Gear Guide: Backpacks

Dec 2013

Backpacking and hiking are some of the most satisfying weekend activities here in the Southwest’s cool fall, winter, and spring temperatures. Whether you’re heading out on a 3-day Grand Canyon backpacking trip with us, or planning on day hiking in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, one thing is certain; to witness the desert’s shifting palette of orange, red, and gold you have to throw on a backpack fit for the adventure.

But before you go, finding a comfortable and appropriate pack is a must. When shopping for the perfect backpack, it’s helpful to know what you are looking for in advance. Gear shops such as REI are extremely helpful in discussing which pack will best suit your needs. Most packs  fall into two basic categories:

  • Daypacks – These lightweight packs are ideal for carrying a few essentials (i.e. food and water) as you would with short-day hikes, runs, cycling or climbs. Daypacks range as from as small as a hip-pack with a mere 8L capacity, to the super simplistic mid-sized pack like REI’s popular Flash, to the 40L internal frame Speed Pack from Black Diamond.
  • Multi-day Backpacks – Designed for overnight backpacking trips, these packs have larger carrying capacity and a stabilizing frame (internal or external) to help distribute the weight of your gear across your back properly. Most packs being made today have internal frames although you may still come across an external frame pack when shopping. Backpacking packs often have many small compartments accessible from the exterior for packing individual small items.

On our Havasupai tours and Grand Canyon hiking trips you have the luxury of carrying only a simple daypack while hiking into the Grand Canyon, whereas many who hike in the Grand Canyon make the trip with a heavily loaded multi-day pack.

Daypack Weekend Pack Week+ Pack
Size Less than 2,500 cu in

or 40 Liters

2,500 – 3,999 cu in

or 40 – 65 Liters

4,000 – 5,999 cu in

or 65 – 95 liters

Holds – Water

– Lunch and snacks

– Camera

– Shell and/or warm layer

– Small first aid kit

– Phone/GPS

– Water

– Camera

– Shell and/or warm layer

– Small first aid kit

– Phone/GPS

– Tent (1 or 2 man)

– Sleeping bag and pad

– Ultralight stove

– Additional clothing

– A weekend’s worth of meals

– Water (plus filter/steripen)

– Camera

– First Aid kit

– Phone/GPS/Compass

– Tent (1 or 2 man)

– Sleeping bag and pad

– Stove, kitchen gear, extra fuel

– A week’s clothing (2-3 tshirts, 1 pair pants, 1 pair shorts, 1 baselayer, shell/down jacket, rain jacket)

– Toiletries/personal items

– Extra food, fuel and kitchen gear

– A few luxury items like camp chair, camp shoes

When selecting a pack, you should consider:


Sure you can cart around just about any size pack bag and “make do” at first…but travel a few miles with a fully loaded pack that’s the incorrect size and you’ll understand why a correctly fitting backpack makes all the difference. Some multi-day backpacks can even be custom fit to your unique anatomy using heat molding.


Selecting the appropriate backpack capacity is a balancing act. You need to be able to carry all your essentials for your trip without going overboard and ending up tired and sore.

Check out this simple reference guide.


Brain? Roll-top? Built-in rain cover? This is a highly personalized area. Each pack bag’s features will be listed in the pack’s description. Certain features will come in handy depending on what style hiker you are and others won’t, so be sure to select a pack with the best components for your activity.

Picked out your pack and ready for the experience of a lifetime? Contact Us! Discover the natural beauty and hidden secrets of the Grand Canyon with one of our multi-day trips including one of our 4 Grand Canyon backpacking trips or one of our 5 guided hiking trips to Havasupai. Whatever your hiking wish, the staff here will help you out! Give us a call 866-455-1601 today.