The right rucksack for that perfectly packed tour
For window shopping, crossing the Alps, or a trekking tour: You'll always need the right type of backpack to comfortably carry whatever you will need on the day. The range of different types of backpacks is huge, and includes the small daypack on the one end of the spectrum, and the big trekking backpack on the other. The following overview is meant to help you find your way through the jungle of offers out there and find what's right for you.
Find the right size of backpack
First of all you should ask yourself what and how much you want to transport in your backpack. The key factors here are weight and volume of the equipment to carry: A light-weight down jacket can take up a lot of space, while a slim laptop will have a lot more weight than space requirements. The following size table for backpacks (including information about max. load capacity depending on material, finish, and body weight) is meant as a guide for you:
- up to 10 l (max. 5 kg): short cycling tours, walking, city
- 15 - 20 l (max. 7 kg): day trips hiking/cycling with little baggage, climbing, skiing
- 20 - 25 l (max. 8 kg): day trips for any activity
- 25 - 35 l (max. 10 kg): two-day trips (or more where little baggage is needed) for any activity, business or school
- 35 - 45 l (max. 12 kg): multi-day trips (hiking), extended climbing tours, Alpine tours, ski tours
- 45 - 65 l (max. 18 kg): extended trekking tours, traveling
- 65 l and more (max. 25 kg): self-sufficient trekking tours, expeditions, extended round trips
The right back contact system for a backpack
In addition to the size of the backpack, the right back contact system is a crucial factor when selecting a backpack. For small backpacks and daypacks, a light-weight and straight back pad will suffice. It allows easy packing and will fit snug and stable on your back. The same applies for extremely light-weight backpacks, e.g. for running or climbing. Backpacks for cycling will either have good ventilation (netting at the back contact) or will lie snug against the back, depending on purpose. In longer cycling tours, ventilation is a definite benefit. For those traveling at a quicker pace or on rugged terrain )e.g. mountainbiking), a snug fitting backpack is the better choice. The same applies for other more intensive activities as well, e.g. ski tours, downhill, and climbing.
Hikers will find a backpack with a tightly strung mesh keeping some space between back and pack most comfortable. When carrying heavy loads (e.g. trekking tours), ventilation is less important, and the mesh is replaced with a plate to keep the weight close to the body. The following rule of thumb applies for hiking and trekking: Most of the load (70-80%) should sit on the hips to relieve the shoulders on a long term basis. This will need a wide, well-padded hip strap, which should be wider and larger the bigger the backpack, and the heavier the load.
The cut of the pack is another important aspect and should be considered when purchasing a new backpack: since it is best for the main part of the load to lie directly against the back, very large and extremely light-weight rucksacks (for particularly agile sports) will have a long, narrow cut. Cycling backpacks, on the other hand, will have a shorter, more pear-shaped cut, because you would otherwise keep hitting the top compartment with the helmet while cycling.
The right rucksack equipment:
The last, but by no means least feature is the backpacks equipment. While hiking backpacks come with a rain cover, a pole carrier, a holder for hydration systems and a removable bottom compartment (for wet clothes, shoes, or a sleeping bag), backpacks for Alpine tours also need fastening and storage options for the skis and climbers equipment. Very large backpacks should offer several access points for the main compartment (front, top, bottom), as you'll otherwise be wasting your time looking for things. A small compartment on the hip strap of the backpack for small utensils, like a Swiss army knife or a camera, is advisable. A good rucksack for the office will have some clever little details, like a notebook compartment, bottle holder, and organizer compartments. Some little extras, like a key holder and signal whistle will round off the overall appearance of a good backpack, offering you all you need for a perfect day out!