Parts of a Backpack

What are the Parts of a Backpack? Anatomy of a Backpack Explained

(Last Updated On: January 7, 2021)

Simple everyday backpacks or school backpacks do not need a great deal of explanation. After slipping your arms through the shoulder straps, you literally pack the bag, close the zip or buckle and carry it on your bag. Knowing the different parts of a backpack will not only give you additional knowledge but also help you pick your backpack much easier. On the other hand, backpacking backpacks and hiking backpacks are usually much more technical. The backpacks feature various components, each of which has a distinctive and essential purpose.

If you are new to hiking and backpacking, there is a possibility that the backpacks used by individuals who love these things are new to you. We developed this guide to help you better understand backpacks. You should be familiar with all the backpack components and attachments by the time you finished reading.

What are the parts of a traditional backpack?

Water Bottle Pocket

A well designed backpack will usually have a mesh bottle pocket on 1 or 2 sides of the backpack. Occasionally, you will have a water bottle pocket inside the pack.

Top Handle

Every backpack should typically have a top handle at the top. And sometimes there would be a side handle as well. This basically gives you the option to carry the backpack on the top or sides.

Shoulder Harness

The upper portion of the straps for the backpack provides shoulder protection. Commonly seen in outdoor backpacks or travel backpacks involving a minimal load of weight on the shoulders, but less common in regular or work backpacks.

Shoulder Straps

A strap which, when the backpack is worn, extends across your chest. It’s most often used in wider backpacks for hiking and travel, equivalent to a shoulder harness.

Main Compartment

The largest area in a bag for carrying things would be the main compartment of a backpack. This would be accessible on the outside of the bag through a zipper and the position of the zipper can differ based on the design of the backpack. A zipper closure is the most common but roll top backpacks are also quite popular.

Front Pocket

This is usually popular among brands like JanSport and Herschel where a front pocket is designed to keep you organized apart from the main compartment.

Interior Organizational Pocket

This will usually be inside the main pocket designed to store small items like pens, keys, and your wallet.

Laptop Pocket

Laptop compartments often feature backpacks that are made for work, traveling, or regular use, as carrying a laptop has become a regular item for many. Laptop compartments also have padding to keep a laptop secure when on the move or accidental bumps. Some backpacks often feature separate laptop compartments, where simple and convenient access is possible via an individual compartment made for the laptop.

Backpack Strap Loops

For helping you to carry additional pieces of gear, the loops that you see next to the shoulder straps are very handy. This are known as daisy chains for backpacks which are like a series of small loops around the lining. A wide range of items can be added to this portion of your pack. For starters, here you can hang large pieces of equipment, which is something that is most commonly achieved with a bungee cord or two.

What is the anatomy of a hiking backpack?


Backpacks built for hiking will usually have internal frame that provides the needed protection for the wearer. There are also backpacks that are frameless to save weight. In addition, there are external frame backpacks built mostly for hunting and carrying larger and heavier loads.

Sternum Strap

A strap that, when the backpack is worn, stretches over your chest. Usually, the height of a sternum strap can be moved up and down the shoulder straps and it is necessary to secure and loosen the straps across your chest. A handy emergency whistle is designed into some buckles!

Hip Belt

A hip belt is often also known as a waist strap, a padded strap that runs over the top of your hip bone to help redistribute the weight of the bag from your shoulders to your hip. Backpacking backpacks which are designed to hold wide and heavy loads are where hip belts are most common.

Compression Straps

Compression straps, typically found on the side of a backpack, are used to compact or stretch the size of the container. In backpacks that are built to support a lot of weight, such as hiking backpacks, travel backpacks and some school book bags, compression straps are popular because they allow the backpack to be pressed tighter to your back for easier weight distribution and more convenient carrying.

Hydration Pouch

This is usually within the back of the center of the bag. This is where your hydration pack is held. For the nozzle to move through, there is usually a slit on the end. In front of the hydration pocket, there is normally also another pocket to carry maps or other essential papers, such as a passport.

Daisy Chain

Daisy chains, typically made of nylon webbing sewn into the backpack to make loops, allow items such as carabiners, clips and external pouches to be added for additional storage to the outside of the backpack. In outdoor backpacks where external gear attachments are necessary, Daisy chains are often used, but they can also be used as a style accessory in everyday backpacks. It is normal to see Daisy chains on the front and side of a backpack or on the shoulder straps.

Ice Axe Loops

At the bottom of the backpack, you will find them hanging. The ice ax loops may not be helpful if you are hiking during the season. However, you should use them while hiking during the winter season, as you might need to use your ice ax during your trek at some point. The ice ax loops are designed to hold the head of the ax. Via a separate compression brace or mounting point, the handle may be fixed.

Sleeping Bag Compartment

Sleeping bag compartments, usually found at the bottom of the pack, provide access to items like sleeping bags that are placed at the bottom of the pack. Some compartments are entirely isolated from the main portion of the backpack, while others are divided by an open or reversible piece of material that is zipped.

Lumbar Pad

It holds your spine straight, provides it with a cushion, and stops damage. A significant difference is created by the lumbar configuration. Avoid something that is very spongy, which helps to force the spine down. This is a feature that is very important especially on long hiking trips.

Side Bottle Pocket

This is a must have in any hiking trips due to needing to constantly rehydrate. Unless you have a very reliable hydration bladder in your pack, we suggest not to skimp on this feature.

Load Lifters

These adjustable straps are designed to bring the weight of the pack onto the torso, between the top of the shoulder straps and the rest of the pack. This helps to stop any unnecessary pack movement. They also assist in taking some of the pack weight off your shoulders when properly balanced.

Backpack Accessories

Accessories like a backpack rain cover are important if your bag don’t come with one. Check out our guide on some more backpack accessories that you may find useful on your next hiking trip.