You’re setting off the next day on a hut to hut trip in the mountains, and you have all your kit laid out ready, but what rucksack do you take? We’ve all been there, dithering over which pack has the right capacity, will fit all the kit but not be too roomy, and which is the most comfortable. This blog is from the latest kit advice page written by Emma, to help you choose the right pack. To view the original page, click here.
Rucksacks come in all shapes and sizes, each with a wide range of features designed to suit different purposes. One of the first considerations when choosing a new rucksack is the minimum and maximum capacity that you need. This will depend on what you plan to use if for (e.g. everyday bag or a week-long trip) and how much you need to take (the bare essentials, or kit for an overnight stay). Rucksacks are measured by the total capacity of all of the pockets in litres, i.e. you will be able to fit in 30 litres of gear in a 30 litre rucksack. The rucksacks we stock in our shop are between 22 litres, and 45 litres. Some rucksacks have adjustable capacity, such as Karrimor’s Alpiniste 35l + 10. We recommend that a rucksack that has a maximum capacity of 40 litres is sufficient for the majority of our courses.
It is essential to ensuring that your rucksack fits you correctly so that you can carry it, and the weight of its contents, in comfort. The fit of a rucksack varies for every person, and depends on your build and back length. The best way to ensure that a rucksack is suitable for your size, and will be comfortable, is to try them on and spend time adjusting the straps, and comparing to other rucksacks. The Icicle mountaineering shop has 7 different models of rucksack which you can try on and find the one that is the most suitable for your requirements, and the best and most comfortable fit.
Back or shoulder straps
The back/shoulder straps are the main straps that go over your shoulder. These are usually padded for comfort, and adjustable on most rucksacks. If the backpack sits too low, even when adjusted, it is too big for you and vice versa.
Chest and hip straps
Chest straps secure the padded shoulder straps from slipping off your shoulders. On most rucksacks the height of the chest straps can be adjusted so that you can set it to the most comfortable position, the chest strap can usually also be tightened bringing the back/shoulder straps closer together across the chest for optimum comfort. A correctly sized, and fitted rucksack uses the hip straps to take around 70% of the weight of the pack onto the hips. This greatly reduces the amount of pressure placed on the shoulder straps, and can also reduce backache from wearing a pack.
Pockets and compartments
Many rucksacks have at least two separate compartments which are useful for organising and separating contents. Many have a compartment in the lid of the rucksack which is useful for small items that you need easy access to, such as a headtorch, gloves, etc. Some also have additional internal zip pockets within or on the underside of the lid compartment, which allows items to be safely stowed away, such as keys, money etc, and not at risk of falling out of the main lid compartment when opened.
External Attachment points
Some rucksacks offer additional capacity through being able to attach items to the outside of the rucksack via loops, straps, daisy chains (a strip of webbing loops), or elasticated cord systems. External attachment points allow you to quickly store items such as jackets, and to stabilise the bag shape when it is not filled by reducing the movement of the contents inside.
For mountaineering, useful attachment points on a rucksack would include for securing ice axes, ice tool pick pockets, welded crampon patch, and rope strap.
For skiing you may require a rucksack that has side straps that can accommodate ski’s or snowshoes, and a means of fastening on ski poles or walking poles.
For running, you will probably want a light weight low capacity rucksack, that can also accommodate running or trekking poles.
Compression straps are adjustable straps that can usually be found on the top, side or down the front of the rucksack, which can be pulled tight to reduce the volume of the rucksack and to minimise movement of the items within the rucksack.
If you are looking to buy a rucksack, note that course clients get significant discounts at our shop, and you can see the range of rucksacks if you click here.