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Types of Backpacks for Outdoor Adventures

There are many different types of backpacks for your outdoor adventures, from various types of daypacks to large backpacks that are perfect for overnight trips.

In this article we will highlight several different types of backpacks that are perfect for the great outdoors, and provide a brief yet detailed description of each type of backpack.

The Different Backpack Types for Outdoor Adventures

guy hiking with a backpack

Millions of people use backpacks every day. That’s because they are the ideal solution for carrying a wide variety of stuff—stuff we all need for our everyday travels and adventures.

From very basic items like food, water and even firewood, to some of the most advanced technical outdoor gear, the backpack is the perfect and most efficient solution for carrying. However, given the large variety of backpacks on the market today, it’s important that you select just the right backpack for your particular needs based on your specific outdoor excursion.

First, you will need to consider the type and size of the items you will need to bring, as well as where you will be taking those items and for how long.

To help you determine which backpack solution is best suited to you, below we have put together a brief list of all the different backpack types currently on the market. You will then briefly describe each of these backpacks—the main features, etc.—to help you make the most educated purchasing decision.

The first type of backpack is known as the daypack, and within this category there are several different sub-types. These include:

  • The hiking daypack
  • The climbing daypack
  • The cycling daypack
  • The snow sports daypack
  • The sightseeing daypack
  • The work daypack

After daypacks we get into backpacks that are a little larger and those that are intended to be used on overnight trips and the like. Within this category of “large overnight backpacks” we have:

  • The hiking/trekking backpack
  • The lightweight hiking backpack
  • The travelling backpack

After the “large overnight backpacks” we finally come to a specialized category of backpacks known as “hydration backpacks.” In this category we have:

  • The running hydration backpack
  • The cycling hydration backpack

The Different Types of Daypacks

In this section we will briefly describe each of the daypacks we mentioned above and show you the key features associated with each.

Hiking Daypacks

If you plan to go on an extended hiking trip you will need to bring along plenty of water and at least enough food to keep your energy up. You may also need to bring along extra layers of clothes and perhaps even rain gear—just in case.

However, the most important feature of a daypack is comfort; it must be comfortable and lightweight enough to wear the entire day. Most hiking daypacks will contain features like a ventilated back panel for the wearer’s comfort, padded shoulder straps and waist belt, a water reservoir holder and maybe even a holder for your trekking pole—if you plan to use one.

Climbing Daypacks

Climbing daypacks are an absolute necessity for rock climbers. In addition to having to carry food, water and extra layers like a hiking daypack, a quality climber’s daypack will need to have enough room for ropes, harnesses, climbing gear and even a helmet.

It must also fit comfortably and very near to the body so as not to be a hindrance. Some of the features a climbing daypack may possess include external loops for climbing gear, an exterior helmet holder, an ice ax loop, easy access to the main compartment and compression straps, all while being very lightweight and comfortable.

Cycling Daypack

The type of cycling daypack will depend on the expected duration of the ride. Riders who rarely ride longer than one or two hours can easily get away with a cycling hydration pack, but for those who plan to make a trek of it, the daypack will have to be large enough to carry a variety of food, water, extra layers and tools.

It should also be lightweight and comfortable to wear. A cycling daypack might feature things like a helmet holder, ventilated back panel, padded straps, tool pockets and, of course, a holder for some type of water container.

Snow Sports Daypack

Heading out for a fun day in the snow? If so, then you will need a quality backpack for this type of trip.

One of the most crucial features of a snow sports daypack is the capacity to carry your skis or snowboard. You will also want a daypack that fits snugly without being overly cumbersome and limiting your movements.

Some of the features you might find on this type of daypack include ski or snowboard attachment straps, a pocket for safety equipment, compression straps, and a waterproof fabric that won’t be damaged by the snow.

Sightseeing Daypacks

Sightseeing daypacks are perhaps the most basic types of daypacks. Since you won’t be overly active—and because you likely will not have to carry that many things—you should select a daypack that is very lightweight and comfortable.

Some of the features you might want to look for include pockets for sunglasses and other accessories, a water bottle holder, and basically just a low profile daypack in a color or design that suits you.

Work Daypacks

Believe it or not, most of the backpacks we described above could also double as a great work daypack. In fact, many of the hydration reservoir pockets in hiking backpacks can also fit a laptop in them.

However, if you need to protect an expensive laptop you’d be much better off purchasing a daypack that is specifically made for that purpose. This way, you will not have to worry about damaging it.

In addition to the specialized laptop pocket, some of the other features to look for in a high quality work daypack include a water bottle holder, internal pockets for organization, and a bag that looks professional on its exterior.

Large Overnight Backpacks

woman backpacking in national park

Now that we have covered the different kinds of daypacks, we will now turn our attention to the three types of large overnight backpacks. Naturally, these will be larger, but they should also be very functional. Let’s take a look.

Hiking/Trekking Backpacks

When you are going to be carrying heavy loads, packed with clothes and equipment, you should definitely look for a backpack that feels comfortable despite the weight.

This means it should definitely have heavily padded straps and a padded waist belt, a capacity between 40 and 600 liters depending on the length of your trek, a ventilated back panel, a trekking pole holder, a water reservoir pocket, external pockets as well as internal ones, and a rain cover made specifically for that backpack.

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks

A lightweight hiking backpack will generally have many of the same features as the one described above. The only real difference is the weight of the backpack, which is determined by the ultra light fabrics used to make it.

Some of the features you can expect with a lightweight or ultra-lightweight hiking backpack include a 40-50 liter capacity, large mesh pockets on the exterior, padded straps and waist belt, external gear loops and, of course, a very lightweight fabric that may or may not be waterproof.

Travelling Backpacks

The basic traveling backpack does not need to be as specialized as some of the other models. Here you are basically just looking for a backpack with enough interior capacity for all your stuff, as well as exterior and interior pockets for accessories.

Some of the other features you can expect with a basic travelling backpack include a removable daypack or top lid, easy access to the main compartment, plenty of pockets and storage options, a carrying handle and perhaps even a concealable back panel system.

The Hydration Packs

Hydration packs are a great way to stay hydrated when you are on the go, allowing you to drink without ever stopping. Let’s look at the two options for these packs.

Running Hydration Backpack

Many of today’s long distance runners like to run with a hydration backpack or a hydration vest, the latter being the latest evolution of the hydration backpack, one that spreads the weight of the water and focuses on easy drinking access while on the move.

But there are also some great low profile hydration backpacks around that many find equally as comfortable and user friendly as a hydration vest. Some of the features of a running hydration vest include a pack that is comfortable and close fitting, one that is breathable and very lightweight.

Cycling Hydration Backpack

Cyclists do not move about or jostle like runners, so the hydration pack for cyclists can actually have a higher capacity and still be just as comfortable.

Some of the features to look for in a great cycling hydration backpack include a ventilated back panel, attachment loops for the helmet, storage pockets for tools and on the go snacks, hydration hose management and a very lightweight fabric that is also waterproof.

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