How to Select Your Backpack


You know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it but what pack? A quick search reveals pages of results and differing types of kit; backpacks, rucksacks, hiking packs, day packs, biking packs, everyday packs…the list is long. Here is a quick overview to help you find your perfect pack.

Activity and location

The best place to start when thinking about how to select your backpack is the exact reason you’re looking for a pack in the first place: your activity.

Your activity and the place you plan to do this activity will greatly narrow down your choice. At Osprey Europe we use Pack Selector for this very thing. The activity will inevitably determine factors such as volume, weight, materials used and those ‘no compromise’ features.

The location then further refines the choice. The British Lake District is going to be a completely different environment to the Himalayas. You should consider the sorts of questions that your location raises; what sort of weather am I going to meet? What kit will I be required to carry to feel comfortable in my chosen environment? Is it going to be hot or cold? Will I be travelling light or carrying a lot of kit? The answers to these sorts of questions can help you make a decision on the specifics of your pack. For backpack volume related questions, you can read our ‘How to select the right volume’ blog.


The backsystem is like the engine of the pack, driving what the pack is designed to do.  For this reason, the backsystem should be a significant consideration when choosing your pack.

Although we do have hybrids and adaptions of our backsystems there are three core designs which provide a unique style of carry.

AG AntiGravity™

Featuring suspended mesh from the shoulder blades to the lower back and through the hipbelt, AntiGravity™ is designed to balance and disperse the load evenly throughout the body. The sprung hipbelt and body-contoured design allow the most comfortable carrying experience imaginable.


By using a lightweight mesh panel through the body of the pack, the need for foam and heavy materials is eliminated. AirSpeed™ creates a space between the pack and your back, allowing for plenty of airflow without compromising on load carrying ability.


Mesh covered foam has the ability to keep the weight close and well distributed, whilst providing cushioning and ventilation. AirScape™ sets a new industry standard in a way that allows it to be used in everything from lightweight daypacks through to larger expedition backpacks.



Your activity and location have given you a core set of packs to choose from. You’ve also now narrowed down which of the backsystems may be right for you. Now it’s time to look at the more specific requirements you may have, specific requirements which are often handled by pack features.

An example of one of these features could be the Stow-on-the-Go™ trekking pole attachment. You know you are going to be working with varying gradients throughout your activity, therefore, the pole attachment will make it easier and faster for you to use and stash your equipment. Or maybe you’re more focused on the organisation and access to the kit you carry. In that case, a sleeping bag base compartment with internal divider would be an essential feature.

Features really boil down to a combination of absolute necessity and personal choice. Osprey packs are incredibly versatile and often share features but there is always the opportunity to incorporate those choices to help you select your backpack. For more information on our features, you can check out our ‘Features Technologies’ page.

Price and Aesthetics

Price is an inevitable factor in a pack purchase. We all have a budget. It’s for this reason that there are ranging packs, with ranging features and ranging prices. If you’re working with a fixed amount in mind you should try to balance the contextual necessities of your pack, like increased volume or a rain-cover, against features which are nice to have. More often than not you will find that you have to compromise very little.

In terms of aesthetics, It isn’t a crime to want a pack that looks good. Packs do need to be highly functional, but that doesn’t mean that the design should be anything less than attractive. And, as always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For that reason, you should feel free to judge a pack on style and colour and make a decision that suits you. It shouldn’t lead your choice but by all means, do let it influence it. You will be wearing it after all.


Finally is a note on size. Torso size is the primary determining factor in finding the right size for your pack. To make this often laborious process easier we have developed the PackSizer App for iOS and Android.

PackSizer™ App

Be sure to pick your pack size to match your back length. This means choosing between Small, Medium, Large or split sizes Small/Medium or Medium/Large. You can use our handy PackSizer™ App to help you pick the best size for you.

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10 responses to “How to Select Your Backpack

  • Richard Nelmes


    What is the difference between Talon 22 and Stratos 24? …other than 2 litres capacity of course. I am 5′ 10.5″ / 12 stone. I am after a pack for day hikes. I have your Exos 48 which iI find excellent for multi-day hikes. I particularly like the mesh pocket for wet clothes and the hip pockets, shoulder strap pockets (which I use for 300ml water bottles to keep weight on my front), & pole carrier all of which reduce need to remove the pack frequently. I notice both Talon and Stratos have these same useful features.

