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Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Right Rucksacks for Camping for Your Needs

Last updated on August 24th, 2022 at 11:54 am

Daytrip or city touring

The smallest rucksacks for camping are usually 1-6 litre capacity. These hold a few essentials: water, snacks or lunch, a compact camera, guidebook and a light jacket making them ideal for short day outings.

They easily double as sacks for school or work when you’re not on the trails. Because they feature the same comfortable two-shoulder fit of larger sacks, they are an excellent option for city touring where a handbag is too awkward or cumbersome.

Full Day Rucksacks and Bags

If you have been mapping out the trail to the “secret” waterfall for a fun-filled all day adventure, you’ll want to use a rucksack that is in the 10-30 litre capacity range. They easily hold everything you’ll need including extra layers of clothing, picnic supplies, a towel, and even a DSLR camera. Of course, the rucksacks for camping are only one part of the typical camping equipment checklist. But for now – back to the rucksacks.

Rucksacks for 1-3 Nights

The 30-50 litre range is ideal for most hikers for 1-2 nights. If you love the latest, greatest, and lightest gadgets, and are judicial with packing and space planning, it’s quite possible to extend the use of this rucksack to 4 days. If you are new to multi-day hiking trips, however, opt for a larger sack. Traveling “ultra-light” as it is known takes a bit of knowledge of what you’ll need and where you are able to cut weight and bulk.

The pro to learning to pack within a smaller sack is lighter weight on your back that which naturally takes less energy to cart around throughout the day, leaving more energy to enjoy your destination.

Take note that it is very difficult to pack enough gear for even a 2-3 day trip into a 30-50 litre sack; tents and sleeping bags are bulkier and you’ll require comfortable base layers and food in order to enjoy the trip. If you are planning trips in all seasons, you’ll want to look at the next larger packs. Check out our buyers guide for sleeping bags here, though – if you find that it suits your needs.

Multi-day expedition rucksacks

For multiple days or winter hiking, the minimum recommended size rucksack is 65 litres. This size holds necessary gear for about 5 -7 or ore days of travel. Additional gear is easily strapped to the exterior of the sack to maximise space.  

If you are thinking about beginning with shorter trips and eventually graduating to weeklong forays, buying a larger pack ensures that you’ll have enough room to grow into it. Most large packs are easily cinched down so that if you do not fill the full 85 litre capacity, it will still fit correctly and hold your gear securely.

Let’s Talk About Rucksack Fit

After you have chosen the size of pack, you’ll want to be sure that the best fit is comfortable. There is nothing worse that developing hotspots a day into your hike because straps or the waist belt are rubbing you the wrong way.  While the primary harness system consists of two shoulder straps, the bulk of the weight of the rucksack should ideally sit on your hips. For this reason, sacks are sold using the length of your torso measured from about C7 (the vertebrae at the base of your neck) to your waist, while standing straight. This measurement will correspond to the size of pack that will allow the waist belt to secure just above your hipbones.

To ensure that the fit is correct, pack the rucksack with about 15-25 kilograms of weight (depending on sack size) and test to see if sits properly. Too much weight on your shoulders will have your neck and back aching after mere hours.

Rucksack Bag Accessories

Rucksacks are not a one-style-suits-all product. Hikers will want different features than folks who are heading out for a day of bouldering or rock climbing.

Some features to look for include built-in pockets to hold a hydration bladder or water bottles. While some day sacks come with a bladder, others feature a pouch for you to add our own hydration bladder and a series of cutouts to route the hose to secure to a shoulder strap.  While carrying water bottles is still popular, the convenience of hydration systems means less stopping to remove you pack.

Exterior straps and pockets are essential if you are planning a multi-day trip. Straps allow your sleeping pad and maybe even your sleeping bag to be fixed to the outside of the pack freeing up more space on the inside. Additionally, large exterior pockets allow easy access to snacks, maps and/or rain protection without having to undo and unpack the main compartments of your sack.

Best Build Quality and Robustness

Most rucksacks for camping are sewn from durable nylon or cordura woven fabrics. These are sturdy and resist abrasion. Stress points will be double-stitched and often the bottom of the rucksack features an additional layer of fabric for added protection.

If you are planning in camping in wet weather, you’ll want a pack that is constructed from water-resistant material or one that features an add-on rain cover to protect your gear from a downpour. A raincover is the ideal add-on if you found a bag that you love, but it doesn’t have one built in.

Other accessories that some packs feature include a removable mini-sack – ideal if your trip includes shorter side trips away from camp once your tent is pitched. They are also useful if you are traveling to the city and need a day bag to carry around town.  

Loops for hiking poles and ice axes and pockets for crampons are additional features that you may wish to look for if you are planning on exploring during the winter. These keep gear that you may need in a pinch right at your fingertips.

At Planet Camping we feature a variety of the best rucksacks to suit everyone from the day-tripper to the multi-day guru. Do take a look at capacity before fit and fit before accessories in order to choose the sack perfect for you.

So, what do you think? Do you have more clarity when it comes to different types of rucksack bags? We hope you liked the guide and wish you a happy shopping!