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Date: 29/02/2012

Advice on Choosing your Backpack

These days more and more people are heading out into the world on a backpacking adventure, so much so that for the current generation, taking a gap year of some sort seems to have become a right of passage. Whilst many earn their stripes by trekking around locations such as South America and South East Asia before even starting university, a backpacking trip is also something enjoyed by many recent university graduates who have their degree safely tucked under their belt and absolutely no idea what to do with it. In fact, many people of all ages take career breaks to buy backpackers travel insurance, don a backpack and see some more of the world and as every year goes by backpacking appears to be getting more and more popular.

Aside from the all important backpackers insurance, it is fair to say that the backpacks themselves are the most integral part of the whole backpacking experience. When on a backpacking trip your backpack will become both your best friend and the bane of your life, as together you will carry absolutely everything you could need for every eventuality, from your socks and pants to toothbrush and insect repellent.

It is hardly surprising then that finding the right backpack for you will have a huge impact on your overall enjoyment of a backpacking trip. If your backpack is not comfortable and does not do everything you need it to, you will be in for a tough couple of weeks (or even months!). With that in mind then, here are a few handy hints on how to choose a backpack that is right for you.

If you are planning on taking a medium or large sized backpack with you on your trip, the first thing to consider is whether you want to buy a backpack with an internal or an external frame. Internal frame backpacks are built so that the wearer carries the bulk of the weight on their hips, rather than their shoulders and are also well liked because their body-hugging design allows for the greatest freedom of movement. Although the most popular option, internal frame backpacks usually lack outside pockets or compartments which some people do find a little irritating and furthermore the closeness of the pack to your body means they can be very hot to wear, particularly in warmer climates. External frame backpacks, on the other hand, tend to hold the weight a little away from the body, meaning that they are cooler to wear. Although much more cumbersome than internal frame backpacks, many also like external frames because they usually have more compartments, making packing easier.

Backpacks are available in different sizes and capacities, both of which should be considered carefully before you hand over any cash. Determining the correct size of a backpack is important, as this will make it more comfortable to carry and prevent you from injuring your back. To work out what size you will need, the best method is to measure from the bottom of your neck to the point on your spine parallel with the point at which your hips protrude at the sides. A 'small' pack will be anything up to 17.5", 'medium/regular' from 18 - 19.5" and 'large/tall' anything above 20". To make sure you get a backpack that fits you well, the best idea is to go to a shop and get them to measure it for you.

Backpacks are available in a range of different capacities, meaning that they can hold different amounts. When buying a backpack it is important to buy one with a suitable capacity, as you need to have one that achieves the balance between holding everything that you really need without being so big that it is half-empty most of the time. 50 - 60 litre packs are ideal for short hiking trips in winter months and will hold enough to last for up to a week in the summer. 70 - 80 litre bags will easily hold enough for a week, maybe even two if the weather is warm and not too many clothes need to be packed. Anything above 80 litres is designed specifically for trips lasting longer than a week and these are the kinds of backpacks needed for typical backpacking adventures. Remember though, do not buy a bag that you won't be able to manage once it is filled!

As well as buying the all important backpack, there are many other important things to remember before embarking on a backpacking trip, the most important of which is buying backpackers insurance. Backpackers insurance is specifically designed to cater for those on backpacking trips as opposed to those staying in hotels or going on package holidays and will cover you for a variety of minor disasters that could occur on your trip. Although inexpensive and easy to buy, backpackers insurance may well prove to be invaluable and no backpacker should even think of heading to the airport without it.