Four hikers wearing large backpacks while walking down a track.

How to choose your hiking backpack

A backpack is the ultimate must-have accessory when hiking. Find out which hiking backpack best suits you and your needs.

Your backpack will carry your shelter, food, navigational tools and extra layers for changing weather conditions. On top of essentials, you can pop in a battery pack for your phone or a DSLR camera for that all-important selfie or landscape shot when you reach the cairn.


While packing a complete kit for more minor routes can help you nail your hiking preparation, burn some extra calories, and be safe in the worst of scenarios, it's not always essential for shorter and well-pathed routes.

Hiking Backpacks for the Day Tripper
When heading to a well-known, short-distance walk that is well-signed and well pathed, you aren't going to need to pack a Bear Grylls-style survival kit. That means a smaller pack will provide you with the space to enjoy your hike, knowing you've got the bare necessities to keep you comfortable, safe and quicker on your feet. For day hikes, 10-30 litre backpacks will be sufficient.

Hiking Backpacks for the Weekend Warrior
If you're off for a weekend away, you'll either need a series of stop-offs at quaint B&Bs and countryside pubs or camping sites to pitch up, sleep and possibly try your hand at some campsite cuisine, particularly if you are planning on spending a couple of night's in nature, you're going to need cooking equipment, gas and last, but not least, food.

Whether you plan a more glamorous weekend, stay in B&Bs and hotels or head into the wild, albeit under the shelter of a tent, you will need to expand your carry pack. Every added route time adds the necessity for more gear. When your trip extends one day, you will need to expand to a 30/40 litre backpack. A 50/55 litre pack will be more suitable if you're also carrying camping equipment. The bigger capacity will provide space for a tent, cooking equipment, more layers, food, and water.

Hiking Backpacks for the Long Haul
Once you head into longer and more challenging hikes, you will need to be prepared for the hike and unexpected extensions. This means you'll need extra gear and camping equipment, especially lots of food and water on top of your essentials. You may also need to include climbing equipment if you're tackling more mountainous routes.

When the hike gets longer, so should your planning. Consider how many days you will be hiking, where you can stop to refill water or replenish your provisions and how long you might need to be self-sufficient in an emergency. You may need up to a 70 or even 80-litre backpack at the higher end of long-haul hikes. This is where more advanced backpack features come in.


Hiking Backpacks with Ventilation
Ventilation is often overlooked when shopping for backpacks, but you’d be surprised how much heat can get caught between you and your pack. As with your clothing, ideally, you want to dress in breathable material to avoid retaining heat on your back. The Quechua MH500 30L Mountain Hiking Backpack uses a stretch net back design to allow airflow and cooling during your trek. This will improve comfort and avoid overheating during more strenuous hikes.

Woman wearing hiking backpack, hiking snowy mountain.


Hiking Backpacks with Added Access
During a hike, you want to have access to anything that can help you reduce any challenges and enjoy your hike whilst capturing all the special moments, which means accessibility has become one of the most important things when choosing a backpack. This usually comes in the form of easy-to-access compartments that can house the essentials like your water bottle and all your extra accessories that will enhance your experiences, like your phone and camera, making accessibility a key component when choosing the best hiking bag.

Hiking Backpacks with Extra Pockets
More compartments allow the separation of electronic equipment and liquids; for example, you wouldn't want to store your phone or power bank in the same compartment as your water bottle or hydration packs, just in case of the unfortunate event that some of those liquids happen to leak.


Even on a short route, British weather can be temperamental, don't get caught up in the unpredictable nature of the weather; instead, stay prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store for you.

Hiking Backpacks With Built-in Waterproofing
Modern hiking backpacks regularly come fully waterproof; if you are a regular hiker across the British Isles, then you know that rain can be an unwelcome guest even in the summer months. A waterproof backpack can save you the panic of setting up a rain cover when the clouds suddenly open up.

Hiking Backpacks With Raincover
If your backpack doesn't feature built-in waterproof material, it's probably a good idea to purchase a rain cover to protect your goods from unexpected showers. Our Forclaz brand has great options to safeguard your kit against the elements.


Purchasing a backpack with a warranty is always a good move. Both Quechua and Forclaz products come with a range of warranties ranging from two up to ten years of guaranteed quality.


Finally, you need comfort when you are on your feet all day out in the great outdoors. The fit of your backpack is one of the essential features. If your hiking bag doesn’t fit right, it will cause discomfort and, over a long period, can cause back problems. Make sure you choose a backpack that is suitable for your torso length and fits comfortably around your hips.

Man and woman hiking during sunrise.

Belts & Straps

The various belts and straps on your backpack will allow you to customize the fit to your liking. This will enable you to distribute the pack weight more evenly, preventing injury and resulting in more comfortable hikes.

Hiking Backpacks With A Hipbelt
The hip belt should rest over - you’ve got it - your hip bones. Close the belt and tighten it to move the pack weight onto your hips (away from your shoulders). This will result in more weight distribution and less targeted straining.

Hiking Backpacks With Shoulder Straps
You should tighten your shoulder straps so that the backpack is close up against your back, which will push the load forward rather than dragging it back on your shoulders. Your shoulders should never be carrying the weight.

Hiking Backpacks With Load Lifters
Another mechanism to reduce the load on your shoulders. Load lifters are located just below your shoulders, near your collarbone. Tighten these so the load lifters are angled toward the backpack at a 45-degree angle.

Hiking Backpacks With A Sternum Strap
Sternum straps lie across the chest, between the two shoulder straps. This function pulls the shoulder straps inward when tightened and adjusts accordingly so that your arms can move freely.

Quechua backpack nh arpenaz 10L

Now you have a right sized pack, with the correct features for your terrain and weather conditions, adjusted correctly for your frame, it’s time to head out into the wild.

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