As a college senior entering his final semester en route to a 6-year Bachelor’s Degree (not by design, but by indecision and poor scheduling) I consider myself qualified in the subject of backpacks. Of course, I do not wish to label myself as strictly a ‘school backpacker’. In fact, as an Eagle Boy Scout I was no stranger to the damp hikes of the Washington wilderness with my sturdy external frame hiking pack. I have since traveled the world for work with my protective laptop backpack, and I now frequent the Rocky Mountains with my trusty mountain bike and hydration pack.
Now that my backpack credentials have been established, I would like to throw in my two cents in each category. I’ll start with school backpacks. Organization is key! I need a nice spacious main compartment with a multi-pocketed front pouch for all my nick-knacks. Pens, pencils, erasers, staplers, and (most importantly) candy and gum. Snacks. That’s what got me through high school. I also need some serious durability. Normally you would pair the term ‘durability’ with your outdoor packs as a requirement, but regardless of how dedicated you are to Mother Nature, I would love to see a man who has used his hiking pack as many times as the college grad has used his school packs since kindergarten. The fact is, your school backpack takes a beating. It doesn’t help that at the end of a wonderfully frustrating exam-filled day you skid your backpack across the ground (with it’s 85 lbs of books and loose paper) and kick it all the way home. I was lucky if a school backpack ever lasted me a full school year, let alone two. That is, until I found my current treasure, a beautiful North Face backpack that has served me well for over 2 years and still looks like the day I got it.
As for hiking backpacks, comfort is key! Yes all the fancy straps, clips, and cords are neat, but when you’re 2 miles into a 30 mile hike and your back and shoulders already feel like silly putty, you’re not too worried about your secret pockets and fancy bells and whistles. In fact, you’re burning everything you can spare in the evening fire to try to shed some weight. My advice, get a nice, ergonomic frame with a vented air-passage on the back and a padded, sturdy waist strap. Your legs and hips can support a lot more weight much more comfortably than your shoulders can. Make sure your pack is sized to fit your body type (some even have adjustable frames to get it just right).
Laptop backpacks should be all about protection. Make sure your notebook computer fits snug and has good padding all the way around. Backpacks tend to get tossed around and you don’t want your notebook computer to take a hard shot on the corner without padding to absorb the impact. Ogio makes a great line of laptop backpacks with a special attention to style as well. InCase makes some as well with a very soft, thick, padded pouch.
My modest investment in a hydration backpack was one of my smartest moves as an sportsman. You can’t have too much water when your out in the wilderness on a bike, board, or climb and a hydration backpack is the smartest and easiest way to keep hydrated. It can typically hold from 1-3 liters of water and they are light and snug enough that you barely even notice it on your back. They generally have additional compartments to hold a Cliff bar, knife, and some tools, for example.
Wherever life takes you, make sure your belongings are tucked a way in the appropriate backpack. To see a great line of sport, work, school, and travel backpacks, visit the official website of BackpackStash.