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Rucksack Advice

Rucksack frontEnsuring that your rucksack fits your back correctly is of crucial importance. A badly-fitting rucksack can increase fatigue and create soreness around the shoulders. Extended use of a poorly-fitted, overloaded rucksack can lead to long-term problems with your spine.

There’s no point in trying on an empty rucksack because all empty packs feel comfortable! The amount of weight you place inside will depend on the carrying capacity of the rucksack and what you intend to carry. But as a rough guide, eight kilos in a 50 litre pack, and around 12 kilos in a 65-plus litre rucksack should be sufficient to give you a good idea as to whether the design is going to be comfortable. Try to ensure that this weight is evenly distributed throughout the rucksack, and not just in the base.

Rucksack back systems generally fall into one of two broad categories: adjustable and fixed. Fixed back lengths either fit you or they don’t, and so many manufacturers make their fixed length rucksacks in a number of sizes. By contrast, adjustable back systems can be customised to fit your back. This is ideal if you fall mid-way between fixed back lengths, or if more than one person is going to use the rucksack. Some people claim that fixed-back rucksacks have less to go wrong with them and so are more durable, but I’ve never had an adjustable system fail on me (yet!).

Rucksack backThe crucial part of the actual fitting process, especially on larger rucksacks, is to ensure that the hip belt sits on your hips and not around your waist. This way, more of the rucksack’s weight will be transferred from the relatively weak shoulders to the stronger pelvic girdle. Just how much weight can be transferred is the subject of much debate, although it is fair to say that most people find that a well-fitting, padded hip belt removes at least some of the weight from the shoulders. It is also important that the shoulder straps curve snugly over the shoulders. However, take care not to tighten these straps until the hip belt is correctly sited.

Once you are happy with the general fit of the rucksack, you can adjust the top and side stabiliser straps. Stabiliser straps help to draw the load in towards the body in order to prevent the rucksack swaying around. By loosening and tightening these straps you will soon discover for yourself the tremendous difference they can make to the overall fit of your pack.


Rucksack packing


Please note: this is a guide not the event kit list

Once we have a good fitting rucksack then packing it functionally will also help. This diagram will give you some help.

The larger and heavier items want to be packed in the middle and to the harness side of the sack and the lighter items to outside of the sack. All sleeping bags and clothing should be in plastic or dry bags to stop them getting wet especially if you have a hydration bladder. Water proofs should be in the top pocket or just under the lid with the day time rations close to the top too. Gas cylinders should be detachable from the stove and stored away from lighters/matches. Maps ,compasses and route cards should be carried in your map cases