Hiking is a great way to exercise, see wildlife or scenery, and enjoy time with friends of family. Whether you’re departing from a trailhead or simply navigating a short loop on a trail outside town, it’s smart to carry a few supplies like food, water, a first-aid kit, and possibly extra clothes, just in case, and you’ll need a good pack to haul it all. But the best packs aren’t always the largest. In fact, you should try to get away with the smallest, lightest model you can. Here are a few other features you’ll want to consider.
A Big Back Pocket
If you’re carrying a canteen, food, extra clothes, or additional gear, a pack with a large main compartment will serve you well. It makes it easier to not only stash and protect big cargo, it’s a quick-and-convenient way to access items, like camera gear, you might need in a hurry.
Tough as Nails
Look close at a pack’s materials and construction. Make sure it’s durable enough to suit your needs, and assembled in a way that won’t fail you when you’re far from home. A good backpack will be light, but not at the sacrifice of security. It’s important to not only know you’re getting a product that will last, but will also protect whatever contents you slip inside.
Comfort is Key
A good backpack should feel comfortable. If it isn’t, you could be setting yourself up for one miserable trek. If it has a waist belt, make sure it’s padded and comfortable, and if there are load-lifting straps, make sure they work—when activated, there should actually be space under the strap itself and the weight should shift off your shoulders and onto your hips.
Aside from having a large main compartment, examine the rest of the pack’s design to make sure it has the zippers, straps, pockets, and compartments you need to contain whatever you plan to carry. Mesh water-bottle pockets are great to have, and small spaces for things like sunglasses, smartphones, and car keys can come in handy and protect the from being damaged by anything else you might be hauling along.