Choosing the Right Rucksack, Hiking Backpack

While searching for the right rucksack/backpack for my nationwide road trip, I have found out just how difficult it can be. It’s overwhelming. The options are endless. How to decide on the right pack for my trip? In this post, I will highlight the packs that I am strongly considering and point out the reasons I may or may not pick them. Hopefully, this post will be of use to you as you shop around for your own backpack for your next adventure.

So, in my search for a durable, heavy duty, dependable, reliable… you know, badass backpack for my long road trip across America advocating for our National Parks, National Forests, and local nonprofit organizations, I have realized something. There are essential two categories of packs: Commercial backpacks and military surplus rucksacks. These are not the only two categories by any means, but for the purposes, I will be using my bag for, these two are the most relevant. It may not be the same for you, but each to his/her own.

Let’s dive right into it, shall we?

First off, let’s take a look at the commercial line up of some great backpacks designed for rugged hiking adventures and designed with explorers in mind. Some are less rugged than others, while others are far heavier than some. Each has its own strong point.

Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 Pack starting at $191.95, typically in the $300 + range.

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First up is this lightweight 3ibs pack from Granite Gear Blaze. This pack was designed for hotter climates and prioritizes ventilation. Features air current suspension to maximize ventilation and comfort, this pack may be great for a long hike through warm climate. It’s 60L basic rucksack design, simply a massive open back with a wrap over closing with a tie off. The swappable hip belt is a nice feature, as well. Comfort is high on my list. There are compression points to keep the pack nice and tight. Since it is barely 3ibs, it’s worth noting that it’s not as durable as the other packs I will be looking at. For a long journey through all climates of the United States over a period of a year or more, this lack of durability is a top concern.

Item #: 20169
Capacity – Storage: 60L / 3661 cu. in.
Weight: 2.88 lb / 1.3 kg
Torso Range: 18 – 22 in.
Material: 100D Cordura / 210D Nylon
Waist Belt: 26 – 42 in.
Hydration: Compatible
Back Panel Material: Air Current moisture wicking

High Sierra Tech Series 59405 Titan 65 going for $901 on eBay

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This monster 65L by High Sierra Tech is great for a long trek through the forest. If the price isn’t a factor for you, you may want to give this pack a shot. Internal frame pack featured in a very cool charcoal color featured a gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid. Made of lightweight nylon fabric. Includes an internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for the tube. Side and bottom compression straps, dual mesh pockets, and convenient zippered pockets on padded waist belt. It’s the right size with a lot of the right features, but the price is pushing it for me.

65 liter top load main compartment with gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid
Internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tube (reservoir not included)
Front-load sleeping bag compartment with divider
S-Shaped ERGO-FIT shoulder strap harness with load-lifters to fit regular size torso
32×14.25×8.75 inches (81.3×36.2×22 cm) 3966 cubic inches 65 liters

Osprey Packs Atmos AG 50 Backpack- 2868-3234cu in going for $230

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Perhaps what I need is an in-between with durability and lightweight? That’s when I found this gem by Osprey Packs. Clearly not as big as the first two packs above but still offers enough to be considered. Most appealing is the antigravity suspension system and trekking pole and ice tool gear loops. Does have internal compression straps to keep the thing nice and tight, and this pack is built tough with 100Dx630D nylon dobby. Again, not as large as the others, only capable of 40Ibs weight capacity, however, if you leave your MSS external rather than shoving it in your pack, 50L shouldn’t be too restrictive.

Anti-Gravity suspension system
Adjustable torso length
Fit-on-the-fly hip belt
35-40lb load range
Top access with zippered front panel access point
Removable/floating top lid
Removable sleeping pad straps
100D x 630D nylon dobby main fabric
Internal reservoir sleeve
Front panel pockets
Trekking pole and ice tool gear loops
Internal compression strap
Item #OSP002K

So, that’s it for the commercial packs. There are literally thousands we could discuss, but essentially, the three above feature the most common aspects of this category. It is by no mean a thorough run down, but it gives you an idea. For me, these were among the top packs, but some I left out just for the sake of keeping this blog post at a reasonable length.

With that, let’s get down to the real tough stuff: The military surplus rucksacks.

