Whether you live in the city or beneath the rural stars, there’s always a desire to explore. This need compels us to outfit a backpack full of camping stuff and ramble into the woods.

The outdoor market is only growing, and new technology is changing the way we experience the world around us. Backpacks are lighter, survival gizmos are sleek, and the database of camping gear is only getting more resourceful.

Yet, regardless of the abundance of information, it can be difficult to find the right equipment for your backpacking / camping endeavors. Almost every brand and outfitter claim to provide the best camping equipment or backpacking gear. While relevant outfitters provide great gear, it may not be the gear that you need.

There’s a difference between good gear and needed gear.

To quell the confusion, we put together a backpack selection guide. For this post, we’re focusing on the men’s backpack. If you’re looking for men’s backpacking info, this guide can still be useful. Enjoy!

The Essentials Needed for a Long Hike

A backpack should be an extension of yourself. Think of it as a turtle shell. When all else fails, you’ll have your trusty pack. A backpack isn’t just a container for camping gear; it is a vessel holding what you need to survive.

Before choosing a backpack, make sure it’s capable of storing what is needed. Here’s the barebones of what you need for a long hike or excursion (3 or more days):

Food

keep as dry as possible to keep your pack light. The amount of food to pack depends. The number of calories burned hiking depends in part on your body weight. In general, a160-lb person burns between 430 and 440 calories per hour of hiking. A 200-lb person burns approximately 550 calories per hour of hiking. For a full day of hiking at  8 hours of hiking per day is 3440 calories worth of food! For shorter hikes you will be able to go without all of these calories.

For extended hikes of 3 days or more you will need to consider if you need to get food along the way.

Water

Consider a 3-liter water bladder can be used in one day on a strenuous hike.

For every liter of water you need you add 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of weight to your pack. For 2 days you could easily need to carry at least 4 liters of water or 8.8 lbs of water. For longer hikes it is not reasonable to carry all your water with you and options like filtration or purification may need to be considered.

Light Source

A flashlight is a good source of light for any general needs. In addition you may need to consider light for your campsite. This could be as simple as a fire or even a lantern if desired. Make sure to consider weight.

In most cases if a you are able to build a fire, matches and a good headlamp are all that's needed.

Navigation

Even if you're trekking a standard trail, a map can be a significant safety resource. There are apps to load on phones which provide pretty good maps. If you are not planning on being around a charging station for a while, paper maps do not run out of batteries! In addition to maps, GPS units and GPS applications on your phone are also a good resource.

Also with a topographical map and a compass, one can navigate pretty well.

Rain Repellant

A jacket or poncho works as well.

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Bags vary greatly in size and weight. This also depends on when you are hiking. If you are hiking in the winter, a sleeping bag with a lower tempurature rating is needed and could mean more weight for insulation. Hiking in the summer will allow you to use a sleeping bag with less insulation rated above 30° F (-1.11°C) which can be significantly lighter and compact.

If desired don't forget your sleeping Pad! These sometimes make a difference between a good and bad night sleep. For anyone that has found they pitched a tent on a tree root, they will understand.

Tent

Tents can very greatly in size and quality. A 2 person tent can weight from 2.5 lbs (1.14 kg) and up.

Also consider taking along a rain cover shell. These can help you shelter when not on the trail or in a time of need such as building a make shift shelter in a survival situation.

First Aid Kit

First aid kits should contain stuff like antiseptic, anti-inflammatory medicine, and gauze is a good place to start. Keep some scissors and tweezers on hand too. There are also some first aid kits put together that have everything you will need and more for not that much.

Men's Large Backpack Frame Type

You can choose from two different types of packs - external frame and internal frame. We feature an internal frame backpack in this article.

Kelty Yukon External Frame Pack - Back

External Frame

this pack uses a square-like plastic or aluminum frame. The frame is the axiom of the entire pack. The separate pack bags (where things are stored), hip belt, and shoulder straps are all attachable to the frame.

Pros: this is an extremely versatile piece of backpacking gear. The frame allows for items such as sleeping bags to be attached securely onto the outside of the pack. External frame packs typically store more than internal frame packs.

Cons: the external frame pack carries the load higher, thus making the pack top-heavy. These packs don't hug the body like the internal frame. Vigorous activity will cause wobbling that may throw you off balance. In general they are not as comfortable as internal frame backpacks and are starting to fall out of favor.

