How to Choose the Right Backpack for Your Activity

Whether you're looking for a backpack for school, day hiking or sports, you'll find the right backpack for you at Schuylkill Valley Sports. But how do you choose the perfect backpack?

The first step to selecting the right backpack is to decide what you will be using it for. Many backpacks are specially designed for specific uses and offer various features specific to that use. With the latest features and styles, you can carry as much or as little as you need for your chosen activity.

For many of us, the many options for backpacks can seem overwhelming when we're trying to choose which is the right one for us to buy. That's why we've put together a guide to help you choose the right backpack for whatever activity you're participating in.

What Features Should You Look For in a Travel Backpack?



If you plan on taking your backpack with you on your travels, you should be aware of the many features backpacks include today to ensure you're getting the backpack that meets all your needs and lasts you for years to come.

1. Several Compartments

A good backpack should have several compartments for you to store your belongings in. You can separate your items into sections so they're easier to find and access. Maybe you'll choose to store your clothes in the biggest compartment, your footwear in a separate compartment and your smaller belongings in another compartment. The organization will save you time because you won't have to dig around for what you're looking for.

2. A Water-Resistant Material

Unless you're going on a multi-day hike, you probably won't need a backpack that's completely waterproof, but you may still want a bag that is semi-waterproof so that your belongings won't get wet during light rain. In the case of a heavy downpour, many backpacks come with a tarp that can be used to cover them.

You'll also want a pack made of a material that won't remain wet for long and become musty, so look for a bag made of a thick but lightweight material, such as treated nylon fiber. Your belongings inside should remain dry even when you pour a cup of water on it. In small rainstorms, you won't have to worry about your belongings in your pack getting wet.

3. Zippers That Can Be Locked

Every compartment should be fastened with two zippers that can be locked together. While you may not be too concerned about someone stealing your dirty clothes on a day hike, you may still want to lock up your bag while traveling or when you know you'll be around a lot of people. Having a lock will help put your mind at ease.

If you know you'll be taking your backpack with you when you fly, you'll want to make sure the lock you purchase is TSA-friendly. TSA personnel can open these locks without breaking them to check your bag.

If you've found the bag of your dreams, but it doesn't include two zippers, don't worry. You can purchase a lockable metal mesh separately that encircles your entire bag and can be tied to a larger object, which will prevent anyone from opening your bag or walking away with it. This metal mesh can add quite a bit of weight, however, so keep this in mind if you're planning a longer hike.

4. An Internal Frame

Many backpacks today are known as internal frame packs, which means that their support rods and frames are built into the backpack and remain out of sight. External frame packs are built with rods that are visible and separate from the bag. These tend to be big and clunky, so you'll want to be sure to get a bag with an internal frame. Not only does it look better, but your bag will also be slimmer, and you won't have to worry about the rods getting caught on anything. This frame will make moving around easier, it'll be easier on your back, and the bag will be more durable.

5. A Front-Loading Design

This kind of backpack allows you to open the bag from the side to access your belongings, while a top-loading pack gives you access to your belongings from the top. Finding your items at the bottom of your bag can be especially tricky with a top-loading backpack. A front-loading design will give you much easier access to your gear.

6. Shoulder Straps with Padding

To make carrying your backpack comfortable, you may want a pack with padded shoulder straps. This will lessen the pressure put on your shoulders and your lower back. The padding should be thick and made of one piece of material to make the pad less likely to thin out or split.

7. A Padded Hip Belt

The weight from your backpack will push down against your hips, so a padded hip belt will make wearing your pack more comfortable. This belt can also help distribute the weight on your back more evenly, reducing strain. You can also opt to tighten the belt for even more support.

8. Padded or Contoured Back

A backpack that's designed for the comfort of your back will distribute the weight more evenly. A bag with a lumbar shape applies the same principle as contoured chairs, allowing for a natural arch that can help prevent back pain. The space between your bag and back will also allow more air to pass through and keep your back cooler if you're working up a sweat.

What Should You Look for in a School Backpack?

School Backpack

School backpacks are made to carry books, papers, binders, folders, travel accessories and plenty more. You'll want to find a backpack that has many internal pockets so you can fit everything you need, along with a compartment for a laptop or tablet. You may want a school backpack that is frameless or soft-backed that you can take anywhere. Some schools also require that bags are mesh or see-through, so keep your school's rules in mind when you're searching for the right backpack.

Pockets should be easily accessible for storing school supplies or your smartphone so that these items are within easy reach. School backpacks can also function well for work or travel, so they'll work well for you during your commute or on your way to work after school.

