Lets talk packs. As I mentioned previously in Chapter 1-2 Survival Kits, you should purchase the greatest quality pack that you can afford, period. (Note, if an expensive pack is out of the question, stay tuned because I will cover how to make budget packs out of old materials and PVC pipe in future posts.) Furthermore, for those interested in specialty bushcraft and survival skills, you should have different packs for different types of trips. Yes, there are different packs for different types of trips, let me explain.
Backpacks, hiking packs, and hunting packs (etc.) can all be broken into specific categories and sizes. The sizes generally vary by torso length. Note that there are specific packs for women and men, based on average sizing. And if you have the money, you can even get custom sizing and custom molding! The DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF PACKS are as follows: Fanny, Minimalist, Weekend, Multi-Day, and Extended.
FANNY PACKS are for day use, or those interested in extreme survival skills. Despite the silly name, derived from region where the pack sits, they can carry substantial amount of gear. Fanny packs should be worn in addition to your knife, water bottle, and mess tin. (Note, I do not recommend bringing only a fanny pack with you into the wild without proper training and supervision.) Depending on the fanny, capacity ranges from 1-5 liters.
MINIMALIST and WEEKEND PACKS are designed to be lightweight and bulletproof. I call this particular type of pack ‘weekend packs’ because they are generally used for a period of 1 to 3 days. I call them ‘minimalist packs’, because they carry less gear and weight than the other types of packs, ranging from 20 to 50 liters. These are best used for short trips into the field, or for hikes. These packs will generally not have a built-in frame. This is the type of pack that I am currently using the most.
MULTI-DAY PACKS encompass a majority of the packs that you will find on the market in Outdoor Retailers. These packs will range in capacity from about 40 to 80 liters. These packs have a durable frame, which can be internal or external, and can vary from plastic to aluminum. With a multi-day pack, you can comfortably carry moderate to heavy loads. This type of pack is best used for trips lasting 3 to 7 days. In my opinion these are the most comfortable of all the packs.
EXTENDED PACKS are any pack that has a capacity greater than 80 liters. These packs are not for the faint of heart! They are specifically designed to carry heavy loads. These types are used more particularly in cold environments; where there is a greater need to have extra climate specific gear and clothing. Some of these packs have more space, zippers, gizmos and gadgets than you can imagine. This particular type of pack should only be used for trips lasting a week or more.
The advice that I would offer, on whichever bag you choose, is don’t be bogged down by all of the features of one pack or another. Get what suits you best! Just make sure it has everything you will need. Note that frames come in hard plastic (HDPE) and lightweight metals, usually Aluminum. They can have both top and panel loading features, and often have a specialized compartment in the lid. I would recommend one that has a hydration compartment or a sleeve for a fluid reservoir. I would also recommend a pack that has a suspended mesh back panel or foam channels for comfort and air passage. Also, be aware that price variances often come in the form of ‘classifications’ – whether or not the pack is lightweight or uber-super-duper light. Lastly, rain covers are a MUST.