A Pilgrim's Backpack
Picking the right backpack for you is, right after your foot wear, the most important decision you will be taking. It will be protecting all your belongings and you will carrying it on your back the whole trip. It needs to fit well, have the functionality you need to keep your gear organized, dry and easy to take out. It should be as light weight as possible as with everything you take with you. Look at how sad Wally was, that one time he chose the wrong backpack… There are a lot of backpacks out there, so take a moment to read through this page and take all the advice you need. For you pilgrims who already know which one to pick, we have included some backpacks in our shop from Deuter and Osprey.
Points to consider when picking a backpack
Your comfort style: Obviously, if you are going to carry your ‘luggage’ you’ll be needing a backpacking pack. They run in different sizes and you’ll need to decide what size is the minimum you need, more importantly, what size should be the max. If you are going to be transferring your luggage, you will need to pick a day pack but the same reasoning applies here as well: if you don’t pick the right one, it can get very uncomfortable and as a ‘comfy’ pilgrim, that’s the last thing you want. Body type vs size of pack: One thing to consider when you’re looking through a set of backpacks is the size of your torso. It will not be very comfortable if your backpack is rising 50 cm above your head, nor will it be nice to have the top of the backpack picking at your neck/head every time you move. One way to ensure this is to go for the ones in the right size for your body or who have additionally an adjustable torso. There are packs for men, for women, and for kids. We didn’t try every brand, but we did pick the women’s version of the brands we chose. Look at the picture below and notice the important differences:
Functionality: This all depends on what your needs are and what gear you will be carrying with you. Some examples from our own experience: If you take walking poles, it would be great if your backpack has the appropriate tool loops to fit them in. If you are taking a sleeping bag, we advise you to pick a pack that has a bottom zippered compartment so you can easily take out your sleeping bag at night (and quickly stuff back in the morning) without needing to take out your complete gear. We prefer packs that have several outside pockets. One at both sides for our drinking bottles (stretch!), one in the front / top to put in things that you’ll want to keep close at hand (e.g. emergency kit), and we love the ones who have the little dual hip belt pockets. We use those to put in those things you need to be able to use without taking off your backpack: phone, camera, extra sunscreen, pocket knife, tissues, etc. Last but not least: rain cover included in the bottom or separately sold. It is simply so much easier to pull the rain cover over your backpack when it suddenly starts raining. Weight: When you have selected a sub-set of packs that meet all your above needs, it’s time to take a close look at the weight of the backpack itself. No need to say that you can ditch heavy gear along the way if you want to, but you won’t be able to ditch your pack – so choose the lightest one. Some general indications: If you are taking a standard gear without extra camping equipment, a 35 to 45 L pack should be really enough. Check the pack for available compression and load-stabilizer straps: they keep your gear stable and secure for greater control and balance on the trail.
This post is also available in: Dutch