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Venturing into the great outdoors demands that you leave home prepared. Hiking and climbing are two such activities that require you to gear up. But you are going to need something to carry it all that gear in.

Backpacks for Hiking & Climbing

A backpack is the carry bag of choice for hikers and climbers who need to take their food, water, and specialised gear to their desired location in the outdoors. Modern backpacks are designed to evenly distribute weight across your shoulders and back enabling you to carry greater loads without putting too much stress on your joints and muscles. Your backpack needs to fit just right, snug over your hips with chest and shoulder straps adjusted correctly to help hold the pack close to your torso and further improve comfort and load bearing capacity. Fit is not the only thing that is important, you need to know how to pack a backpack correctly to ensure that is it evenly balanced.

Storage Capacity

Backpacks are rated based on their internal storage capacity which, in Australia and in some parts of Europe is displayed in litres. The internal capacity gives you a good idea as to the kind of trip the pack is useful for. A day-pack might be only 15-30 litres; a pack used for weekend trips, 35-50 litres; for three to four night trips, 50-70 litres; and for extended travel (five nights plus) you are looking at an 80 litre plus pack.

Day Packs

Available in a range of styles and sizes relative to what you want to use them for day-packs are used for exactly what their name suggests - day trips. Their capacity is large enough such that you can carry food, water and some gear, but they are not designed for carrying overnight supplies such as tents or sleeping bags.

Larger packs will come with multiple compartments and additional features such as waterproofing, hydration reservoirs and felt lined pockets for your navigation equipment and other smaller items.

Backpacks for Men and Women

It might surprise you to learn that backpacks are gender specific. Women's packs are designed to fit comfortably with the female form around the hips and will usually be shorter and narrower. There is nothing worse than a pack that doesn't fit right after hiking four six hours. It's a good idea to get someone to fit your pack either when you purchase it from the store, or after it's arrived at home to ensure you don't suffer later down the track. Bear in mind, the majority of your packs weight should be supported by your hips taking the weight off your shoulders.

Choosing the Right Backpack for You

Larger capacity backpacks also come in a range of frame types. External frame backpacks are great for protecting your pack from bumps and knocks along the path and offer good ventilation, but can be cumbersome. Most packs these days feature internal frames constructed from aluminium or plastic that are designed to provide support and to hug the contours of your body. Some climbing packs feature removable frame systems to cut down pack weight. If you prefer to travel light, there always frameless backpacks as an option.

If you're looking for more info, Tim Ottaway our contributing gear expert explains what you need to look for when choosing a backpack.

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