People are built pretty much from the same plans, but there are enough height, weight, and shape differences that any-old-pack won’t work nearly as well as the right pack.
Often the right pack is expensive, but it’s common these days for the extra money to pay for a label rather than quality.
Full size packs come in two basic styles: internal and external frames. External frame models are slightly heavier, because of the metal framework.
These packs are better all-round for a person who hunts and has to pack meat, because the meat or quarters with bones can be tied to the frame to minimize movement from side to side. These packs often have a flip-down shelf near the bottom rear to sit the load on top of.
Internal frame packs are better all-round for straight hiking and camping where most of the loads are made up of a number of bits and pieces, most of which are more stuff-able than a load of meat.
The ads and catalogues often make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but a little research, including conversations with pack owners, can help you make a good decision.
Since people come in different lengths, so do packs. Most quality packs have frame adjustments to lengthen and shorten the unit. Some have no adjustments, but that’s fine if it fits you at the length it is. Don’t buy it simply because the price is right.
Children and small adults are especially important to fit, because the standard pack-size is much too long for their torsos. This will cause the waist-belt to ride below the hips, forcing the shoulders to carry the whole load.
All packs have adjustable shoulder straps, but these straps should also adjust to varying heights at the top, not just the bottom. Adjustable straps should also run from the top of the frame to the top of the shoulder straps to allow you to pull forward the top of the pack. An adjustable chest strap, which connects the two shoulder straps at about breast level, is very important. The waist strap (large wide belt) should be attached to the bottom end of the frame by adjustable fastening points to allow the lower end of the pack to be brought-closer-to or moved-away-from the lower back.
All these fastening points should be equipped with quick-release clips, not with buckles. Many packs come with a slipover rain cover often with one side blazing orange to make the pack highly visible. The exterior of the pack should have straps attached for sleeping pads, tent-poles, tri-pods etc., and a number of large zipper pockets of various lengths.
The sidepieces of the frame should extend a number of inches above the top of the pack, or, even better, form a “U” to which bedrolls can be tied. If the pack is not waterproof use a plastic garbage bag inside to keep the rain out.