How to Choose a Hiking Pack
I'm excited to share a gear review of the Osprey Eja 58 women's ultralight backpack (spoiler: holy moly, this is one comfy hiking pack!) — but first, I want to tell you the story of my first ever backpack.
In my early twenties I spent a couple of years living and working abroad, and ahead of that trip I bought my first ever proper backpack. It was expensive, and it was big. Too big.
When I went to the outdoor store to buy it, I had one thing on my mind: I was moving to the other side of the earth and whatever didn’t fit inside this pack would need to be left behind. As it turns out, that's not a great way to go about choosing the right pack. Bigger is not always better.
The pack I chose back then was a terrible fit — that became clear to me when, not long into my travels, I visited Amsterdam with a couple of girlfriends. As they charged on ahead taking in the sights and sounds of the city en route to our hostel, I was just about crawling. I looked something like a human turtle: bent over at the waist, with my far-too-big pack balancing precariously on my pained back. I was moving as slowly as a human can move without actually stopping.
And as I schlepped that huge, heavy pack down the path alongside the canal, I wondered how on earth other people managed to backpack for days, weeks, and months on end... and actually enjoy themselves.
It turns out that, it's all about choosing the right gear for your body and your adventure.
A decade has passed since I made the ill-fated decision to buy that enormous pack, and now, with many an adventure under my belt, I've learned a thing or two about how to pick the right outdoors gear.
Here's some of the things I know now that I wish I knew all those years ago when I was choosing my first pack...
Tips for choosing a backpack
for hiking and multi-day adventures
Purpose: how will you be using your backpack? If you're doing day hikes you're going to want something smaller than if you're using your pack for weekend adventures or multi-day hikes, because the gear you're going to be carrying is different. Look at the main compartment, is it roomy enough? Check the internal and external areas of the pack — are there enough pockets and attachment points, and do they fasten in the ways you need to keep your gear secure (zips? loops? buckles? clips?). Consider how much water you need to carry — would you like side pockets for a water bottle, an internal sleeve to fit a hydration pack, or maybe both? Knowing what gear you're going to carry will help you narrow down what size backpack is most suitable for you.
Comfort and fit: there's a few key areas to pay attention to, such as hip belt, shoulder straps, back support and suspension, and chest strap. If you're a woman, try a backpack designed specifically for women. Women's backpacks are made with our bodies in mind... details like where the hip, shoulder, and chest straps sit can make all the difference when you're hiking for hours.
Try before you buy: your backpack is an investment... in fun adventures, and in your body's ability to keep up with those fun adventures. Go into an outdoor store and try the pack on. Load it up so you can get a sense of how the pack feels on your body with weight in it. Are there any pain points? Do the straps rub in weird ways? How does the pack sit on your back — is it too big or small for the length of your torso? This pack and you are going to be spending a lot of time together. Can it carry the load?
Gear Review: Osprey Eja 58
Comfort and fit were the key things I was looking for when I put the Osprey Eja 58 to the test out in the mountains recently.
This ultralight backpack is designed especially for women, and comes in three sizes so you can get the right fit for your shape and height. I wore the Osprey Eja 58 medium in Equinox Blue.
The first thing I noticed when packing was how roomy the top-loading main compartment is considering it is an ultralight pack. I was able to fill it with all the gear I needed to keep warm and dry out in the mountains in winter, removing the top lid to streamline the fit, and fastening the side straps to compress the pack.
The Osprey Eja 58 is a good fit for women who are after a comfortable backpack for overnight trips, weekend adventures, and longer trips such as multi-day hikes. This pack can fit your camping gear, clothes, food, and a hydration pack in the main compartment, and has plenty of attachment points on the outside for gear such as walking poles and a sleeping mat, as well as a mesh front pocket for any wet gear.
Big thanks to Osprey Australia for providing the Eja 58 for review, and to Women Want Adventure who I trail-tested this pack for.