Choice of Backpack
The experience White Mountain Backpacks™ has comes from using and then selling backpacks for more than thirty years. For ten years the White Mountain Backpacks™ staff have been contracting to reputably, the world’s largest backpack manufacturer on direct marketing, and assisting in backpack design. Our staff have also travelled Australia and New Zealand for several years instructing hundreds of retail stores on backpack fitting and selling techniques.
The choice of backpack you make will ultimately depend on, not only choosing the type of backpack required, but also on further considerations. When making your choice of backpack, the information I provide may help you better understand, not only the type of backpack you require, but also the recommended Size, Materials, Construction, Design, Brand, Price and other considerations that are best suited to your purpose.
Each of these topics is a subject on it’s own and we will not be able to cover all these topics in much detail. However, if the information I provide poses as many questions as it does answers, then this in itself may assist you greatly. Also, we are unable to provide images of the details mentioned at this time, so if you need clarification of any of the details I speak of, please ask me during the time allocated to questions
With larger backpacks, I will also refer to Internal Frame Backpacks, as External Frame Backpacks are no longer available on the Australian market.
There has not been a backpack designed that will serve your every need, but having an understanding of your primary use of the backpack will narrow down your choice considerably. To begin with we need to choose the type of backpack required and I would like to first just briefly mention the features available in each of these choices.
These backpack types are:
Hike Packs load from the top and most have a storm collar to effectively protect your gear from the weather. These top loading Hike Packs often have an extendable Top Lid allowing for extra storage.
Most Hike Packs have two compartments, an upper and lower compartment with a choice of a zip or draw cord division. The zip or draw cord division allows for separate packing, or can be opened completely forming a single compartment backpack.
Most Hike Packs also have two or three compression straps on either side and two Sleeping Bag Compression Straps on the lower compartment. The Sleeping Bag Compression Straps are usually long enough to accommodate the external attachment of a ground mat or other items.
Hike Packs may also have a facility on the top lid for adding further compression straps if required, and sometimes these backpacks incorporate a Front Pocket, Daisy Chain Webbing, Tool Loops, and Side Pockets in the design
Travel Packs are designed with more features than hike packs to facilitate the needs of the traveller.
These include a harness cover that you can conceal at the base or top of the backpack when the backpack harness is in use, side and top Suitcase Carry Handles, a Shoulder Sling, Internal and a Removable Daypack.
Travel Packs are also generally wider and deeper than hike packs, open from the front of the backpack rather than the top, and gear is stored in the same manner as a suitcase.
Hybrid Packs are designed primarily with the traveller in mind. The traveller who requires a larger capacity backpack, with a blend of Travel and Hike Pack features that are necessary to accommodate, comfortable, frequent, high capacity travelling.
Hybrid Packs are top and front loading combining the packing attributes of a Travel Pack and Hiking Pack.
Hybrid Packs can have many similarities with Hike Packs such as less depth and width than a Travel Pack and have an extendable lid. This extended loading allows for a greater capacity in volume than a Travel Pack of comparable length.
Hybrid Packs as with Travel Packs, usually provide a facility to lock the backpack to prevent theft. Hybrid Packs can also have a zipped division at the base of the storm collar for this same purpose.
One major difference is that these Travel Packs and Hybrid Packs have more stitching and zips than a dedicated Hiking Pack, and in severe weather conditions this may provide less weather protection for your gear.
Although convenient for the traveller, the extra features of the Travel pack and Hybrid Pack add considerable weight, in some cases as much as 30% to 40% more weight than the average Hike Pack.
Other than these differences, most Travel Packs and Hybrid Packs would have similar features to a Hike Pack, Dual Compartments, Compression Straps, Daisy Chain Webbing, Tool Loops, and a fully functional harness system.
There are Rectangular Daypacks, Teardrop Daypacks, Top Loading Daypacks, and Front Loading Daypacks. Daypacks designed for school or office use, the runner, skier, and cyclist. There are Hydration Daypacks, Daypacks for day walks, overnight and three day walks, Most daypacks have a padded back and a webbing waist strap, and the choice of daypacks on the market today is almost endless.
It is important to choose a daypack that can be positioned correctly, and to choose a daypack that achieves the correct position of Shoulder Straps away from the neckline and the shoulder joint. It is also very important that the Daypack has Shoulder Straps of the right length, to allow correct positioning of the waist belt or padded hip belt, and to choose a daypack that has a Sternum or Chest Strap.
There are also Daypacks suspended away from the back with a mesh fabric for better back ventilation. Although these Daypacks sometimes incorporate a frame and a hip belt, these are not the best daypacks for carrying heavy weight. Placing the weight close to you back puts less pressure on your back and prevents backpack sway.
For maximum comfort whilst carrying heavy loads there are Framed Daypacks that can be contoured to your back. These Framed Daypacks either have a high density foam back coupled with two Internal Staves, or have a High Density Polyethylene Sheet with a single Internal Stave attached. For these Internal Frame Daypacks to function correctly, we need the contoured Internal staves and a fully padded hip belt to hold the daypack firmly in place. These Internal Frame Daypacks must also
incorporate slightly longer Shoulder Straps to allow positioning on the lower back and correct positioning of the hip belt, and a Sternum Strap to place some of the weight on the chest.
