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Hiking Bags

From Guides

The terms 'hiking bag' 'hiking pack' 'pack' 'backpack' and 'rucksack' are all alternative names for the same piece of equiptment (which this page deals with)



Main Article: Packing A Hiking Bag

The main things to consider when packing a bag are:

  • Bulk
  • Order
  • Weight
  • Access

Size measurement

Rucksack capacity is normally measured in litres, referring to the volume of space available inside the bag. An average sized expedition sized bag would be approximately 80 litres, whereas a day or overnight bag may be only 30 litres.

Many bags will give two numbers seperated by a plus sign. In this case, the first, and larger, number will refer to the capacity of the main compartment, and the lesser number will refer to the capacity of the pockets (or in some cases of a secondary detachable bag).


Hiking Bags come in many different styles, and it is important to use the right one for the context. The main types of bag are:

Day bags

  • Can come in sizes up to around 30 or 40 litres. You should select an appropriate size according to the activity and requirement of kit. (See #Size measurement)
  • Day bags tend don't tend to have adjustable back systems, as it is assumed that not a lot of weight is being carried, and it is therefore less crucial to attain a proper fit.
  • Waist straps are sometimes, not always provided, although the strength and comfort varies greatly.

Trekking / Expedition

These bags tend to be top loading, with a fully adjustable back system.

Travel bags

Travel bags can be described as a cross between a suitcase and a trekking rucksack. However, the trekking back system is seen as a secondary function, and is therefore less adaptable the adjustable then a trekking bag.


  • Back system can be zipped away so that straps don't get in the way when using public transport.
  • Entry to the bag can often be achieved by unzipping the front panel of the bag, like a suitcase, which can make packing easier.
  • Sometimes a detachable day sack is included.
  • Sometimes a shoulder strap is provided.


  • Back system is going to be inferior to that of a trekking rucksack.
  • Will be heavy due to large number of zips and denier of material used.
  • Can be unstable as the length of the bag is utilised, going out from the back, as opposed to increasing width or height of bag. - this can be worsened if the day sack is utilised as well, its usually best to remove the day sac and wear it on your front.
  • Daysack can be easily removed by thieves.

Back systems


Commonly used in Vango and Lowe Alpine bags.


  • Relatively lightweight, less materials are used.
  • More flexible, no metal runners to prevent bag manipulation.


  • Only allow the back size to be adjusted to limited and finite lengths.


Metal runners are positioned vertically along the length of the bag.


  • The back system can then be positioned at any point along the runners, allowing for full adjustably and allowing for a proper fit to be attained.


  • Heavier, and means the bag is less malleable.

Hip Systems

The majority of the weight of the bag should be placed through the hips. This saves pulling on the shoulders and the compression of the spine. It is important to do the hip belt on first and make sure that a proper fit is acquired.


Berghaus developed this recently though there are other imitations. The hip belt anchors to a central pivot allowing the sack to swing slightly as you walk.


Very comfortable fit, especially when walking fully loaded.


Bulky, added weight, of little use when the rucksack is not fully loaded, and although Berghaus will claim it is strong, there are concerns about how robust it is. Be particularly careful of cheaper imitations.

Female Specific

  • Female specific rucksacks will have shoulder straps which are straighter and don't bow as much as the male/unisex bags do. This is so that they avoid and don't compress the breasts.
  • The hip belts are also cut to allow them to sit high up on the hip - as opposed to blokes who tend to wear the hip belt so that they compress against the hip, rather then sit on top off.
  • The bags tend to come in smaller sizes.

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