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Hiking Backpacks - Types

Backpacks come in different sizes, styles, and available features. Many backpacks have been developed for specific use in mind and they can greatly differ in their features. Knowing the basic Backpack Types are a step in the right direction for Choosing the Correct Backpack. In general, backpacks can be divided into the following categories:

Waist Packs / Hip Packs / Fanny Packs / Lumbar Packs
Waist pack Volume: up to 10 liters
These are not officially backpacks but they can replace your traditional backpacks for smaller day hikes. The simplest versions consist of just a pouch and belts. The pouch and the weight of the waist pack is located in the curve of your spine near your center of balance. This makes these packs very easy to carry as they put virtually no strain on your body. Some more advanced versions feature shoulder yokes that increase the stability and maximum load. Waist packs that are overloaded will start to sag at which time you are better off moving to a day pack. A typical waist pack has side pockets where you can keep your drinking bottles for easy access.

Hydration Packs
Hydration Pack Volume: up to 10 liters
Hydration Packs consist of a bladder with a drinking tube around which the actual backpack has been built up. Some hydration packs consist only of the bladder and some shoulder straps while others might have a casing and side pockets which make them real backpacks. Larger backpacks generally do not have a fixed bladder but have a special compartment to facilitate the insertion of a bladder and have a hole for the drinking tube. Camelbak is one of the best known producers of hydration packs.

Day Pack Day Packs
Volume: 15 to 35 liters
The name Day Pack already gives away its intended use: Day Hikes. Day Packs are typically small-sized backpacks with shoulder straps and no hip belt. Some day packs might have a chest strap to keep your shoulders from being pulled back by the weight of the pack. As the day pack increases in size and expected load, the necessity for a hip belt increases and some larger day packs feature smaller hip belts.

Midsize Pack Midsize Packs
Volume: 35 to 70 liters
Throughout the years, improved technology has caused Hiking Equipment to reduce both in volume and weight. This has resulted in a need for midsize packs that can be used for multi-day hikes with a small inventory. These smaller packs are also ideal for people who go on day hikes but want to carry a lot of stuff like cameras or books. Midsize packs will mostly have all the features of expedition packs which are handled next.

Expedition Backpacks
Expedition Backpack Volume: 60 liters and up
As your need to carry equipment increases so will the size of your backpack. Full-sized Expedition Backpacks can carry enough gear to keep you on the trail for weeks. Expedition packs use a broad hip belt to redirect the weight to the hips instead of the shoulders. A lumbar pad protects the base of the spine from the added stress of a heavier pack. The heavier the pack, the more important its balance and snug fit become.

The Backpack Types mentioned above mostly describe the size and volume of the backpack and its intended use. They can still differ greatly in the Backpack Anatomy & Features. We will look at these in the next section.

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