Finding the right rucksack!
This blog explains more about how to find the right rucksack for you. I’m focussing on rucksacks to use for walking, as there are a whole plethora of other categories out there; running, fashion, commuting, cycling etc!
The first place to start is to ask what you want the rucksack for and what you want to carry in it; this will give you idea of how much weight you will be carrying and things to look for in the pack.
For day walks you are probably looking at a 20-35 litre pack, depending on what you want to take with you. I find my 24 litre day sack a little small for winter walks and the extra layers that are needed, it needs careful packing!
Even for a day long walk I believe it’s good to choose a pack with a waist strap. This means that most of the weight of your rucksack is carried by your pelvis (which is build to carry weight) as opposed to your shoulders and back (which aren’t). Look for one with lots of adjustment options on the waist strap, shoulder straps, shoulder strap height, chest strap height and length.
For a weekend of walking and camping I stick to a 50 litre bag, probably the smaller end of what most people look to take. For longer walking and camping trips I use a 65litre pack, again probably the smaller end of the range. I just prefer not feeling too much like a packhorse when I walk! It’s also worth bearing in mind that different people with different builds will be comfortable carrying different weights.
The next thing to think about when looking at a pack is it’s size, yes they come in different sizes! Get someone to measure the length between the base of your neck to the top of your hips, take that with you to a shop to try packs on that are the right size for you. Double check as different manufacturers have different definitions of Small, Medium, Large etc.
Once you’ve found a pack that’s in your size try it on - with things in it! A good outdoor shop will allow you to stuff a few random things in the bag, as they feel very different empty, to you get a sense of what the fit is really like.
Play around the the adjustment straps to get comfortable fit;
- The waist strap should actually be around the top of your pelvis, not your waist
- Tighten the shoulder straps so that the pull the pack close to your body. Your shoulders shouldn’t be taking the weight of the pack but should be keeping the pack upright and the weight close to your body
- Fasten and tighten the chest strap. This is far more comfortable above the chest area and it should gently pull the shoulder straps forwards so they don’t rub on your arms as they swing
- If you have “load lifter” straps that attach the shoulder straps to higher up the pack they should be adjusted to sit at a 45 degree angle
- Finally let a bit of tension off the shoulder straps so most of the pack weight sits on your hips
There are such a range of rucksacks on the market that they come with an incredible range of features, and it’s personal preference really as to what you go for.
Here are some things I’ve found useful;
- Pockets in the waist straps so you can store frequently used items like snacks, phone and compass without having to take the pack off to reach them
- Option to use a hydration bladder in the pack (tab to hang it from inside the pack, hole for the tube etc). It can be handy so you can sip a drink without taking the pack off
- Side pickets for water bottles - if you have mobile shoulders you can get the bottles out of the side pockets without breaking stride!
- A couple of smaller zip pockets so you can keep small or important items separate and safe
- For larger packs adjusting straps around the pack that you can use to compress the contents - particularly useful if the pack isn’t full
- A rain cover for the bag; rucksacks aren’t waterproof in sustained rain! The alternative is to invest in some dry bags, which I like to use as a way of separating different sets of items to find them more easily; first aid kit, warm layers, electrical items etc
How you pack your bag can help with comfort too;
- Pack heavier items nearer your back and towards the bottom of the pack if possible
- Pack items you’ll need more frequently towards the top of the pack
- If you are packing for an overnight make a warm layer and the first piece of camping kit you’ll want to get out more easily accessible
- Keep food and drink accessible so that you don’t end up cutting back what you get through because it’s a hassle to find.