While camping is a relaxing way to spend a holiday, often times you might want to find adventures beyond the confines of your campervan or tent site. Whether you are planning on a few day hikes or a longer multi-day foray into the highlands, you’ll need to put some thought into not only what equipment you are going to take with you, but also more importantly, how you are going to carry it.
When choosing your new rucksack, there are three main considerations: capacity, fit and features.While fit is the most crucial of the three, having a comfortable pack isn’t of much use if it’s too small to hold all your gear. The capacity of your rucksack is best determined by the length of time you’ll spend away from campsite or motel room, if your day trip is more city-oriented.
The smallest rucksacks are usually 6-1o litres. 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.
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.
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 leaves you a bit livelier on your feet.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 extra layers and food in order to be comfortable. If you are planning trips in all seasons, you’ll want to look at the next larger packs.
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 maximize 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.
After you have chosen the size of pack, you’ll want to be sure that the 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.
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 affix 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 affixed to the outside of the pack freeing up more space on the inside. Additionally, large exterior pockets allow easy access to snacks, maps, and even a rain poncho without having to undo and unpack the main compartments of your sackMost rucksacks 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. The Gelert 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 or fanny pack. These are 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 rucksacks to suit everyone from the day-tripper to the multi-day guru. Be sure to look at capacity before fit and fit before accessories in order to choose the sack perfect for you.