Western Traveler


This is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you’ll ever purchase.  While you can purchase most equipment online without seeing it in person, I suggest that you actually get these at the store and in person.  You’ll need to try it on for size and fit.  An uncomfortable backpack will ruin your trip……..guaranteed!!  Prices will vary from under $100 upwards.  Spending more does not necessarily insure that the pack is better for you.

Keep in mind that the duration of your trip will to some degree dictate the size of the pack you need.  The longer the trip, the larger the pack needed.  Even so, never forget that you have to be physically able to carry it over long distances, and over rough terrain.

Packs can  be broken down into two basic categories, internal & external frames.  Each system has its own merits.

External frame packs are the choice for many.  They allow you to carry the load higher on your back, are cooler as the offer more air space between the pack and back, and offer more tie-on points for additional equipment.  They tend to be lighter in weight and for many, more comfortable overall.  The down side to these packs is that with the higher center of gravity, they tend to be harder to handle in rougher terrain. 

Internal frame packs are popular with many hikers as well.  They tend to be more compact, have a lower center of gravity, fit closer to the body and are easier to handle in rough terrain.  Personally, I prefer the internal frame packs.  You don’t have as much cargo capacity as an external frame pack, but in my case, I don’t want to carry any more than I have to.  A lightweight pack is always your friend.

When looking for a backpack, either internal or external frame, there are a few features that you’ll want to get. 

First, make sure the pack has a good “suspension” system.  That means that it’s designed to carry the weight in a way that will balance it on your back, distribute the weight to your hips and has lots of adjustments.  A sternum strap is a must on any backpack.

Next, look for lots of pockets, both inside and out.  These are invaluable in putting necessary items close at hand. A removable top pocket is a nice feature.  It can be taken off a base camp and used for a day pack.

Last, make sure it’s made of durable material.  The days of the old, canvas packs are gone with the wagon trains.  Modern packs have lightweight frames made of aluminum and composite materials and are covered in heavy, nylon fabric.  Don’t pinch pennies on your backpack; you do pay for what you get.

Last modified on: March 1st 2012.
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