Planning a trip? It’s a good time to be out in the open air but before setting off, whether just for the day or for longer, it’s a very good idea to be fully prepared with the right kind of equipment. Once you have the right boots for your chosen expedition
, the next fundamental step in preparation is the choice of backpack
: its size, what to put in it and how to wear it are just a few simple but very important things to consider. Your backpack will become your ‘house’ during your trip
. It’s your refuge and looks after your clothes, your food and anything else you might need for a little comfort and wellbeing along the way. Anybody can get a backpack ready by just throwing everything you think you’ll need into it, but packing properly like a professional has several advantages. The first advantage is that you’ll easily be able to find what you need when you need it because everything will be in its proper place. Another is that it will be easy and more comfortable to carry because the weight will be evenly distributed.
How to prepare your backpack?
CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIZE
- Whether you’re buying a new backpack or already own a few different ones, it’s important to choose the right size and capacity for the type of expedition you’ll be going on. Two things to consider are the length of your excursion and the season and weather, in particular the outside temperatures. Something else to think about is the weight and your backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 15 to 25% of your own body weight, keeping in mind your level of fitness too.
- Two factors to consider when choosing the size of your backpack are the measurements of your chest area and your spine. The one thing to keep in mind is a correct and balanced distribution of the backpack’s weight. The first thing to do is measure your chest, from your shoulder to the top of your hip. If you are thinking of using a fixed frame suspension backpack then it must fit snugly to your back, but most good backpacks these days are easily adjusted to fit well thanks to easy adjustable suspensions. It’s important to check that the hip-belt is comfortable and a good fit around your middle but again, most are adjustable.
INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL SUSPENSION?
One more thing to think of when choosing a backpack is what kind of structure do you want
? Internal or external
- Most of the ones available today have inbuilt suspension. Why? Because they offer better balance and stability on any kind of terrain. An internal suspension with a snug fit and good flexibility is particularly suited to mountaineers, skiers, climbers or expeditions on arduous terrain. This type of backpack in fact allows for greater freedom of movement and the arms to swing loose thanks to the slim and compact design.
- Backpacks with external suspension are suited to those who need to carry heavier loads and even better if they are divided into different compartments. This obviously helps to keep your belongings organised so that you can quickly and easily find your things. A modular backpack is a good choice if you are going to be away for several days but with a return to ‘base camp’ at the end of each day trip. This type of backpack has a large central body with an extractable section that becomes a small rucksack of about 10 to 12L.
In today’s world we are all looking for lighter ways to travel and it’s so much easier now with technologically enhanced equipment. Technology has been used to greatly improve the fit of a backpack, especially the adherence against one’s spine. Materials have improved too and offer good breathability so that your belongings remain dry and aired and not damp with perspiration.
It is worth noting however that trying to stay as light as possible could well mean sacrificing some items that would make your expedition more comfortable or pleasurable. Light or not, the most important thing is to find the right sized backpack for you with the capacity that you will need and a good balance between weight and comfort.
HOW TO PACK USING A COMPARTMENTALISED BACKPACK
Now that you have followed the above advice and you have your empty backpack in front of you, let’s look at the importance of packing it properly and which things go where so that weight is evenly distributed and your backpack stays comfortable. A perfectly packed backpack should be divided into three zones
- Bottom zone: right at the bottom of the backpack, is where you put bigger equipment and things that you will not need until you get to camp. Something that belongs with the larger equipment is undoubtedly your sleeping bag – unless your backpack has a special place underneath it specifically designed for carrying a sleeping bag – many of them do these days. Other things to go in this zone are your camping pillow (preferably rolled up), a change of boots for resting and/or eating times at camp and anything that you want to bring as nightwear. It’s important not to pack this zone with heavy things and to keep it soft instead so that it acts as a cushion against your lumbar region.
- Central zone: heavy things go in the central zone. The idea is to create a stable centre of gravity so weight must be as balanced as possible. For this reason, the central zone gets packed with your heavy or sturdy camping equipment such as a stove, pans, extra water and food. One thing to say about food: it’s advisable to have a metal box in which to put any perfumed foodstuffs to avoid attracting animals. Another good suggestion is to wrap heavy items in softer ones like your tent or clothes so that they don’t bounce around. Pack your water in this zone and pack it underneath your food just in case anything leaks.
- Top zone and outer part: In the top zone you should have everything that you will need for the day’s excursion. What kind of things? Your sunglasses, a first aid kit, a lightweight raincoat, heavier layers of clothing, a compass and your days’ worth of food or snacks. Many backpacks have things like clips and hooks on the outside where other things can be carried, things like your trekking poles and tent poles or a climbing rope etc. Please note however that fewer things hanging off the outside of your backpack is better. There’s always a risk of them getting caught in branches or rocks.
Now you are ready and your backpack is packed, go off and enjoy your adventure