    • Osprey Europe


      Hi Richard,

      As to which pack would be more suitable this is personal preference. With both packs being Hiking packs the features on both are very similar. The main difference is the backsystem with the Talon having our AirScape backsystem and the Stratos having our AirSpeed. The AirScape backsystem holds the pack closer to your body providing a greater comfort and fit where the AirSpeed backsystem has a trampoline suspended mesh back panel which will provide greater ventilation.

      The Talon, being very versatile, has some features that would be suitable for other activities. If you are looking to use the pack for more than just the odd day hike then this might be the better option but if you would prefer to have more ventilation the Stratos would be the one to go for.

  • Chris stark


    I currently own a stratos 24 I love it but feel I need something a little bigger to carry my day hiking gear as well as photography gear. I like the hip belt pockets and want a place to securely hold my tripod and allow me easy access to all my gear but keep everything apart. What would you suggest?

    • Osprey Europe


      Hi Chris,

      My first recommendation would be “the easy choice”: go for a bigger Stratos, maybe the Stratos 34 or Stratos 36? However, as another pack recommendation, you could look at the Kestrel series. This pack is similar to the Stratos as both are Hiking packs but the Kestrel has an AirScape Backsystem.

      For the tripod, it could either fit in the compression straps on the side of the pack or even use the Stow-on-the-Go feature for easy access.

      When organising the pack, I find that the best way of doing this is to use Pack Liners and/or Drysacks. These can be used to colour code the contents of the pack so that you know exactly where everything is while protecting them from liquids that may enter the main compartment of the pack. As well as this, as the contents of the pack are protected, you do not need to use a Raincover making the tripod on the side of the pack even more easily accessible and when you stop to get something out of your pack everything will stay dry in the pack whilst you search for what you need.

  • Elle


    I am looking for a pack I can use to run with on my daily commute; it should be able to fit a 15.6″ laptop and a change of clothes – what would be the ideal recommendation? I am a 5’3″ female.

    • Osprey Europe


      Hi Elle,

      The largest size that we recommend for a laptop in our packs is 15” so 15.6” should be OK but just to be on the safe side if you could provide me with the laptop dimensions, I will be able to provide you with a more accurate suggestion.

      Based on what you have given me I believe that either the Daylite Plus, Questa or the Nova would be the best packs as these have laptop sleeves. If you have a protective sleeve already, the Tempest or Escapist series could be better options.

      Although connected, your height does not define your torso length which we need to size you for the entire Osprey product range. The best way you can size yourself is with our brand new PackSizer 2.0 App which is available on both the Android Play Store and Apple App Store. The app will provide you with simple to follow instructions on how you can get your size digitally and also includes instructions on how you can manually measure yourself. The app will also provide useful information about how to care for, pack and fit your pack.

      • Elle


        Hi Liam,
        Thank you for getting back to me so promptly. The laptop dimensions are: 37.8cm (W) x 26.5cm (D) x 2.3cm (H).

      • Osprey Europe


        Hi Elle,

        Based on these dimensions your laptop will not fit in the Daylite Plus and on the Questa, the laptop will sit a little snug which is not ideal. With the Nova, the laptop will sit within the laptop sleeve perfectly and with the laptop sleeve having direct zip access you will be able to keep your clothes separate from your laptop, allowing easy organisation of your pack contents.

        With regards to the Tempest 20 and Escapist Series, the laptop will fit with room to spare so shouldn’t be an issue with the laptop in a case. I would recommend a protective case for these packs as they do not offer much protection for a laptop, therefore, if the pack was to be knocked it could cause damage to the laptop that the other packs with padded sleeves would protect against.

  • Ian


    Hi there,
    Am I right in thinking that there is not an integrated cover in the Talon series? If not can you explain why please? Also, do you include a separate rain cover or do I have to buy one separately?

    • Osprey Europe


      Hi Ian,

      You are correct, the Talon does not include an integrated raincover.

      The Talon is designed to be a versatile pack suitable for many activities, some of which do not require the use of a raincover and if we were to include raincovers in all packs, this would only increase the selling price of these packs.

      Further to this, some users prefer to have lightweight equipment and including a raincover increases the weight which may not be desirable for all.

      Some users also prefer to protect the contents of their pack with Drysacks and Pack Liners, instead of Raincovers. Raincovers, Drysacks and Pack Liners can all be purchased separately here.

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