How to choose a backpack for the mountains

Mountain backpack

Choosing the right backpack for the mountain is not easy, given the large number of backpacks of every shape and size on the market. Nor can we help in this choice the beautiful phrase of the late and famous mountaineer Renato Casarotto “My backpack is not only full of materials and food: inside are my education, my affections, my memories, my character, my loneliness. In the mountains I don’t bring the best of myself: I bring myself, for better or for worse “. To those who ask me what is the best mountain backpack on the market, I usually reply that there are no better ones, but many good backpacks for different uses.

As with skis and trekking shoes, to find the right backpack for you, first of all you need to know how you are going to use it. In essence, before putting your wallet and proceeding with the purchase, you need to ask yourself simple questions:

  • Do I want to use it only in the summer for short day trips, or do I need to go trekking for several days with overnight stays in tents or huts?
  • Do I need it to do some via ferratas, alpine climbs or simple walks?
  • In addition to using it in the summer, is it my intention to use it even in winter to ski tour or walk in the snow?

After answering these questions we can analyze in detail the different types of mountain rucksacks on the market (at this link you can find a wide assortment at attractive prices).

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Mountain backpacks are divided into:

1) Light summer hiking backpack


They are quite simple and light for day walks and excursions, like the classic Sunday trip. The recommended capacity range for this use is between 20 and 3 lit max. The backpack for day trips on simple paths must be simple, light and without many frills. A good hiking backpack perfectly adherent to the back can also be used for rock climbing at low altitude.

2) Trekking backpack


The trekking backpack for walks of several consecutive days is characterized by a high capacity and the possible presence, in some models, of external side pockets. Many trekking backpacks now have compartments accessible through external hinges that allow you to find directly what you need without emptying the entire backpack. The patella in the upper part often has an external and internal pocket to facilitate the rapid retrieval of the trail map, a camera, sun cream or even a pair of glasses. Regarding the capacity that a good trekking backpack must have, a distinction must be made: for trekking lasting up to a week with overnight stays in the shelter, there are sufficient trekking backpacks with a capacity of 35-45 lt. Otherwise, for longer routes or where the overnight stay in a tent is planned, it will be necessary to orientate oneself on models with a larger capacity from approximately 55 liters upwards.

3) Mountaineering backpack


They differ from those for trekking due to the fact that they are more tapered, narrower and without side pockets. This structure prevents the backpack from rubbing and getting tangled in narrower rocky passages such as chimneys or overhangs. For mountain climbs at low altitude on rock, such as the classic climbing routes in the Dolomites, a small and simple backpack of max 25-30 lt will suffice. For the high altitude, where the use of ice axes and crampons is required and the clothes to carry with them are more and heavier, more capacious backpacks are used, indicatively from 35 to 50 lt. In many mountaineering backpacks there are also side straps for carrying skis.

4) Ski touring backpack and for winter hiking


The ski touring backpack must be light, compact, comfortable to wear and quick to remove. As a guide, for trips lasting a maximum of one day, 25-30 liters of capacity are more than sufficient. For multi-day tours with overnight stay in the shelters, I would not exceed 40 lt. The most modern ski mountaineering backpacks have a special compartment accessible via an external zipper to store shovel and probe. This is very useful because in an emergency you can quickly and directly access these fundamental accessories for self-rescue. Always check that in addition to the side belts there is the possibility of fixing the skis diagonally, a very useful fixing method in the case of climbing on steep terrain.

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5) Freeride backpack

The freeride backpack, with the same capacity, is a bit heavier and more resistant than the classic ski mountaineering one. It is then distinguished from the latter by its perfect adherence to the body even in the case

of abrupt twists or jumps. Inside there is a special compartment for the shovel and the probe, accessible from the outside through a hinge. While a ski-mountaineering backpack can be used to the limit even for summer and winter hiking, the freeride backpack is a much more specific backpack that I recommend only to lovers of this activity.

Being quite sick of mountain in my cellar I have a representative for each category. Every time, before leaving for the mountain, I look at all my 5 backpacks and quietly name what will be my traveling companion for the new adventure. Then, as often happens to me, I end up always using the usual backpack, old and faded, that of the heart, the one that accompanied me in the most beautiful moments. But this is another story …



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