Genuine USMC Marine Corp ILBE Pack Gen 2 price ranges but can be found for $229.95

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My hunt for the ideal pack has taken me to packs designed specifically for durability, utility, survivability, and maximum weight capacity. For this, the obvious choice would be the USMC Marine Corp ILBE Gen II rucksack. Frankly speaking, right off the bat, this pack is of much better value than the previous three packs combined. If you find this pack in a complete package with all components included, this is the biggest value for your buck. For me, that’s massive. Another top consideration for me personally is that it’s made in the U.S.A. You can also find these things used or unissued everywhere. This second generation rucksack was designed with lightweight durability in mind and features the Digital Woodland MarPat. This pack is a supreme balance between comfortability and utility, with the ability to carry 120Ibs, the weight is distributed throughout the structure so as to free-up the hiker. The back padding features the 3D imprint to allow breathability in hot climates and physical exertion. The pack also features numerous PALS straps to maximize additional external storage. I am heavily considering this pack, to say the very least. While the fabric is weather resistant, it is not by any means waterproof. For drainage, there is a hole at the bottom to allow any water that gets in to escape. I will be strapping my pack onto my Harley’s Sissy Bar and will be exposed to the elements. If I do get one of these bad boys, I will most certainly get a tough waterproof tarp cover to slap over it. Another option is the Seal line pack that fits inside the rucksack, but sells for about $100. A cool feature of the Seal Line pack is that the inside is a bright highly reflective orange, and can be used as an emergency signal if I get in a bad situation. The bag can also be tied off to serve as a floatation device. In my opinion, both Gen I and Gen II of this pack are excellent and worth a look. For a great rundown on this pack, check out TheOutdoorGearReview review.

Constructed of 720 Denier Cordura
4500 cubic inches of space
Main pack is 24x18x7.5″
Carries up to 120 pounds
Top buckle removable Lid with16x12″ internal pocket
Adjustable, heavily padded waist belt
Collapsible hydration pack pocket on back
Clastic collar pockets on bottom sides
Top compression strap attaches across collar under lid
Internal aluminum frame
Buckles to attach patrol pack
Height adjustable shoulder straps with sternum strap
Many compression straps on sides
Heavy tube zipper pulls
PAL’s webbing all over
Dual pull zippers on both sides run top to bottom
Straps on lower part of pack to attach sleeping pad roll
Collapsible “floor shelf”/divider in midpack
Heavily padded quick release shoulder straps
ITW Nexus GhillieTex Infrared-Reduction Polymer buckles

To purchase this pack, visit Amazon for the best deal.

 

Swiss Military Rucksacks – Medium VS Large, price ranges from $80-$300

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The Swiss Military Rucksacks are rubberized vinyl for weatherproofing and toughness. Both models are essentially the same sack, only one is much larger. The medium size is large, known as the Engineer’s Pack. Made from rubberized canvas material and tough, thick leather straps, it is definitely a bombproof pack. The problem with these is just finding them. I’m on the hunt for the large pack, but so far no such luck. The Engineer’s pack, on the other hand can be found through various sellers. They sell out fast and I may just buy one of the Engineer’s Packs just to secure one for myself. For a complete review of both of these packs, check out this review by TheOutdoorGearReview YouTube channel.

It is made of rubberized nylon material with leather bottom for long wear and waterproofing. Adjustable leather shoulder straps and riveted metal loops / clasps (no failure prone plastic), leather lumbar strap for comfortable and durable support. Main area with buckle-strap flap and drawstring is 15 1/2 x 5 x 18″h.

So that’s the rundown on my top picks for backpacks/rucksacks. A lot of great choices and they make the decision process that much difficult. Nevertheless, I feel good knowing that either one I choose, I will end up with a fantastic pack that will get me through my year long journey cross country just fine. If you have any tips, suggestions, or thoughts on the process of finding the right pack for an adventure, leave a comment and share it with us! Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope this post helps you like it has helped me.

You can find the Swiss Military Engineer’s Pack here.

If you liked this post then you might like my post where I run through my tent options, where ultimately, I decide on something radically different. Go read my post on my new packs and why I chose them!

 

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