Choosing the most suitable backpack for the Camino de Santiago, a laborious but entertaining task

In spite of the boom of backpack transport companies, which are leaving us partly orphans of those scenes where exhausted pilgrims walked at a snail´s pace under the weight of monstrous loads, the backpack is still an essential piece of the pilgrim equipment, an article as inseparable as irreplaceable. On many occasions, if we pay attention to a particular backpack brand it is quite easy to guess the nationality of its owner. For example, behind a Quechua brand backpack will be hidden a Spanish pilgrim, whilst Germans and Austrians will do behind brands as Vaude and Deuter. Nevertheless, Italians, prefer Ferrino whereas Americans and Australians feel at ease with Osprey backpacks.

Avoid buying it on the internet! This is the first great recommendation when purchasing a backpack. It is possible to adjust the backpack oneself inside a hiking specialized shop, moreover, the expert seller will be able to advise us on the type of backpack we need for the pilgrimage: its capacity, size and model, depending on whether it is for men or women. Regarding prices, we can find backpacks from 45 to 200 euros. As always, it is better to have a halfway budget available that allows us to have a comfortable and good quality backpack.

If we want to find a comfortable and long-lasting backpack for the Camino de Santiago, we should take into account the following characteristics:

Design. Specialized manufacturers design backpacks for both men and women. Women will have to choose a specific model, which is different from men by having a shorter length, narrower shoulder pads and a conical lumbar belt.

Capacity. When we choose a backpack for our pilgrimage is fundamental to determine its capacity, and it is known the higher capacity the more volume and unladen weight. Thus, a recommendable model would be between 40 and 45 liters, whose unladen weight oscillates between a kilo and a kilo and a half. Those who travel by plane and do not want to check in at the airport will have to buy a backpack that does not exceed the measure imposed by the airlines.

Size. This is a feature that seldom is taken into account. Some models do not have an adjustable system that allows adapting it to the length of the back and, as a result, these backpacks have to be made in several sizes. We will know it measuring from the base of our neck to that of the waist, at the height of the iliac crest bone.

Avoid buying on the internet! This is the first great recommendation when purchasing a backpack.

After these three main characteristics, the quality of a backpack, which is most often associated with the price, is determined by the texture, materials, the strength of the seams, the quality of the compression straps ant the foam of the lumbar belt, as well as the shoulder pads, the ventilation provided by the mesh and if the design allows carrying bags of hydration, such as a Camelback, etc. Another important aspect of studying is the distribution of the pockets and the different compartments. For example, it interests that it has a compartment at the bottom, with independent access and sealed from the rest to put the sleeping bag. Besides, some models have a pocket on the lumbar belt, very useful to carry energy bars, the mobile phone, a purse, sun cream, etc. Also, at the height of the belt, there is usually a mesh compartment that allows transporting the water bottle, which is secured to the backpack with a carabiner. At the top, there is another handy pocket where we can carry items that will be used during the walking, for instance the credencial.

After this laborious but entertaining task of choosing the most appropriate backpack, we have the no less easy selection of the clothes and accessories pending. In a coming blog post we will deal with how we will have to distribute the load and how we will have to adjust the pack in order to prevent injuries on shoulders and back.