Anything from bags you take to the 10-item-challenge
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Bram van Munster
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Location: the Netherlands


Post by Bram van Munster » Thu Sep 20, 2018 8:12 am

When you go out into the wilderness, taking your things with you in something other than a backpack is unthinkable. In fact, unless you have nothing at all, how are you going to take that with you? A haversack is going to get old really soon as you’re constantly being pulled to one side, either left or right, and the shoulder strap will eventually start to hurt, something that is not going to work obviously nor does a suitcase or a wheelbarrow.
So, the backpack! They come in all forms, shapes and sizes and it’s important to get one that fits your things but you as well. I have the luxury of choosing from a few backpacks, so I adjust the volume I will carry to the plans I have as well. When you go out to buy a backpack or read about them, the volume is always mentioned in liters. Why? To keep a uniform way to identify the volume inside of the pack. The amount of volume you can strap to the outside is never mentioned as everybody will strap different things to it.
If you have the plans to replace your backpack or simply want to start hiking, take the pointers below with you.

Make sure you get a pack that fits your needs!

What to look for when you want to buy a backpack?
First of all, skip all backpacks that don’t have a waist-strap. This is because your pack is going to be heavy at times, and the waist-strap helps you to transfer that weight down faster. You also don’t have to carry all the weight with your shoulders, which makes for a more comfortable hike. Both the waist-strap as well as the shoulder-straps should be thick and padded, so the material adjusts itself to your shape and adding comfort.

Your shoulder-straps should be as broad as possible. This too is for comfort. We have all carried things in a plastic bag at times, and we all remember the grips cutting in our hands when the bag was heavy. The same principle is applied for shoulder-straps! You want to be able to carry your things around without being cut in half, or having to stop every 15 minutes because it hurts to carry.

For this reason, also make sure you have a chest-strap which closes in front of you with sturdy clips. This one doesn’t need to be padded, but made out of strong and durable material just like the rest of the straps on your backpack. The chest-strap makes sure the pack can’t lean back too much, and doesn’t bounce around as you walk.

All other external straps that are meant for strapping extra things to your backpack should be made out of incredibly durable material that can take the abuse of you trying to add things like a sleeping bag to the bag. Most larger backpacks also have straps to the side or a mesh of stretchable rope to help you compact the volume. Those should be also very durable, to take many years of abuse.

The material of which the backpack is made should also be incredibly durable and waterproof. You don’t want to walk in the forest, get snagged, the fabric rips and you have to pick up your things from the ground, do you? Also, chances are you will have to face the weather at times, so also rain, hail and fog. One of the worst things you can encounter is unpacking and everything you got with you got wet, including your sleeping bag and hammock. Also, make sure you can clean it easily. Most backpacks will come in a fabric you can easily clean with a damp cloth, but check it, just to be sure.

Most of the external pouches you find on any backpack are closable with zippers which should be big and strong to take many years of punishment. Think about it, how many times have you tried to close a slightly overfilled compartment and the zipper was too small to hold properly or the handgrip came off? For that reason, it’s worth your time to look for the big and strong ones.

When you open your pack, the main compartment should have a waterproof flap on top of it as well. This is because almost every backpack as a top compartment that can be raised so you can fit more stuff underneath it. Without the extra flap, rain can still get inside and ruin your day.

The larger backpacks often have a extra waterproof flap separating the main and bottom compartment. This is because you might have things you want to keep separated from the rest, like dirty clothes, wet shoes, etcetera.

If you keep to these pointers, I’m sure you’ll find a backpack that will last you for many years and a LOT of fun! When you test-fit it, ask the store employee to adjust the pack to your body. If you found a good pack, the location of the shoulder-straps can be lowered or raised, making you more comfortable. When I got my largest pack, the store employee was able to put his hands in the main compartment and he lifted his feet off the ground. I hardly noticed being pulled back from the sudden weight, but of course noticed weight being added to the pack. When he did this, I was sure the pack was properly adjusted to me, and it would serve me for many years.


When you load up the pack, you should make sure to keep the heaviest things as close to your body as possible. The reason is pure science! The further back it is, the more you will be pulled back. Your muscles have to work more to keep you upright, and the loss of extra energy makes you tired quicker. When you have heavy things close to you, the straps on the shoulders and waist will help to transfer the weight to your legs and into the ground and you’ll hardly notice it then. The further back things are, the less you’ll be able to walk. In the image, you see the man with a standard backpack leaning forward slightly, which is also a posture that will wear you out quickly. He even needs a cane to support him! That is why you want a pack that adjusts itself to you, instead of the other way around.

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