For school backpacks, you may want to try our:

  • Big Student Backpack: This Jansport backpack features two large compartments, a front utility pocket, a pleated front pocket and a padded, 15-inch laptop compartment. These various pockets and compartments allow you to organize all of your belongings. You can also choose from several colors and fabrics to make your backpack unique and totally yours.
  • Half Pint Mini Backpack: This backpack from Jansport is light and small — perfect for someone with fewer or smaller belongings. It features a main compartment, a front utility pocket and adjustable shoulder straps.
  • Mesh Pack Backpack: This mesh backpack is great for school use. Featuring a large main compartment, an internal hanging pocket and a front utility pocket, you'll have the space and organization you need for all your supplies.
  • City View Backpack: This backpack from Jansport was designed for simplicity and spaciousness. It features a main compartment, front utility pocket and laptop sleeve, along with a suede leather bottom and padded shoulder straps for comfort and aesthetic appeal.
  • Cool Student Backpack: Another backpack that's perfect for students is the Cool Student Backpack, which includes a leather base and trim, ergonomic shoulder straps, a side pocket for your water bottle, a fully padded back panel, two roomy main compartments, an internal 15-inch laptop sleeve and a front stash pocket.

Browse our wide selection of schools backpacks to find the way that best fits your needs and matches your personal style.

What Should You Look for in a Day Hiking Backpack?

Day hiking backpacks are designed for campers and hikers who are taking shorter trips. They tend to be frameless or soft-backed and lightweight. These bags are meant for lighter loads that can be carried over shorter distances so they won't impede your travel by foot. You may also want to find a bag with a waist belt that can focus the weight on your hips and help prevent the load from continuously hitting your back.

The capacity of these packs generally ranges from 500 to 2,500 cubic inches. You'll also want to look for back panels to provide you added comfort and several pockets to store all of your gear. Day hiking backpacks are best suited for single-day climbs, bike rides and day hikes.

Will you be trekking in a warmer climate? Even in the winter, you may deal with humidity depending on your location, so you'll want a backpack with plenty of ventilation to prevent sweat pooling along your back, which can result in the loss of body heat and cause chafing.

For day hiking backpacks, you may want to try our:

  • Fremont Backpack: This Jansport backpack is ready to be taken on an adventure. With padded straps, plenty of pockets, a water bottle pocket and a back panel, you can count on this bag to meet your needs on your next day hiking trip.
  • Big Break Insulated Lunch Bag: Need to keep your lunch insulated during your hike? This bag features a large main compartment that's insulated to keep your food cold or hot. It also includes an exterior pocket for your napkins and utensils, along with a Velcro handle that you can adjust as necessary.
  • Undeniable 3.0 Backpack: This backpack from Under Armour can battle the elements and hold up against moisture. The bottom is tough and resists abrasion. The front valuables pocket is water-repellent to protect your belongings. This bag also includes a foam-padded back panel, adjustable shoulder straps, mesh pockets on both sides for your water bottles and plenty of storage space. For even the toughest of day hikes, this is the backpack for you.

We have a wide selection of backpacks from top brands like Nike, Under Armour and Jansport. For all of your day hiking needs, we have the backpacks that are right for you.

What Should You Look for in a Sport-Specific Backpack?

Finally, what should you look for in a sport-specific backpack? Packs that are intended for sports and workouts are created to meet needs you may have while engaging in your favorite sport or athletic activity. From a hydration supply to carrying around gear, these packs can provide you all the space and features you need.

For baseball, you can often find bat packs or baseball bags that include specialized compartments and straps for a bat. For lacrosse, many bags are made with compartments that can accommodate your helmet, cleats and stick. Tennis backpacks have plenty of space for your tennis racquet.

Worried about how long it'll take before your gym backpack starts to smell like the inside of your sneakers? Vented areas on these bags help air out any of your gear after a particularly sweaty practice or game. You may also want to look for a backpack that includes a hydration compartment for storing a water bottle. To keep your cleats separate from the rest of your uniform and any other items in your bag, you can also choose a pack with a cleat compartment.

For sports backpacks, you may want to try our:

  • Stadium II Team Backpack: This backpack from adidas is made from 100% polyester and features a ventilated cleat compartment, a ball pocket, padded shoulder straps and a water-resistant base.
  • The Beast Athletic Backpack: This backpack can do it all, including carrying essentials for practice, meets, tournaments and school. This pack can fit all of the necessary gear while still fitting into spaces like luggage compartments on airlines. A padded compartment for a tablet or laptop is also included, along with internal waterproof pockets, a right side pocket for your water bottle and a waterproof bottom for wet gear or shoes.
  • Brasilia Mesh Training Backpack: For long days in the gym or on the field, this backpack from Nike is a must-have. This bag is made of 100% polyester and features two main compartments for secure storage and padded shoulder straps for comfort.

We have men's, women's and youth sports backpacks and gym backpacks for everything from weight lifting to baseball to basketball. Find your perfect sports backpack at Schuylkill Valley Sports.

Find the Right Backpack for You at Schuylkill Valley Sports

Pennsylvania athletes and backpackers can rely on Schuylkill Valley Sports for all their equipment needs. Browse our selection of men's, women's and youth backpacks and purchase yours online today! You can also call us at 877-711-8100 or find a store near you.