How to Choose the Best Heavy Duty Backpack

Expedition and heavy duty backpacks are precisely what they sound like. These backpacks are used by individuals who are not only travelling for several days but doing so on rough terrain such as mountains. This means that they need to have a larger internal capacity, must be easy to carry, and should be able to withstand the elements. If you are looking to purchase these types of backpacks, below are some tips to getting it right.

What is a Good Size for an Expedition or Heavy Duty Backpack? (Buyers Guide)

Few people actually agree on just what capacity range an external or heavy duty backpack falls under. Of course, since you will require it hold clothes and gear for at least a week, it is going to need to be large as possible. The best way to decide which size backpack would be good for you is to determine how much time you will be camping or hiking for.

For those who are camping for about three to five days may find that a backpack that can hold over 4500 cubic inches (more than 75 liters) is a good option. However, if you will be in the wilderness for about a week and will not have the opportunity to resupply, you are going to need a larger bag. Ideally, once that is exceeding 7000 cubic inches will be adequate for you.

One of the reasons that people choose expedition backpacks over other options is for its suitability in winter as well. This means that you should not just focus on how many days you will be camping for. In the winter, you are going to need more space even if you will only be camping for a couple of days. This is because you will require more equipment and the clothes that you carry will be thicker as well.

You will need to look into more than just how much an expedition bag can hold, however. It is also important to determine how much the backpack weighs when it is empty. While expedition backpacks need to hold a lot of items, they themselves need to weigh a limited amount. This will allow you to carry more gear and things with you on your trip. If you are looking to balance out internal capacity and weight, Lowe Alpine TFX Appalachian toes this line. The larger version allowing for 5200 cu weighs a little over five pounds.

Best expedition backpacks

Internal Frames vs. External Frames

Expedition and heavy duty bags are meant to carry heavier loads. To counteract the added weight, the bags need to be equipped with frames. The two types of frames are internal and external, and are typically found on bags that need to carry over 15 pounds at one time.

With internal frames, as the name suggests, the frame resides inside of the backpack. It can either consist of plastic, aluminum, Delrin rods, or even a combination of these materials. This type of frame brings the load close to you, directing the majority of it towards your hips. Internal frames are lighter than external versions. This type of bag is best suited to hikers who do a lot of climbing. While these bags offer a lot of support, they can be quite uncomfortable during the hot seasons as they don’t really allow for ventilation.

External frames are somewhat of a lost art although they do remain a favorite among the older hikers. While external frames can be a bit heavier, they do have a higher center of gravity. As a result, they do ensure that your hips carry most of the weight of your backpack. Also, it does help to improve your posture as you don’t have to worry about counterbalancing the loads. These are also great accompaniments in warmer weather. The external frames are not all that good for climbing and are best suited to the trails.

While external frame backpacks undoubtedly have their place, you will be hard pressed to find a bag. If this is a frame that you are interested in, the Kelty Yukon is one of the better-graded options.

Durability

Heavy duty backpacks and expedition backpacks need to withstand a lot. This is particularly important if you plan on doing some climbing or will be hiking in places with a lot of brush. The backpack will have to be resistant to most abrasive surfaces and be able to prevent minor tears. As it is quite possible that you will encounter at least some rain or moisture, you should look for backpacks that are water resistant as well.

A word of warning: the more durable or heavy duty a bag is, the heavier it will be. This is because it will require thicker material and will also be reinforced. It is important to strike a middle ground with this particular feature.

Perhaps the best example of this is the Deuter Expedition 90+1. It is made from 1000D Duratex and 330D Micro Rip Pro 6.6 fabric. This makes the construction of this bag of some of the highest quality possible. The best part of it, however, is that the bag weighs just 6lbs.

The Gregory Whitney 95 has bottom panels that are made from water resistant materials. This will help to protect your belongings from the rain at least a little. For an all-rounder, the Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 is both hardwearing as well as water resistant.

Padding on the Belt

As mentioned above, most bags are designed to allow you to carry most of the weight of the bag on your hips. This is because this is the best way for the weight to be distributed. It makes the backpack a lot more comfortable for you to carry and also prevents the possibility of back pain.

