Quick Guide on Backpacks

News & Tips: Quick Guide on Backpacks

When the topic of backpacks pops up, the young backpackers will automatically picture an internal frame pack while most school kids will envision a stylish daypack to carry their books. They'll wonder how their parents could have ever survived without their modern invention. The truth be known though, a backpack of some sorts has been around for thousands of years.

BackpacksTC blog
If you're carrying heavy loads, you'll need a frame backpack to handle the job.

We read that David picked five smooth stones out of the creek and put them into his shepherd's bag before he whacked Goliath. I imagine this was some kind of a sling over the shoulder type of bag.

Years later we read about Indians carrying their kids in a papoose, which is a predecessor to the kid packs you see parents carrying around the malls. Sorry Kelty, the Indians and Shepherds beat you to the drawing board.      

There are more varieties of packs available today than the law allows. I bet I have at over 40 if you include my fanny packs. For the sake of time, let's break backpacks down into three different categories: frame/internal packs, daypacks and fanny/waist packs.

Waist Packs

Years ago waist packs (also known as fanny packs) hit the scene and were touted as being carried around the hip and light. I have ones that range in size from barely big enough to hold your billfold up to large enough to hold the proverbial kitchen sink. Many people use them to carry concealed weapons, billfold while jogging and so forth.

They have their place but I don't use mine much, in fact the last time I used one was when we had a garage sale to carry my money. It's just more comfortable for me to carry the weight on my shoulders.


To me this is any backpack of the size that you see school kids carrying. I want my daypack made out of soft material so it doesn't make noise when it rubs on trees. It'll have my water bottle, survival kit, snacks, fire kits and so forth.

Invariably you'll put more weight in it than it is rated for and rip the straps off so buy a good one. For instance one year we packed into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. I shot a buck on top of a mountain and hung the meat in a tree and strapped the rack on my daypack. By the time I headed out I had a bit of a load for a day pack. Not good if the straps had of ripped off.

Some people really like the hydration packs, which have a built in water pack. They have a plastic tube that you can suck water out of. This is nice for two reasons:

  1. Saves from having to unload your pack to get to your water bottle.
  2. It's better to sip water than to wait until you're thirsty and guzzle a lot.

Frame Backpacks. If you're carrying heavy loads, this is not an area to scrimp. You need to be comfortable. Many people like internal frame packs, but I like a frame pack. If you down an elk and have to pack it out, who wants to throw raw meat into their pack and then pack their clothes in the same bag a few days later? With a frame pack you can unsnap the pins, remove the canvas pack, put the boned meat into plastic/canvas bags, strap them onto your frame and off you go.

I remember when I first got my Kelty pack. Everyone told me how great it'd be. I'd have padded straps, hip belt and happily skip over the horizon singing skippy doo dah. Good backpack or not, 60 pounds is still 60 pounds and hard work. It's just that if you have a good pack, it's possible. If you don't, you're sunk.

Lastly, let's talk about weight distribution. You don't want your weight too high or you'll tip over. On the other hand if it's too low it'll hurt your back. Even though I like frame packs in treacherous country an internal frame forms better to your body and prevents swaying.