Properly constructed Internal Frame Daypacks are excellent in protecting the back particularly with school children, provided we can convince them to wear the backpack with the Hip Belt and Sternum Strap positioned and tensioned correctly. Although, wearing the Daypack correctly is often difficult to achieve with school children, as wearing a backpack in this fashion is often seen as UNCOOL
As we are all aware, wearing a reasonably weighted Daypack or Shoulder Bag over the one shoulder, or having the Daypack sitting low on the backside ‘homey style’ will eventually cause severe lower back and shoulder problems.
There are a number of further considerations in your choice of backpack:
Your first decision when choosing a backpack must be size, which includes backpack length, and total capacity or volume. With Larger Internal Frame Hike Packs and Travel Packs, there are five standard backpack lengths available worldwide. The most common choices of stave length, or frame length in Australia, are small, medium, and large. Make certain that the backpack you consider is available in your length or more correctly, your Torso Length. This is an absolute necessity if you
are to wear the backpack correctly, and comfortably.
You will also discover that Capacity is almost always a consequence of the backpack length. Quality manufacturers always take into account the standard acceptable width and depth for the average backpack. It would be rare to purchase a backpack of a small length over 70 litres in capacity. The only exception as mention earlier, is the extended loading Hike Pack or Hybrid Backpack.
Materials include Canvas, Polyester Pack Cloth, Nylon Pack Cloth, Ballistic Nylon, Rip Stop Nylon, and other Nylon based products such as Cordura, and Kodra. The main thing to remember here is that there are three core fabric types, and these are Nylon, Canvas and Polyester. We would also include under materials, Buckles, Webbing, Thread, Zippers, Foam, Backing Sheets, and the Internal Staves of the backpack harness.
Construction includes the number of stiches to the inch and whether the seams and zips are double stitched or single stitched. Construction also includes the heat cutting of synthetic materials where required to prevent fraying, the waterproof binding of the seams, and bar-tacking or cross-stitching for additional strength.
Design is the features and the finished product. Design would include whether the backpack is an External Frame Backpack, an Internal Frame Backpack, or without a frame.
Design would include the number of compartments and divisions within the backpack, the placement of compression straps, whether an extendable lid is incorporated, Internal Internal or External Pockets, a Water Reservoir Facility, Daisy Chain Webbing, Tool Loops, Harness Covers, and Travel Pack Carry Handles and Shoulder Slings etc. Design also includes the Backpack Harness, and today harness design is about comfortably wearing the backpack, not simply bearing the backpack. When purchasing
a backpack it is essential to choose a comfortable fully functional harness system of the correct length.
When considering Brand, make sure the company of your choice has a reputation for functionality and quality. Make certain the product you purchase has a substantial guarantee on material and manufacturing faults, and that the company has a customer service department with a high level of support.
If not, consider BUYING ANOTHER BRAND!
The old saying of "you get what you pay for" is not always true, particularly in this day and age, and especially with backpacks. It is true that more expensive backpacks generally have better workmanship, better technology, better design, and are constructed of higher quality materials. But, this does not mean that expensive backpacks are the best backpacks. Paying high prices for known brand names, exclusive in-store brands, or local made products is not always your only option.
Do some research before making your choice of backpack, talk to people you know and trust for their recommendation? If you have Internet access, visit online outdoor forums, or manufacturers websites for information. If you do not have Internet access, phone the backpack distributors, or manufacturers and ask them about their product.
Finally, when visiting your retail store a good retail salesperson should then be able to provide you with further information that will assist you in deciding, which choice of backpack is best suited for your purpose.
When making your final choice of Internal Frame Hike Pack, Travel Pack or Daypack, make sure that each of the backpacks you try on are of the correct length and FITTED CORRECTLY. The fitting of all Internal Frame Backpacks must include removing and contouring the Internal Staves and proper customization of the harness by the salesperson. Even the most expensive backpack of the correct size, will not feel comfortable, nor perform well if not customized to the individual. If the
salesperson cannot, or does not professionally customize your choice of backpack, then I would consider SHOPPING ELSEWHERE.
Too often I have encountered people who aren't getting the most out of their backpack. This is because of incorrect choice of backpack, improper fit, improper use, wrong size (including capacity and length of backpack), incorrect adjustments, and a poorly designed harness system. Quite often, it is a good brand of backpack with a harness not customized to the individual. It is for this reason that many credible backpack manufacturers place disclaimers on their products that state,
‘this backpack will not perform correctly unless properly customized, or fitted correctly.
It is up to you the customer to insist that the salesperson fully customizes your choice of backpack, and that the backpack is comfortable before leaving the store. After all, it’s your health, your back, and your own comfort that is at risk if your chosen backpack is not fitted correctly.
So, after deciding what type of backpack you require, how do you choose a good quality backpack? The secret is usually in the stitching, take any backpack you are considering, grasp the backpack either side of any seam, and pull. If the seam gaps, the material tears, or the stitching breaks, quietly put the backpack down, then definitely purchase another brand. If the manufacturer has used good thread, then most probably the backpack is of good materials and construction.
After making your selection of type, size, and brand of backpack, your choice of features available within that selection is then entirely up to you.
If the Internal Frame Hiking Pack, Travel Pack, or Daypack you have already is not properly customized, return to your retail store and have your backpack fitted by them. I have had many occasions where I have fitted backpacks that have been in use for years, and were never originally customized to the individual. If your retail store does not provide that service, call and we will fit your backpack free of charge.
Further, if you require more information about backpacks, you most welcome to contact us at any time.