Today’s modern backpacks are works of engineering art. Well thought out, ergonomic and comfortable for miles of trail beyond their predecessors.

We met with backpack pioneer, Osprey Packs and MTNSTUFF gear expert Rich Weight at Backcountry Experience in Durango, Colorado, to get the lowdown on how to load up. (Whatever you do, they strongly suggest visiting your local outdoor retailer, because the best pack for you starts with the fit.)

“When customers come in looking for multi-day backpacking packs, it’s super important that the floor staff are well-trained and are able to ask those customers a variety of different questions,” Weight said.

Here are some key points to think about

1) How long

How many days are you going to be out? This is a big one: know your objective, and how to pack for it.

2) Cargo

What kind of stuff are you going to be carrying? Are you bringing the kitchen sink or going light and right?

3) Sleeping arrangements

How will you sleep? What are your bag and tent like? Are you maxed out or just out of the dirt?

4) Terrain

What part of the country are you traveling in? Are we talking dry desert canyons or bushwhacking through a jungle?

5) Partners

Who are you travelling with? Bringing the kids? Can you divvy up gear?

“This will really define in many ways the size of the pack that we need,” Weight said. “The other thing we need to consider with regard to size is your size when you buying a pack, and whether or not a pack is going to fit you and is going to be comfortable.”

The answers to these questions will narrow the scope of packs to choose from, and provided a great starting place to embark on your quest for a new one.

Happy trails.