Any outdoor excursion, whether a short walk or an extended camping trip, can be ruined by a poorly prepared backpack. Here’s a few tips to ensure your trip isn’t affected by a bad pack or bad packing decisions.
Find your fit
The key to comfortable pack carrying is being able to distribute the load properly between the shoulders and the hips. To cater for different body shapes, pack manufacturers either offer backpacks in a range of back lengths or design the harnesses so that they can be adjusted for length. Both shoulder straps and hip belts need to be well padded and carefully contoured to give a firm, stable fit.
When trying a pack for size, first make sure it is loaded with 10 to 20 kilograms (22 to 44 pounds) of weight. Start by cinching in the hip belt so that the top of the belt is roughly level with the top of your hip bone. Then tighten the shoulder straps. The load should be borne mainly on the hips with the shoulder straps holding the pack securely against your back. Take the opportunity to walk and bend with the pack while fine tuning other adjustments such as top-tension straps and hip-belt stabilisers.
To get the best out of a backpack it needs to be efficiently packed.
- Use stuffsacks to organise your gear into logical groupings
- For general walking, heavy items should ride close to your back at about shoulder height
- Light or bulky gear can be stowed towards the outside with the base of the pack usually set aside for the sleeping bag
- For any activity in steep terrain where balance is a priority, heavier items should be carried lower in the pack where they provide added stability
Sizes range from small carry-alls for day trips to extra-large packs for camping trips. A comfortable backpack that does not overstrain your back is a good investment. When shopping, consider your requirements carefully and try wearing a pack before you buy.