Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rucksacks: what to think about?

The last time I purchased a rucksack was when I went inter-railing several years ago. The factors which influenced my decision were a.) how cool it looked and b.) how cheap it was. I made the decision without any real research or thought. Luckily, the rucksack was actually very durable and suitable for the trip.

Now looking to buy an upgrade before heading to south-east Asia on a three month trek I have decided to take a closer look at what actually makes a good rucksack. If nothing else it will help me to understand the long-winded jargon filled spiels of hungry salesmen  which I'm about be subjected to.

Having searched the internet for an hour or so it became clear that there are several things to consider when choosing your backpack. This is what I have learned.

With prices ranging from as little as €40 to several hundreds there certainly is the potential to spend as much as you want. While it can be an expensive purchase in the long it is probably worth coughing enough shekels to get a decent pack. 

Before going shopping it is worthwhile taking two measurements. The first should be of your torso (i.e. the length of your back), using a tailor's tape you should measure from the seventh vertebra (the slight bump at the base of your neck) to iliac crest (the spine's centre point between the tops of both hip bones). Secondly you need to measure your waistline about 3cm above the iliac crest, as most rucksacks now have adjustable waist belts this measurement is not as important however it is still useful to have.

Once you've taken the measurements it's time to decide on the size of your rucksack. Sizes generally range from 35-90 litres and your needs will be determined by the trip length, climate and accommodation arrangements. Obviously if you're travelling in winter the heavier clothes you need will take up more space. If you plan to camp, as opposed to stay in hostels, all this equipment will have to be carried on your back. Sierra Trading Post provide a useful table for picking a size commensurate with the demands of your trip.

“Stays” are the vertical metal strips which hold the backpack's shape and also shift it's weight onto your hips. Some packs also have a “framesheet”, this is a usually made of some high density lightweight plastic and prevents any hard or sharp objects sticking into you back. As both of these will affect the comfort and durability of your rucksack they should be of a high quality.

If you're not a fan of sweaty backs then make sure your rucksack is well ventilated. As the majority of manufacturers have conducted a considerable amount of research in this area, an effectie ventilation system shouldn't be too difficult to find. Be careful though, while some of the more sophisticated designs improve airflow and reduce sweating they do so at the cost of increased weight and reduced storage space.

Most of us need something to hold a camera, water, food etc. while out sightseeing but don't want to travel with two backpacks, a small detachable day pack is a nice solution to this problem. It clips onto the outside of your main rucksack so you never have to worry about carrying it in your hands while travelling from hostel to hostel.

If you will be trekking in hot weather it is advisable to have rucksack which accommodates a water reservoir, this will allow you to keep hydrated easily. A raincover is also essential for any wet and rainy climates.

Happy Shopping!

Sierra Trading Post:

Lowe Alpine:

Eastern Mountain Sports – How to fit a backpack:

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