Choosing a rucksack for long distance hiking

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Some serious baggage

A comfortable rucksack is essential for any kind of long distance hiking and I decided to make that my first purchase. The last time I did a multi-day hike, when I was a teenager back in the early nineties, my rucksack was basically a canvas bag slipped onto a large metal frame. Comfort didn’t feature in its design, and I don’t remember it having useful things like pockets, or separate compartments, or anything more than shoulder straps. How things have changed, and how very confusing it all was – not to mention potentially expensive

After looking online, watching YouTube videos from helpful outdoorsy people, and reading a lot of reviews and blog posts – including this one – I decided to splash out on an Osprey. I didn’t want my walking to be spoilt by an uncomfortable pack or problems with my back – you only get one spine and it’s worth looking after it, especially when you’re going to be carrying a lot of weight

The rucksack

The front

I bought an Osprey Renn 65, knowing it was probably a bit big but figuring that as long as I didn’t cram it full of unnecessary things, it would give me room to carry extra food or water if I needed to, to take off and pack away an outer layer easily, and to avoid having to fight to pack and unpack it. It’s adjustable to your torso length to make sure it fits properly and is comfortable, or as comfortable as carrying a heavy pack can be. It also has load adjusters plus plenty of pockets and compressions straps, and not forgetting a nifty stowaway rain cover. You can see the full spec of my pack and the men’s version on the Osprey website

The back

‘Ow much?!

I’m a Yorkshirewoman and, true to the stereotype, I like to get my money’s worth out of everything. Buying a  rucksack at the top of my budget is my way of making sure I don’t back out of long distance hiking – it’s too big for a daypack so can only be used on multi-day hikes, and hangs on the back of my bedroom door as a reminder of the money spent and the adventures still to come. As it turns out, buying the Renn 65 turned out to be a really good decision, for reasons I wouldn’t know until later – but I’ll save that for a future post

What I learnt about buying a rucksack

  • Don’t pick a rucksack based on looks or colour
  • Be prepared to spend more than you might think
  • If you’re looking at a bigger pack, are you disciplined enough to not fill it with unnecessary things “just in case”
  • Check all the features you want are there – is it adjustable in all the right places, is it designed for a hydration pack, are there the compartments and pockets you need, does it come with a waterproof cover, is it around the weight you’re looking for
  • Try it on – weight the pack (if you’re in a store, ask them if you can borrow some of their stock to do this) and adjust it to fit you. You’ll need to try it and adjust it for all the layers you’re likely to wear – base layer, middle layer, jacket, waterproofs. While you’re doing that, see how easy it is to adjust – will you be able to do that on a wet day on the trail after throwing on waterproofs
  • Look at yourself in a mirror – can you see any pinch points where straps look likely to rub, and if you adjust to remove those is the pack still as comfy

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