How to choose the right Rucksack


Choosing the right rucksack

When you’re thirsty, there is water. When you’re hungry there is food. When you’re cold there is shelter. No matter what your activity, no matter how big your pack, when you’re in the back country your rucksack is your life support system. For most of us a packing malfunction might just mean an uncomfortable afternoon, for others it might end in a call to mountain rescue. Avoid both by having a pack that will carry, and keep safe, all you need for your outdoor adventure.

Hydration Packs

Size – The first thing to consider will be your chosen activity. Generally runners only require packs ranging from 2-10 litres. Activities like mountain biking and climbing, which require extra equipment for repairs and emergencies, require larger models, usually between 5 and 20 litres. Also consider the weather conditions you will be going out in as this can have a significant effect on the space you require.

Features – A secure waist belt is a must, and some kind of compression or expansion system can be very useful for varying sized loads. An additional feature worth considering for bikers and climbers is a helmet holder. Keeping your helmet secure before or after a route, or on a hot hill climb can be very useful. Small pockets on the waist belt or shoulder straps are handy for energy snacks, or a hat and gloves.

Fit – Being a small pack all the weight will be carried on the shoulders, with the waist belt there for stability only. If you are engaging in intensive activities, especially running, don’t be shy about loading the pack up and having a good jump around. Excessive pack movement is very irritating and can be uncomfortable.



Size – Fair weather walkers, heading out for half a day in relatively sheltered terrain, can manage with packs as small as 15 litres. At the opposite end of the scale, a winter ‘Munro Bagger’ might require a pack as large as 40 litres, especially if they are leading a group. For most 20-30 litres is a good all-round size, but give careful consideration to additional clothing and equipment that might be needed for colder, more remote walks.

Features – For the slightly more committed walkers walking pole attachment is a must. Also for those that like to ‘get a move on’ hydration compatibility is also very handy. Rain covers are a nice bonus, but separate versions and pack liners are widely available. Sprung ‘air flow’ back systems are possibly the only way to keep a cool back in hot weather, but their curved shape can make them awkward to pack, and unstable for more intensive activities, so be sure to try them with a load first.

Fit – Unless choosing a very large daypack the vast majority of weight will be carries on the shoulder straps so make sure they are comfortable. Chest and waist straps should stabilise the bag to prevent excessive moment, especially that caused by side to side motion. Trying the pack loaded is useful to see where the weight sits on your back as this can cause irritation. It’s also worth remembering that lightweight packs may have thinner back systems and require more careful packing.




Size – Always a tricky one as it’s heavily dependent on the weather, your chosen accommodation, and your route. As a guide for a couple of nights ‘under canvas’, with essential equipment only, 60 litres with a little expansion room should be sufficient. Unfortunately ‘first time backpackers’, with their more basic bulky kit and lack of packing experience, might struggle with this size and may want to go up to a 70 lire pack. In this event make sure it has some kind of compression capability for future trips.

Features – Your might be expecting to hear that an adjustable back system is ‘a must’. However if a fixed back length offers a good fit for you it may work out to be cheaper and lighter. Having said that, if you are anything but the perfect size and shape, adjustable packs work very well. As for other features most backpacks should have walking pole attachment, and compression straps are pretty vital too. Also look for some way of drinking without removing your pack. Hydration systems and bottle ‘or wand’ pockets are both effective. There are loads of other features as well, but to find out the best way to finally choose your pack read on…

Fit – The single most important thing to consider when choosing a backpack. Never use your pack without loading, adjusting, and trying it around the house first. A correctly fitted backpack should carry 70-80% of the weight on your hips with the rest on the shoulders. The weight should be held close to your back and remain there without excessive movement when you move up and down, or side to side.


Buy Online with Confidence – Comfort and fit are prime considerations when choosing a pack. When your pack arrives from Go Outdoors, try it with a load around the house to check it’s right for you. If not, and you have kept it pristine, it can be easily exchanged. For larger backpacks why not call in at your local branch for a free fitting.

– Dan