I’m going on holiday in tomorrow!
I’m so excited: I’ve read my travel guide front-to-back and made a list of all the places I want to go; I’ve laid out my folded clothes on the bed and made a list of everything I want to take; I flicked through the Cotswold Outdoors catalogue and made a list of all the things I’d buy to put in my Adventure Cupboard if I had an Adventure Cupboard. I just can’t wait to go.
And then I pulled my backpack out from under the bed. I’d forgotten that on its last outing, it spent most of its time lashed to the roof of a Ghanaian tro-tro alongside some rather blasé goats. It now appears to be mainly constructed from duct tape and bungee cord, and whilst still vaguely functional as a pack, it would be rather difficult to carry around on on my back. And as I’m a wanderer, and tend to spend my holidays on the move, a good backpack is a travel essential for me.
I think that a backpack is possibly the single most important thing that you’ll buy before hitting the road, so its worth taking your time and choosing wisely. A badly-fitting pack will not only spoil your day by making you feel uncomfortable, but it can cause lasting damage to your spine. But with so many different options available, how do you go about choosing what is right for you?
A lot depends on the activities that you want to do, as a good daysack for hiking will be different from a good daysack for trail running which will be different from a good daysack for climbing. Likewise, a large rucksack for travelling wouldn’t work well as a rucksack for alpine climbing and a self-supported expedition in a remote area would call for a truly huge pack.
A good tip is to try before you buy. Visit a few outdoor shops and try out several models for size. Load them up with some weight (a few Lonely Planets would do the trick) and stroll round the shop to give them a real test drive. It’s not worth trying it on empty, as all empty rucksacks will feel comfortable. Try a range of different fits, including packs with adjustable and fixed back systems. You can also get packs built specifically for women, although these may not be ideal if you’re tall.
Play around with the buckles, straps and clips, to fit the pack to your body. Your shoulders aren’t the strongest part of your body, so you want to transfer some of the weight of the pack to your hips. Your hips don’t lie! Unless you’re looking for a climbing rucksack and will be wearing a harness, you want a well-fitting, padded hip belt, making sure that it sits on your hips and not around your waist.
A good hiking daysack was top of my wishlist, but I was also after something suitable for travelling that would work as a carry-on bag. After extensive research and testing I’ve gone for a Deuter ACT Trail 28 daysack, which comes complete with a dandy yellow flower and loops to hang an ice axe. It has fittings to take a hydration system, a pack-away rain cover, a nifty external pocket to take waterproofs, and the whole front zips open too make it easier to get to your sandwiches. It’s also just the right size to use as carry-on luggage, fitting my laptop and camera, a chunky airport novel and my swimming kit, as well as some rolled up underwear and emergency clothes, but small enought to stuff into the overhead lockers. But the thing that sold it to me was the emergency advice printed inside the top pocket which showed me how to signal to resue aircraft. Not just practical, it’s looking out for my wellbeing too!
Are you a backpacker or suitcase stuffer? Do you like being able to take all the familiar comforts of home with you to stay in one place or do like the freedom to explore, even if it means compromising on comfort?