How to Choose a Comfortable Backpack

Remember when selecting a backpack was merely a process of deciding if you wanted a frameless, external frame, or internal frame pack? Backpacks have since evolved to where many more factors have to be considered in order to find the right pack for a specific adventure.

The biggest factor when sussing out all the features of a backpack is the suspension system. Even with a super light pack, your back is going to take a toll if you don’t have the right suspension system. Backpacks were invented to be placed on your back for a long time while carrying lots of stuff. So you need to make sure your pack supports your back while properly distributing the weight around your torso.

Types of Suspension Systems
There are currently three major types of backpack suspension systems: Full Contact Back, Full Ventilation, and Trekking. Besides personal preference, the sport for which you use the pack should help decide which suspension system you choose.

Full Contact Back
A full contact back suspension system lays the pack right against the back and sometimes with an airflow tunnel for ventilation. This style plays well in colder temperatures and helps in situations where flexibility is important. Climbing, skiing, biking, and everyday use are prime times to use a full contact back suspension system.

Full Ventilation Suspension Systems
Backpacks with full ventilation suspension systems are easy to pick out because of the nifty net system that keeps the pack from lying directly on the back. This creates a pocket of air that provides great ventilation. Hikers and backpackers benefit the most with this type of system, especially in warm climates.

Trekking Suspension Systems 
The trekking suspension system is the traditional internal frame system that offers a good combination of support, comfort, and ventilation for heavy loads for long periods of time. These systems are typically adjustable and adequately padded, giving backpackers and trekkers a more custom fit and comfortable experience.

Vaude Suspension Systems
Vaude Mountain Sports puts a lot of time and effort in making backpacks that have the best and most innovative suspension systems. Their vast line of backpacks are built upon various versions of the three types of suspension systems, including fully adjustable ones that can be adjusted while still wearing the pack.

VFLEX – Full Contact Back
The VFlex Suspension System is specially engineered to meet the demands of alpine terrain. The backpack sits close to the body and distributes the load evenly across the back allowing for optimal balance when hiking. Inside the backpack a preformed back plate ensures firm pack stability. Even when fully loaded, this prevents the backpack from warping out against the back. For ultralight use the plate can be removed, reducing the weight even further. The hip belt can be completely detached, which is extremely practical when wearing a climbing harness on high altitude tours.

ANATOMIC ALPINE – Full Contact Back
Designed for alpine use and longer tours with lots of luggage. The Anatomic Alpine Suspension System sports a lightweight, anatomical back panel inside the pack. This prevents the load from bulging into your back, significantly improving carrying comfort. The panel can be removed when necessary to reduce weight. Two large mesh pads are positioned along the spine to create a channel for superior ventilation. The hipbelt can be worn three ways: 1. As a traditional hipbelt with comfortable, broad hipwings. 2. Utilizing just the hipbelt with the hipwings folded away—especially practical when you‘re wearing a climbing harness for example. 3. Without the hipbelt - the hipbelt can be completely detached.

VENT-TEX – Full Contact Back
The VENT-TEX suspension system guarantees the greatest possible comfort for bike riding. The mesh back padding design consists of two large pads positioned on either side of the spine. The padding creates a large ventilation channel that keeps air circulating freely for best possible ventilation. Vent-Tex also features an anatomic back panel that conforms to the curve of the back for riding a bike. The back panel ensures that the load is comfortably distributed. The backpack does not warp or deform against the wearer’s back when fully loaded. Vent-Tex backpacks offer superior packing stability.

AEROFLEX – Full Ventilation 
The Aeroflex suspension system is a tried and tested load carrying system with fantastic back ventilation. A large ventilation space between a mesh frame and the pack ensures perfect ventilation for your back. Lightweight spring steel components guarantee that even when the pack is fully loaded, ventilation is assured.

The Aeroflex Easy Adjust Suspension System offers even more flexibility. A simple mechanism allows you to adjust the ventilation space using two pull tabs while wearing the pack. Adjust the space to maximum for optimal ventilation or down to minimum to pull the pack in closer to your body for better balance.

TERGOLIGHT – Trekking Suspension
The classic for trekking and mountain touring. Comfortable to carry, it is easy to adjust, dimensionally stable and helps distribute the load onto the hipbelt.
A pull mechanism at the back lets one quickly and optimally adjust the back length to fit the wearer’s individual body size.

TERGOLIGHT EASY ADJUST – Trekking Suspension
Best suited for long trekking and mountain tours, and can be adjusted to custom-fit the wearer without having to first remove the pack. Tergolight Easy Adjust has a pull loop at the hipbelt that lets you adjust the back length of the pack while it’s still being worn.

F.L.A.S.H. Shoulder Straps
With the F.L.A.S.H. system you can fully adjust the length of your pack shoulder straps quickly and easily. An easy-access Velcro closure at the back lets you regulate your ideal strap length. F.L.A.S.H. is used in conjunction with the Aeroflex suspension system.

F.L.A.S.H. NT Shoulder Straps
The F.L.A.S.H. NT system has two pull loops that allow you to precisely adjust the length of the shoulder straps quickly and comfortably. A pull system at the point where the shoulder straps exit the pack lets you adjust the individual length of the shoulder straps for custom-fitting comfort.

BOA Hip Belt
The Boa Closure System allows fully customizable adjustment of the backpack hip belt for women and men. It allows the hip belt to be set simply and precisely with one hand. Even with huge loads, the individual adjustment ensures a smooth weight distribution on the hip. The system makes gender hip belts obsolete.

In conclusion, always remember to buy a pack that is designed for the activity for which it will be used. Many people get trapped into thinking that the lightest, most adjustable, and most ventilated pack is a fail-safe option for any activity. However, you'll quickly learn that an alpine trekking pack is isn't that comfortable while riding a bike or that a fully ventilated pack sends a chill down your back when used to climb snowy peaks. Pair up the right features and your back will last a lot longer on the trails.

More About Vaude
Vaude is a mountain sports outfitter located in Europe. Vaude strives to be socially and environmentally responsible at all times. They work with the stringent environmental standards of bluesign® and are eco-certified by EMAS.

Liberty Mountain is the exclusive U.S. distributor of Vaude backpacks, bags, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and tents. Contact your regional Liberty Mountain sales rep to become a Vaude dealer today.

Vaude products can be purchased at retail from your local Vaude dealer, while select items can be purchased directly from www.LibertyMountainClimbing.com.

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