There is a multitude of backpacks to choose from. Consider the most demanding situation you may expect to encounter and the places you intend to explore. Fit is crucial so enlist the help of a professional or experienced hiker/tramper. Backpacks range in price (NZ$100 to NZ$500) so it is important to get it right the first time. More than likely a daypack has been designed to suit your needs. If intending to do overnight trips, consider purchasing an internal frame pack which will allow you to carry a heavier load.
PURCHASING A BACKPACK: The backpack should be large enough to contain all your gear and equipment – preferably with a waterproof cover. Some backpacks place a thin sheet of plastic along the spine of the pack which prevents objects poking into your back. Fit your backpack in the store before purchasing it.
Features: A padded hipbelt that wraps around your hips not your waist; a good suspension system which adjusts and draws the load tight in all directions (the more fine tuning you can do the better); a cushioning lumber pad; padded and contoured shoulder straps which adjust the shoulder harness in small increments; easily accessible side pockets with one large enough for a water bottle enabling you to have a drink without stopping.
Fitting: Fill up the backpack. Adjust the suspension system ensuring it is comfortable and the hip belt has taken the load from your shoulders (the only contact is against the front of your upper chest preventing sore and bruised muscles or bones).Ensure the hip belt wraps around your hips and can be cinched securely.The height of the backpack should not be more than 5cm above your head.The backpack should not pinch or restrict your movements unnecessarily and you should be able to look up or squat comfortably.
Weight: A general guide (after taking into consideration your level of fitness, strength and any medical problems) would be: Adults: Under 10kg for day hikes and never more than a third of your body weight. Children: As light as possible! The more you carry the more energy you will expend.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BACKPACKS:
Daypacks: Most daypacks are comfortable and will also serve well as a general purpose pack (such as kids carrying books to school or hand luggage on an aeroplane). Most offer padded backing, hipbelts and lumber pads.
Internal Frame Backpacks: Internal frame backpacks are stable, firm and flexible enough to allow freedom of movement. Great suspension systems which are adjustable to fit your body shape. Low centre of gravity which will assist with balance.
Women’s Backpacks: Women's backpacks take into consideration wider hips, narrower shoulders and a lower centre of gravity.
Children’s Backpacks: A good fitting daypack will suffice. Children tire easily so make sure they do not carry a heavy load. If intending overnight trips, the pack should be big enough to carry a sleeping bag, clothing and water bottle.
Child Carrypacks: Look for good suspension, padded waist belt, padded shoulder straps,adjustment straps,sun/rain guard.An infant can be carried in the front for extra warmth.
PACKING YOUR BACKPACK: Pack the heaviest items on top and to the back of your pack (this is the closest to the centre of gravity). Pack small equipment in side pockets. Women generally do not have the upper body strength of men and often suffer with a heavy pack, so a good hipbelt and suspension system is essential.
BREAKING IN YOUR BACKPACK: Make your first hike a short one which will enable you to stop often and make adjustments. Your backpack will, over time, conform to your body and become more and more comfortable.