We will not talk about proper mountaineering and climbing – although stay tuned! We will explore this discipline soon – but discover the fascinating world of rucksacks. We will consider those good for daily excursions, with difference in height of no more than 1000/1500 m. We can no longer talk about “Any rucksack will do”, and manufacturing societies craft more and more specific models, so that clients can choose according to their gender – women specific rucksacks usually distribute weight in a different manner and fasten in a diverse fashion – or the dimensions of their back. This makes mountain adventures more pleasant and a joyful ride.
Please remember that you are not leaving for the K2, and you will have to carry anything you choose to bring. Try not to be like modern heroes. It is forbidden to fill the rucksack with stones just to train (Some people do that). Eliminate excess items (the last 500-page novel, a beach towel…).
Nonetheless, there are some essential items you should not forego having with you. These are:
- Something to drink. Avoid sugary, soft or alcoholic drinks and opt for water of tea sweetened with honey. You need to reintegrate the liquids lost with the sweat, especially in the summer. Do not wait until you are extremely thirsty.
- Something to eat. If you do not stop in one of the marvellous huts or local malghe, and opt for a packed lunch, prefer light snacks such as fruit and cereal bars.
- Some spare clothes (especially if the forecast is not good), a fleece and a Gore-Tex jacket which will protect you from the elements.
- A map and compass
- A small first-aid kit
As a general rule, when you choose a rucksack, you should consider:
- The length of the hike and the types of excursions you usually undertake.
- Your personal style of backpacking: do you like to reduce to the minimum or do you tend to bring a lot with you?
- Your body shape: the length of your torso counts more than your height in this case.
The capacity of a rucksack is measured in litres. For daily hikes, a 20/25 l rucksack is usually enough. If your hike lasts two or three days, we are talking about 30/40 l. These are very general rules and a more thorough investigation is needed if you intend to sleep in a tent – thus requiring space for a sleeping bag and mat, as well as a stove.
In addition to the aesthetics – important as it may well be – you should also consider external pockets and any hook on the rucksack. Do you drink often? Then the external pocket is perfect for your flask. Also look for camelback options. Do you think you will go on a glacier, therefore requiring crampons and an ice-axe? Look for loops on your rucksack, they are usually designed to carry ice-axes or poles, so that your hands are free when needed.
Always try the rucksack on in the shop (fill it in with something, even if it’s just paper) and check how the hip belt and shoulder straps fit. The pack should sit comfortably and distribute the weight well – not only on the shoulders, but on the hips, as well. It is essential for the rucksack to adapt to your back and your posture, not the other way round. If your choice is dictated by haste or fashion, you will regret it later on!
The frame of the rucksack should not sit directly on your back, but let it breathe it. This is either achieved by rigid frames or a padded insulation, which make your hikes pleasurable.
Many packs have a raincover, too. This is a clever invention which protects it from the rain and gives a hint of colour. – Remember that there are no waterproof rucksacks on the market.
Last but not least, ask the shop assistant any questions you can think of, they are there for you. Ask your friends for advice. There are many brands out there and they are all good. Do not necessarily buy the most expensive option, but do choose according to your needs.
Be curious. Each rucksack is the result of many experimentations and it is important to discover their (often hidden) features.
And do not feel discouraged if you find it hard at the beginning. As the mountain guideGuido Rey once said, “The mountains are for everyone, not only for mountaineers. […] For those who search in tiredness an even stronger rest and satisfaction.”