backpack first fittingWould you believe how complicated it’s been to buy a rucksack which is going to be my house for nine weeks?

So what does it need to include? It needs to have easy access, lots of pockets, compression straps, water holder and big enough to include everything I want to carry but not too big to feel that I’m a tortoise, or that I’ll fall over every time I bend forward. So do you go for the brand name?

These are obviously very good quality but also have a high pricetag. Have you ever thought what’s the difference between a rucksack and a backpack?

In most cases they are treated as the same but technically a backpack is smaller than a rucksack and hence used for different purposes.

But when choosing a rucksack, it’s important to consider the size, weight, features and what you’re going to use it for.

Now this is an interesting question. What do you think of when we use the term litres? A liquid perhaps of how much water we need to drink in a day? But I’m sure he wouldn’t be thinking of air capacity in the size of a backpack/ rucksack? But that’s exactly how they are measured.

Small backpacks are usually between 6 L and 12 L – Best for short walks, and perhaps cycling or running. They usually just have one compartment and maybe a couple of mesh nets for water bottles.

A day pack is slightly larger between 10 L and 30 L and are ideal for days out, but they do start showing additional features with various pockets, compartments and space for water reservoirs for those longer days out. They’ve also got a bit more padding and are more comfortable on your shoulders and back.

Next are the medium-sized rucksacks which are between 35 L and 50 L and these are ideal for multi day hikes and weekends away. They have more space for clothing and additional fixing points to hang things on the outside if you need them. These have better padding on the shoulders and back and allow breathing space to stop those sweaty moments.

Then there are the large rucksacks which are generally between 65 L and 80 L. These rucksacks cover a wide range of use from hiking, a week away, or even travelling around the world and they hold pretty much everything you need for those trips.

On these longer treks, it’s important to have much better padding and adjustable backs to fit different bodies because if you’re carrying a rucksack with some weight in it then it’s important for you not to put any strain on your back. There is often a frame within the rucksack and a system which allows your hips to take most of the weight. Some rucksacks have what they call an anti gravity system which means that the hips and the metal structure take all the weight off your shoulders. Such a contrast to the rucksacks of the past.

These rucksacks also contain many pockets and different features so you can access waterproofs and maps quickly, a hydration system so you don’t have to keep taking a bag off every time you want a drink and various hooks and ties as well as compression straps to keep the bag compact and keep things in place rather than rattling around within the rucksack.

Thankfully these rucksacks usually contain a rain cover which means should it chuck with rain your equipment stays dry. These features are sometimes available on some of the smaller rucksacks as well.

So how did I choose my rucksack? I’ve chosen the Osprey Ariel 65 AG. This is a 65 L rucksack with an antigravity system. It’s is slightly heavier at 2.2kg, but carries the weight fully on the hips with shoulders just as guidelines.

Before I chose this new rucksack I took my old one out for one last trip. Used over 30 years when I went backpacking around the world with a friend in my 20’s. It was just about in one piece. Unfortunately I’m not as young as I used to be but it still worked and earlier this year I headed off to the Peak District for a weekend to test it out and find out which features are important to me. Some of the straps were broken but on the whole it still worked and of course it was my favourite colour purple! (fully colour-coordinated !)

I soon discovered that this style of rucksack predominantly had the weight on the shoulders and by the end of the first day my shoulders were incredibly sore. I also recognised I liked the multipockets so I could access snacks, water, wipes, tissues, maps and camera plus other extras. I was carrying a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment and my clothes and it seemed to be very heavy even though it was less than 14kg. However it still felt incredibly heavy and awkward every time I had to take it off to have a drink or access snacks etc. So I definitely will need an additional ‘bum bag to access all those extras without the need to take my rucksack off as much.

Whilst I will be wild camping and staying in campsites a lot of the time, there will be times I want a rest and will be needing a proper bed in an Airbnb or YHA. On these occasions, plus also if there is torrential rain for a few days or if I have company on the walk, then I won’t want to be carrying my rucksack to my next stop and so will share a taxi to take my luggage to my next resting stop. This will give me the opportunity to just carry a small backpack for the day and have a well earned break.

I had narrowed my choice to about three different rucksacks, all of which were comfortable, 65 L and had various degrees of openings and features. One was even purple and I was very tempted to go for that to fit in with my colours! ????????. However my final decision was because I wanted a top, front and bottom access to the main luggage area, several external connection points and compression straps on the outside to allow me to carry my small day pack.

So let me know what rucksack you chose and why?

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