This is the third of three “Fit” sections and it refers to the capacity of your pack. It is important to have a pack that fits your body but it is also important to be sure that your pack fits the use you are buying it for. It does you no good to have a pack that is comfortable and has the perfect suspension system if it does not hold the things you want to carry or if it is twice the size you would ever need.
A good rule of thumb is to start out with an idea of what you are going to use the pack for and how much stuff you are carrying. If you have your other gear (sleeping bag, pad, tent, stove, etc.) already you can put it all in a pile and measure the size of the pile. Most of us get the pack first and then think about the stuff that goes into it. Another way to gauge the pack size is to take a look at the following categories and pick the one that best applies to you. If you are interested in Ultralight packing, take a look at our Primer (in progress) on that subject when it is posted.
1.) Mimimumalist: 3000 to 3500 cu. in. (50 to 60 L) most appropriate for persons who are likely to only do weekend trips, use ultra light gear, a small person, compact gear, short trips. This type of pack is also good for the ultra light traveller to use as a carry on. It can also double as a summit pack on those bigger expeditions.
2.) Lightweight: 3500 to 4000 cu. in. (60 to 70 L) this range is still great for short trips, lightweight gear, and works well for the person who is travelling with another person who can share the group gear load. This is as large as can be used for carry on travel.
3.)Mediumweight: 4000 t0 5000 cu.in. (70 to 80 L) Those of you who have been backpacking for years might find yourself scaling back to this catgeory. We don’t go on overly long trips. A week is a really long time and we tend to keep it to three or four days. We may also go for a weekend trip in the winter where we need more space for all the extra gear. This size pack is also good for the long trail hiker who wants to keep it light but may have long streches of no supply and has to carry a week or more worth of food.
4.) Heavyweight: 5500 to 7000 cu. in. When you see the guy (sometimes it’s a girl but not very often) who has every possible thing with them, they are probably carrying this size range pack. This is the one that the Dad or Mom who carries all the food, the tent, kitchen, and sometimes the kids sleeping bags as well as his or her own. It is also the size pack you might take on a full blown expedition. If you are shopping for this type of a pack, I recommend that you make sure that the place you buy it has a reasonable return policy and that you have some time to try it on with all of your stuff in it. Fit is crucial for this type of a pack and you should avail youself of all the help picking it out as you can.
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