How to choose the correct backpack
Your backpack will probably be the single most important purchase you will make before hitting the road. It can be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on which one you pick. With that in mind, here are a few pointers to consider when choosing a backpack.
Before choosing a rucksack, have an idea of what’s going to go in it. Visualise the contents, understand your needs, and shortlist a range of rucksacks accordingly. The shortlist should contain rucksacks big enough for the largest loads you will carry, but no bigger - as the larger the backpack, the more you may be inclined to fill it. But don’t go too small either, as an overloaded rucksack may feel uncomfortable and unstable, and may force you to have to secure extra gear on the outside thus increasing the risk of loss or damage.
Types of Backpack
• Daypacks (15 - 35L) - Small backpacks with minimal or no internal frame to support loads, so all weight is transferred through shoulder straps. Perfect for day trips and shorter outings.
• Alpine Packs (35 - 55L) and Backpacking Packs (55 - 75L) – This will be the area to concentrate in for a backpacking or RTW trip. If possible, the smaller alpine pack.
• Expedition Rucksacks (75 - 100L) – These packs are huge. Possibly necessary for trips involving many climate changes for those wishing to carry all their gear from the word go.
• Travel Packs - Essentially, these are like soft suitcases with shoulders straps that can be covered (to avoid snagging when not being carried). The downside is that they are generally a little more expensive and also bulkier than their rucksack equivalent.
Choosing a rucksack that is a good fit is of paramount importance. If possible, try each rucksack with some weight in. It may feel quite different. Fill the backpack with the approximate weight that you will be carrying, and distributing it as best you can. After you have achieved a good fit be sure to test drive the backpack a little. Lean forward, backward, and also sway from side to side. The rucksack should remain snug, and not swing wildly or throw you off balance.
What to Look For
Shoulder Straps - Focus on rucksacks with wide, well padded (yet firm), shoulder straps. Ensure that the straps keep the rucksack central and well balanced, that they don’t slip and that they keep the rucksack snug yet don’t chaff or restrict arm and upper body movement.
Hip Belt – Often overlooked, a good Hip Belt is essential. It should be strong enough to bear the main pack weight as it will, when used properly, transfer the weight from your back to your hips, thus considerably increasing comfort and reducing back strain when wearing the backpack for prolonged periods of time.
The benefits of hitting the road with the right backpack cannot be underestimated. Sure, you can travel with almost any bag. But a comfortable, well-fitting rucksack will not only be physically beneficial, but will make life a little easier in the long run.