Friday, May 22, 2015

Know parts of backpack to make best buy

Backpacks come in an array of styles to meet hikers' different needs.

Packs can consist
of several varying

If purchasing a backpack for the time, it likely will look like a mad array of straps, clips and buckles. Knowing the parts of a backpack can help you overcome that confusion so you can make the best decision when buying this important piece of hiking equipment.

At its most basic, a backpack really is nothing more than a sack. On modern backpacks, the sack is the main compartment in which you store clothing, supplies and gear. A component of the sack is the lid, or the flap that covers the sack's open top; sometimes the lid is called the brain. Another element of the sack are compression straps, which sit on the outside of the backpack and can be tightened so that the sack is more compact; this helps prevent items in the sack from shifting so that you can maintain better balance when walking.

A backpack next consists of a few straps to make that sack easier to carry. All backpacks will include shoulder straps, or thick loops that your arms slip through and that rest on the shoulders. More sophisticated backpacks include a load adjuster strap (aka load lifter strap) on the shoulder strap to lengthen or shorten it for a better fit. Larger volume backpacks also include an adjustable sternum strap that connects the two shoulder straps across the chest. The sternum strap helps prevent the backpack from jiggling and sliding as you step. In addition, larger backpacks include a hip belt (aka a waist belt). The hip belt shifts the weight of the backpack from the shoulders to the hips for better balance and comfort. Stabilizer straps on the hip belt allow you to tighten or loosen the hip belt. Equipment straps also can be found on some backpacks. They are used to hold items - ranging from a geology hammer to a sleeping mat or sleeping bag - to the pack’s exterior.

Most backpacks include pockets (aka compartments or storage pouches) as well. These are handy for storing water bottles/canteens, maps, sleeping bags, and other gear you want to be able to quickly reach.

Loops also are common on backpacks. These are good for hooking carabiners to. One special loop is the pack handle (aka haul strap), which can be used for carrying the backpack with your hand. It appears on the backpack’s top, usually behind the lid. Another special set of loops is a daisy chain, a series of external stitches for hooking gear to.

A lumbar pad often is added to the lower part of the backpack where the ends of the hip belt meet. This can prevent the backpack from rubbing against the lower back when hiking.

A hydration packtube also is popular in newer backpacks, especially those made for children. Sitting inside the backpack, the packtube takes the place of a water bottle/canteen. A tube connected to the packtube acts as a straw.

The frame is an important element in backpacks meant for longer hikes. A majority of backpacks contain an internal frame that gives the backpack its shape. If you purchase an external frame backpack, however, you’ll also need to get an external frame to hold the backpack and to strap to your body.

When purchasing a backpack, go for the simplest one that best meets your needs. For example, if you’re only day hiking and not camping, there’s no need to buy a backpack with a compartment that holds a sleeping bag. If you already have a canteen that will nicely fit into a backpack’s reachable pocket, there’s no need to buy a backpack with a hydration pack.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.