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Guide - Hiking backpacks

Which hiking or backpacking pack to choose?

A guide to selecting a backpack that is the best fit for you and your adventures.

Whether you are planning for the afternoon on a trail or a week-long trek into backcountry, choosing the right pack to match your adventure is an essential part of the process. Finding a pack that satisfies your needs and fits you well will significantly contribute to how successful your hike or trek ends up being.

To start the process, you need to have a clear outline of how long you will hike for, how much gear you will bring, as well as an understanding of your body size and shape. One of the biggest challenges with buying a pack is figuring out which one is going to be the best fit for your body type. The guide below will help you navigate this process.

What size backpack do I need?

The size of the backpack you need is determined by three factors; the length of your hike, the location or environment for your hike and the season or expected weather you will encounter along the way. These three factors will help you plan the type and amount of gear you need to bring and ultimately what size pack you will need to carry that gear.

Backpacks for day hikes (Less than 25 liters)

For a couple hours on the trail, you typically only need water, an extra piece or two of clothing for unexpected weather, some nutrition and hiking poles.

Thule Stir (18L, 20L)

  • A lightweight and streamlined design makes it easy to pack and unpack quickly

Thule AllTrail (15L)

  • Lightweight and compact with features to keep all your gear organized

Thule Capstone (22L)

  • A mesh back panel and customizable hipbelt makes this pack great for longer day hikes
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Backpack packs for overnight hikes (1 night; 25-35 liters)

When heading out for a night, there is no need to bring everything. Pack light and it will make the hike to and from your camp more enjoyable. These packs can also be used for extended day hikes.

Thule Stir (25L, 35L)

  • Lightweight pack with quick access pockets for all your gear

Thule AllTrail (25L, 35L)

  • A versatile pack that can be used in all seasons and for many different activities
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Thule Capstone (32L)

  • Adjustable suspension fit system and mesh back panel give this pack a very breathable, yet precise fit
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Backpacking packs for hiking and multi-day trips (2-4 days; 40-50 liters)

Longer trips will require a larger pack to hold more food, cooking fuel and extra clothing in addition to your camping gear.

Thule AllTrail (45L)

  • Adjustable torso height along with breathable shoulder straps and hipbelt padding make for a comfortable carry
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Thule Capstone (40L, 50L)

  • Adjustable suspension fit system and mesh back panel give this pack a very breathable, yet precise fit
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Thule Versant (50L)

  • This pack offers a lightweight construction without sacrificing fit adjustability or storage features
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Backpacking packs for longer treks (5+ days; 60-75 liters)

In addition to working for longer treks, these bigger packs are also good for parents heading out with younger children or shorter winter trips that require even more gear to keep you warm.

Thule Versant (60L, 70L)

  • This pack offers a lightweight construction without sacrificing fit adjustability or storage features
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Thule Guidepost (65L, 75L)

  • Full-featured gear-hauler that is designed with a pivoting hipbelt to make heavier loads as comfortable as possible
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

How do I choose a pack that is a good fit for my body?

It doesn’t matter how much gear you are bringing – if a pack does not fit your body correctly, you will not be comfortable on the trail. When picking the right size pack for your body, there are two measurements that you should understand. The first is your torso length and the second is your hip size.

Torso length

Torso length, not your height, is the most important consideration since a pack that is too tall or too short won’t have correct weight distribution which will lead to discomfort and hot spots. You can determine your torso length by tilting your head forward and measuring the distance from your C7 vertebra (the most prominent bone where your shoulders meet the base of your neck) straight down to the point of your back that is parallel to the top of your hip bones (iliac crest).

Hip size

Getting your hipbelt size right is important because approximately 80% of a backpack’s load should be supported by your hips, not your shoulders. Hip size can be found by wrapping a flexible tape measure around the top of your hips, not your waist. This measurement is slightly higher than your beltline and therefore hipbelt size usually differs from pant-waist size.

A number of Thule backpacks offer adjustable torso heights and hipbelts, however some have fixed dimensions, so it is important to use the fit sheet to find more info on how you can use these measurements to identify which packs work best for your body size and type.

What to think about when choosing a women's backpack for hiking?

Many Thule backpack collections have women specific fits. These backpacks that are typically narrower or shorter than the equivalent men’s packs. Additionally, the contours of hipbelts and shoulder straps are also designed with a women’s form in mind. Women’s specific backpacking packs sometimes also work well for smaller men and younger backpackers of either gender.

What are some important features to consider when choosing a pack?

  • Ventilation – Some Thule packs are designed with a suspension system which put space between your back from the and the pack itself. This allows for maximum breathability which helps keep you cool and dry on the trail.

  • Access points – Thule backpacks offer all different types of access points to help you get to your gear quickly. Most smaller packs offer top-loading access only, but larger packs designed for overnight or multi-day adventures tend to have multiple access points. This can include zippered openings at the top and bottom or even a fully zippered panel which makes it easy to access anything in your pack.

  • Removable lid – Some Thule backpacks have a removable lid that can be converted into a sling pack or small daypack for short day hikes.

  • Hydration compatibility – In addition to stretch side pockets for water bottles, many Thule hiking and backpacking packs have a reservoir sleeve to store a hydration reservoir.

  • Sleeping bag compartment – Some Thule backpacks have a separate compartment at the base of the bag to store your sleeping bag, keeping it dry and protected from other gear.

  • Backpack raincover – Weather is unpredictable and it’s important to keep your gear dry. Some Thule backpacks have an integrated raincover that can quickly be deployed over your pack. For those packs that don’t include it, a Thule raincover can also be purchased as a separate accessory and stored in a side or front pocket for quick access.

Hiking and backpacking are amazing ways to experience all that the outdoors has to offer and selecting the right backpack to accompany you on your adventures can make all the difference. Carefully considering all the factors in this guide will help you make a good choice, but if you have any other questions about Thule hiking and backpacking packs, please contact our customer service team here.



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