While your hips are capable of maintaining this weight, there still needs to be some protection. This is available in the form of padding around the belts that you fasten around your waist. Some people don’t like this additional padding as it does add some weight to the bag. The amount of padding should be determined by how much you are carrying. If your pack weighs less than 40lbs, you should be able to only have minimal padding. However, if you are planning on hiking for days, this extra support could be useful. If your pack weighs more than 40lbs, you should not risk it, you should certainly have extra padding.

The padding is not just for the hips, nonetheless. You should ensure that the straps that are on your shoulders are well padded as well. This helps with the weight distribution and comfort as well. This way, you will not have straps digging into your shoulders.

Sizing of the Backpack

This part of the guide refers to just how adjustable your backpack is in terms of straps and length. This is important as you need to ensure that the backpack fits you well. The proper fit relies on the suspension system of the backpack. The suspension system consists of the frame, shoulder straps, hip belt, lumbar area, and the back padding. These features carry the load and then place it on your body.

There are three different types of suspension systems – fixed suspension, adjustable suspension, and interchangeable suspension. With fixed suspension, there are no adjustable features on the backpack. There are all set to one height or length. Within that one series, however, there are numerous backpacks that should fit you. With these types of systems, it is imperative to find the right fit if you want the backpack to be wearable. While there isn’t any versatility, these backpacks offer an incredible amount of stability as the pack is flush against your back.

With the adjustable suspension systems, you can adjust the shoulders straps as well as the hip belt. This means that you have to be less concerned with the fit of the bag as you can choose to adjust the size according to your torso length. This suspension system is good for really long expeditions. This way, if the backpack causes soreness in one spot, you can simply adjust it.

Interchangeable suspension systems allow you to tailor the backpack according to your size. You can buy different shoulder straps and hip belts to mix and match them on your backpack. This option comes in handy for individuals who are either very tall, very short, or have distinct body proportions.

Additional Features

There are a few other things to consider when getting an expedition bag or a heavy duty style. The first would be the external components. This doesn’t refer to just the pockets. Instead, you will need to consider lashes, loops, and bungees. This will allow you to carry a greater number of items by fixing them to the outside of your bag. It is also a great feature for tools or gear that you may need at a moment’s notice. If you are headed towards icy terrain, you should think about getting the Osprey Xena or Xenith. Both models come equipped with ice axe loops on the outside.

At the same time, make sure that there are enough of pockets and compartments to store items that you really need. A good example is a water bottle. Since most pockets are meant to hold water bottles, make sure that there is a deep mesh pocket in which you can store it. It would be ideal if there are small compartments on the hip belt. This will make it much easier for you to reach everything that you need without having to make pit stops along your journey.

Another thing to look for would be how many access points there are on the bag. Expedition packs are not only large, they also hold an incredible amount of items. Since these are used for long trips, you are going to need to find a way to organize the backpack. This is where access points become useful. Typically, if you want to find something at the bottom of a backpack, you would have to remove all of the items to reach it. With multiple access points, you will not need to do this. Instead, it is simply a matter of opening up the part of the bag that you wish to access.

Following in the vein of multiple access points are detachable lids. These are parts of the expedition bag that can be removed and carried as a separate bag. This can be useful for several reasons. First, it is a great way to take away some of the weight or load off from your shoulders and back. It is also good if you are planning on setting up camp in a particular spot for a while. This way, you can detach that compartment and take it with you on shorter hikes.

Ventilation is especially vital if you are carrying an internal frame backpack as it will push the bag against your spine. This means that you sweat in this region, resulting in a wet and uncomfortable back. To prevent this from happening, you need to look for ventilation features. First, look for backpacks that contain mesh in this part. This material is more breathable, allowing air to pass through. Also, consider light, foam panels that push the backpack away from your back.

It is important to keep all of this in mind when purchasing a heavy duty or expedition backpack. The most imperative thing to remember, however, is to look for a backpack that is right for what you need. This means finding one with the right internal capacity for your trips and gear. You should also get one that has the right length straps and belts to fit your torso. Last but not least, look for additional features that you are actually going to use rather than flashy add-ons that only weigh you down. As long as you focus on this, you will have no issue in finding backpacks that are a good fit for you and your activities.


Last updated on November 14, 2017

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