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Guide to Backpack Types
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Backpacks come in many different sizes, styles and features. There are thousands of backpacks that have been developed with a specific use in mind and features can differ greatly. Knowledge of the different types of backpacks is a step in the right direction to choosing the right backpack to fit the conditions. The descriptions below describe the size and volume of the backpack and its intended use. They can still differ greatly in the construction.

Backpacks can generally be divided into the following categories:

Waist Packs / Hip Packs / Fanny Packs / Lumbar Packs
Volume: up to about 500 cubic inches
These types of packs are not officially backpack but you can use them as a replacement for a traditional backpacks on shorter day hikes. The simplest versions of these aren’t more than a pouch and belt. The pouch and thus the weight of the waist pack is located in the curve of your spine near your center of balance. This placement makes these packs very easy to carry as they put virtually no strain on your body. Some of the more advanced packs feature shoulder yokes that increase the stability and maximum load. Waist packs that are overloaded will sag if you overloaded your pack to this point you are better of moving up to a day pack. Waist packs usually have side pockets to keep bottles easy accessible.

Hydration Packs
Volume: up to about 500 cubic inches
Hydration Packs consist of a bladder with a drinking tube around which the actual backpack has been built up. Some hydration packs consist only of the bladder and some shoulder straps while others might have a casing and side pockets allowing you to carry other items. Larger backpacks generally do not have a fixed bladder but have a special compartment to facilitate the insertion of a bladder and have a hole for the drinking tube. Camelbak is the best known manufacturer of hydration packs.

Day Packs
Volume: up to about 2000 cubic inches
The name gives away its intended use: Day Hikes. Day Packs are typically small backpacks with shoulder straps usually without a hip belt. Some bigger day packs have a chest strap designed to keep your shoulders from being pulled back by the weight of the pack. Some of the larger day packs feature lightweight hip belts.

Midsize Packs
Volume: up to around 4000 cubic inches
Throughout the years improved technology has lead to reductions in both in volume and weight. These changes have resulted in a need for midsize packs designed for multi-day hikes with a small inventory. These smaller packs are also ideal for people who go on day hikes but plan on carrying a lot of stuff like cameras or books. Midsize packs will mostly have all the features of expedition packs.

Expedition Backpacks
Volume: over 3500 cubic inches
As your need to carry equipment increases so will the size of your backpack. Full sized Expedition Backpacks can carry enough gear to keep you on the trail for weeks. Expedition packs use a broad hip belt to redirect the weight to the hips instead of the shoulders. A lumbar pad protects the base of the spine from the added stress of a heavier pack. The heavier the pack the more important its balance and snug fit become.

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