The pack you choose for your next trip can enhance your adventure, or it can add logistical challenges if you bring the wrong one. There are many variables to consider when choosing the right pack for your adventures such as location, duration, and type of travel. Are you packing the kitchen sink, or traveling light? Will you be wearing a backpack and traversing trails, or spending your nights in a hotel and exploring from a centralized location? Here are some things to think about when choosing the right backpack for your next trip:
Three Things to Consider When Choosing a Pack
1. Function: Backpack vs. roller bag. Roller bags are good for zipping through airports but less functional as backpacks. Will you carry the bag over trails and rugged terrain? Will you primarily stay in one location, like a hotel room, or travel to different locations? Think about how you’re going to be getting around to decide which fits your needs best.
2. Size: The capacity of your bag should be based on the duration of travel and the amount of gear you need to bring. Don’t fall into the trap of carrying a larger bag than you need—it’s easy to fill it to the brim regardless of whether or not you need the extra gear.
3. Details: Are you traveling light and fast, with weight being a primary concern? Taking a pared-down pack with just the essentials and built with lightweight materials will be something to consider.
Lastly, be sure to do your research before choosing a brand as well as the pack. Gregory features a social compliance policy that ensures the brand and suppliers do not engage in child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking. They also comply with all local laws from the supply chain start to finish.
What Size Pack Do I Need?
Large-capacity pack (50-70 liters): Your torso length is the most important measurement when choosing a pack size, usually in extra small, small, medium, or large. The back panel, shoulder harness, and frame structure make these larger-capacity packs shine. If you’re carrying a full pack, you do not want all the weight sitting on your shoulders. Pack load should be distributed between your hips and shoulders, with the hip belt taking most of the weight, the padding hugging your iliac crest. Adjusting the hip belt, shoulder strap, sternum strap, and load lifters (in that order) are the four major adjustments when securing the pack comfortably on your body.
Full-day pack (20-38 liters): Most packs of this capacity will also have a hip belt and a sternum strap. Make sure the hip belt sits comfortably high on your hips, right over the iliac crest—same as the larger pack. The pack itself should be set tight against your back with no gapping. It can be easy to overfill a pack of this size, so you want to make sure it’s sitting correctly on your hips and the shoulder straps are the right distance apart. Too narrow and they’ll feel constrictive, and too wide and they’ll be sliding off your shoulders, not providing security or support.
Small day pack or hydration pack (6-15 liters): Since you won’t be overloading this pack, the most important thing to keep in mind is the amount of bounce you feel when moving, and how flush it sits against your back. The pack should feel secure around your shoulders, snug but not confining. Give it a few test swings with your arms. You’ll be moving quickly and experiencing a large range of motion, and underarm chafing will not make for a pleasant outing.
Before buying any pack, go over the fit basics to be sure that you have the pack that’s right for you. After all, the goal is to wear the pack, not carry it.
Best Packs for Different Types of Travelers
1. World Traveler: Staying in Hotels or Other Base Camps
Traveling for work, fun, or your big bucket-list trip? You’ll want a large rolling suitcase, with plenty of room for your luggage and prime organization capabilities. The Quadro Hardcase Roller 22” is a good option if you’re checking a bag and looking to protect your stuff. Built with water- and abrasion-resistant materials, this bag can handle whatever the airline throws at it. Compression straps and interior organizational pockets round out the features. The Split-Case Roller 22” is the perfect carry-on for the organizational nut. External pockets, internal pockets, and a split-case design mean you’ll always know where each item is when you flip it open.
2. World Traveler: Living Out of a Backpack
On the move during your next big trip? Staying in shared-room hostels? Trekking through the jungle to your Airbnb? Taking planes trains and automobiles to get there? You’ll want a large-capacity pack with the ability to organize and pare it down for lighter-weight needs. The Proxy 65 (men) and Praxus 65 (women) are filled with organizational features. From the separate compartment for shoes to waterproof compartments to separate clean and dirty, this bag is the traveler’s best companion. For lighter travelers, they also comes in a 45L capacity.
3. Long-Distance Backpacker: Carrying a Heavy Base Weight
Going out on the trail for three days or more? Carry a lot of heavy stuff? You’ll need a hefty pack with plenty of lumbar support, comfortable padding, and space for organizing. The Baltoro 65 (men) and Deva 60 (women) are among the most cush and highly organized packs on the market. They are perennial favorites of hikers who value comfort and plenty of pockets. These are ideal for hikers with heavier base weights or guides who are carrying a lot of stuff. The Zulu 65 (men) and Jade 63 (women) are ventilated for hot/humid climates and have dynamic hip belts that move with your body. They have a large capacity and flexible packing options perfect for longer-duration outings during all four seasons.
4. Weekend/Extended Backpacking: Lightweight Loads
Are you counting ounces enough to snap the handle off of your toothbrush? You need a pack that helps reflect your weight-trimming goals. These packs provide comfort and off-the-back suspension for venting while not losing essential features like the top lid (also called the brain), hip belt, and sternum strap. The Paragon 58 (men) and Maven 55 (women) are good packs for hikers who want more features but don’t need a fully loaded pack. A 58L capacity is more than enough for even longer trips if you pack smart and don’t take more than the essentials. The back panel is ventilated, which is a must for high exertion in muggy climates. The Optic 48 (men) and Octal 45 (women) are for the weight-conscious hikers with a maximum of 15-pound base weight. These packs are trimmed to the essentials while still providing plenty of structure and suspension, and keeping the features needed for big miles in the backcountry.
5. Day Hiking: Light and Fast Car-To-Car Travel
Bagging speedy summits and carrying minimal essentials means you want a pack that carries water, an extra layer, snacks, and not much else. Smaller packs compatible with hydration reservoirs are perfect for people heading back to the car at the end of the day. The Miwok 12 (men) and Maya 10 (women) feature just enough capacity to carry essentials on the trail. The outer pocket holds fast-access items, and this pack shines in a variety of disciplines, including hiking and mountain biking.
Written by Matcha for Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by Will Saunders / Gregory Mountain Products