Internal Frame

These packs incorporate carbon fiber or a variety of other materials to create a firm spine (hard backing on the pack) where the hip and shoulder straps are attached. These backpacks conform to your body, creating a mobile and stable way to move around.

Pros: these backpacks are more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Since the pack hugs close to the body, more weight can be safely transported.

Cons: you may sweat a bit more using this type of pack. It fits snug and doesn't allow too much room for airflow. Manufacturers realize this and usually incorporate a comfy mesh backing along the spine.

Sizing the Pack for Your Fit

Staying within the ranges listed below should get you in the right ballpark. As you can see, external frame packs require less space than the internal frame. This is because sleeping bags can be securely attached to the outside of the external pack (sleeping bag = 10 - 20 liters).

It's imperative to have a pack that fits well. Make sure to acknowledge the shoulder width, spine length, and waist size of the backpack. Numerous brands saturate the backpacking market. Every brand and backpack is different. Be sure to put one on in the store before you take it blazing on the trail.

2-4 days:

  • External - 25 liters
  • Internal - 57 liters

5-7 days:

  • External - 33 liters
  • Internal - 73 liters

8-10 days:

  • External - 39 liters
  • Internal - 90 liters

Ultralight packs are internal packs less than 49 liters. If you wish to go this route, pack lighter, fewer things, and be prepared. Ultralight is tip-top for short overnight trips.

Gregory Denali 75 Labelled Straps

Straps

The Chest Compression Strap keeps the pack snug to your back. This should be located right under the sternum after buckling it on.

This should be adjusted enough to pull the shoulder straps together into a comfortable position. This is preference but at minimum it should keep the straps high enough over your shoulder to keep them from slipping off but not tight enough to rub too hard on your neck causing irritation. A good Chest Compression Strap will allow for easy adjustment with the pack on your back.

The Shoulder Straps fasten the pack to you and distribute the weight on your shoulders as much as possible. These should be adjusted tight enough to pull the shoulder pack up high enough to bring the belt to waist level. Good shoulder straps have the following characteristics:

  • The adjustment is easy with the pack on your back to both tighten and loosen.
  • The strap is wide with good padding over the shoulder and chest to provide good comfort and better distribute the weight over your shoulder.

The Belt fastens the pack around your waste and also provides support to help distribute the weight over your center of gravity as much as possible. This should be adjusted tight enough to comfortably secure the pack to your back. Any movement in the pack is energy lost and on long hikes that is very important. Good Belts have the following characteristics:

  • Easy adjustments on both sides of the hips to tighten and loosen.
  • Good Padding to allow for comfort along the hike.

Padding

Sometimes a top pocket can be worn as fanny packs or used as extra storage. It's definitely a praiseworthy addition to a pack.

Removable Top Pocket

A lot of backpacks add lumbar padding and shoulder strap padding. This cushioning will save your back and provide comfort in general on long hikes. Evaluate padding by looking at what parts of the pack come in contact with the body. Trying the pack on is really the best way to evaluate this.

Osprey Mens Atmos 65 AG - Front

Bivy Extension

This is a layer around the pack opening that, when extended, adds to the pack's overall volume.

Side Compression Straps

Use these to further secure your camping gear; especially when travelling with a smaller load.

Fjallraven Kajda BackPack - Front

Bladder Pouch

Some backpacks have pouches that can serve as a pocket for a bladder pouch (like a Camelbak). This is a nifty way to store water without compromising volume. A pack with this function should have little hooks or loops along the shoulder straps to route the bladder tube.

Osprey Mens Atmos 65 AG - Front sleeping bag comment

Space for sleeping bags

Some packs have pockets inside or near the base that double as a sleeping bag caddy. External packs have an allocated space to strap on your bag.

So What's the Right Pack?

Internal frame backpacks are usually the bag of choice. There is certainly enough variety to suit any trekking style.

If your sleeping bag is small and you enjoy trekking light, look at a sleek bag that is easy to get around in. If you're a long distance type of guy, consider a large pack with separate pockets for water bladders and the like. For something to store winter camping gear, maybe go for an external pack with copious amounts of volume and straps. External packs are also wonderful for toting around large sleeping bags.

The possibilities are endless. Find something that is unique to you!

Are you looking for any other camping equipment? Check out the Outdoor Gear Guides to learn more about the best hiking and camping gear for your next outdoor adventure. The gear guides offer some insight and suggestions on how to select the right gear for your next adventure. Click here to learn more!