increase air flow, and has been designed to allow the spine to breath by adding padding on either side.

What is trampoline mesh ventilation?

Trampoline mesh has been incorporated to take ventilation to the next level by supplying maximum airflow to the entire back. Mesh trampoline ventilation has a layer of mesh in the back of bag, with space behind it to allow air flow. This is the most common ventilation in backpacks. Some backpacks use a combination of mesh trampoline and chimney.

What’s the difference between an internal and external frame backpacks?

Internal frame backpacks are top-loading bags best for hikes with difficult terrain, and external frame backpacks are front-loading bags best for long, level hikes to allow you to walk in an upright position.

When looking at backpacks their origin story would start with a Dick Kelty classic, an external frame bag. Though evolution has all but phased out external frame backpacks, they have a features that still make them desirable. Their ability to carry a lot of weight has kept them in service amongst military units across the world, and they are often more durable and modular with gear mounting points almost everywhere given the exposed frame the name implies.

Internal frame backpacks are more common as they are often more comfortable, easier to use and lighter. By integrating the frame into the backpack, the entire thing becomes a structural piece thus allowing for smaller support rods and lighter material.

What’s the difference between top and front loading backpacks?

Top loading backpacks have the opening from the top of the bag, and front loading is from the front of the pack, like a traditional school bag.

Most of the larger backpacks you will find are top loading, this is because zipper tends to add weight and create a potential for failure points. Top loading backpacks are common amongst both internal and external frames.

Front loading backpacks are reserved for small day use and specialty situations such as climbing where it is an advantage to be able to access and organize all the variable equipment is essential.

What backpacks are best for kids?

Outdoor backpacks for children are tricky. A backpack that fits them one summer won’t fit by the next. Since children are smaller and weaker than adults, it’s important not to overpack or stuff their backpack. They’ll get tired and you might end up picking up the load yourself. As a general rule of thumb, go light when packing a backpack for children, and be prepared to carry the load if needed.

What is a water reservoir/hydration bladder backpack?

A water reservoir or hydration bladder backpack has a compartment where a bag of water fits into. A long straw from the bag pokes out of the backpack so if you’re hiking, you can just grab the straw and drink instead of stopping, taking off your backpack, digging for your water bottle, etc.

Many brand have branched into making specific day use backpacks. These will have a hydration system incorporated in them and enough storage space for a few snacks and light jacket. The Osprey Raptor, and Camel back Mule are examples of this category.

What size stove kit will fit in my backpack?

Almost any stove kit on market today will fit into a 65 liter bag or larger. However, stove design has come a long way since the creation of a white gas pump stove (although those are still in use). The Jet boil, MSR windburnner, Reactor, Wisperlite, compact are far more efficient.

What is a pig snout/lash point?

A pig snout or a lash point is a place to attach gear to. Hiking shoes, for example, would have the laces looped through the slits and tied on.

External frame backpacks incorporated a leather patch with slots cut into it for the purpose of securing gearing on the outside. While these still remain on some smaller day bags they have been phased out on the lager one and replaced with a stronger system such as cinch straps and daisy chains.

What is a daisy chain?

A daisy chain is a line of looped fabric that outside gear like ice picks or shovels can hang from. It's a durable piece of nylon webbing running a given length and stitched into the bag in multiple place, thus creating an efficient way to secure gear on the outside of a backpack.

What are gear loops?

Gear loops are a durable nylon webbing material stitched into the backpack for the purpose of securing gear in one spot.

What are hydration bladders/reservoirs?

Hydration bladders and reservoirs range in size from 1 Liter to 3.5 liters and incorporate a hose system allowing the user to carry and drink water more efficiently.

Important Tip: It is a good idea to clear the hose by blowing excess water back into the bladder to avoid freezing in cold temps or getting hot in warmer temps

What are the functions of various sizes of backpacks?

Let's start small and move up from there. The volume of the pack will typically be included in the name or description of the item. For example, the Osprey Stratos 34 boasts a 34 Liter volume that's perfect for overnight expeditions, long day trips or even a weekend away from it all. Backpacks in the 30 Liter range are typically designated for shorter journeys, but can definitely provide ample assistance for minimalistic travelers.

50 Liter backpacks are the status quo for dedicated backpackers and adventurers alike. Focusing on function, these acccommodating bags are capable of holding enough gear to get you through a 5 day trip, while minimizing the desire to bring along extra, unnecessary equipment.

70 Liter packs are typically designed to endure long tem camping excursions in cold climates. You may see various features on these packs that cater to traversing in the snow such as grips for snow shovels or emergency features function in an avalanche. Additionally, being loaded with insulated clothing takes up additional room in the pack and adds bulk to your load. The 70 Liter packs are built to address this issue, and work to keep your journey as easy and stress-free as possible.