A twisting trail. A dark forest. A gaggle of friends. All of the aforementioned are integral parts to an awesome day playing with Mother Nature. However, there is one thing missing from the list that is also critical to a successful trip: your backpack. This piece of kit is utilized by outdoor enthusiasts every time they venture into the unknown, yet time and time again we see friends struggle with their pack. Whether it is a packing problem, weight issue or broken buckle, backpack troubles can turn an amazing day into endurance, which isn’t very cool when you have twenty more kilometers to go. So hack you pack with the following 10 tips:
1) Size Matters
When you first go to purchase a pack, ensure you get a gender specific model – this is critical as male and female packs vary significantly. Have the salesperson measure you as many packs come in multiple sizes. Insist that they load up the pack and allow you to walk around. Bring your largest jacket as the straps must be comfortable overtop of it.
2) Build the Arsenal
Most outdoor junkies have multiple packs – I was guilty of having seven before I purged. Make sure you are buying the appropriate volume for the trip type. A day trip bag ranges from 15-40L. Overnighting typically requires up to 60L. Anything bigger and you start looking at multiple days (yes!!). Remember that a biking pack, climbing pack and backpacking pack are all different.
Once you have your pack, it is time to customize. Firstly, patches look great and personalize your pack – they make for a great conversation starter (you are Canadian?!). Many packs have hip-belts that can be molded at the store, or with a blow-dryer. Finally, if plan to hike shirtless in Arizona, you are going to want to add some padding to the straps to prevent chaffing.
4) Prepare for the Deluge
Before you leave the store, buy the best pack cover on the market, which is essentially a rainfly. A neat option is to get a rainfly with a hood, which can prevent leakage down your back. Consider putting a lightweight tarp inside the bottom of your pack for when you set it down. Even though your pack looks waterproof, be sure to dry bag anything that you can’t afford to get wet before setting off.
5) Handyman (or woman!)
Wear and tear is going to happen. Always pack a spare hip and chest buckle. Wrap some duct tape around a water bottle for repairs. Consider Tenacious Tape which can double as a tent repair kit. Stemming small rips when they start will add longevity to your pack.
6) Get a Bear Vault
If you are overnighting, a bear vault is an easy way to store your food. Not only does it take away the need to rope up your food, the large size makes an ideal seat. Most 50L+ packs fit a vault between the lid and the main compartment with little issue. Store quick access items in the top of it. You won’t regret the investment.
7) Treat it
To lengthen the life of your pack, be sure to use a damp cloth to clean it. Use wax on the zippers to keep them running smooth. Don’t dump your pack on the ground after a long haul – let it down smoothly. Most importantly, don’t heft it onto your back via the shoulder straps. Packs have a reinforced hanger between the straps to pull up on.
8) Pack Correctly
When you are gearing up, put the items on the bottom that you won’t need regularly (sleeping bag, mattress). As you move up the pack, start adding heavier items as your shoulders can share some of the burden. Too much weight in the bottom can compress your spine overtime. Always balance the weight on either side – fatalities have occurred when hikers were unbalanced by a poor packing job.
9) Tweak and Tweak Again
Dialing in your pack is critical. Every morning, loosen off all of your straps. Put your fully weighted pack on and tighten the shoulder straps, cinch your hip belt, move on to the upper shoulder straps and then the chest strap. Tweak as needed. If you take a long break, or change out of your jacket into your tentree t-shirt, consider resetting your straps.
Many of us are guilty of buying the latest pack every year or two. If this is you, consider your impact on the environment and if you really need a new pack. Just as tentree focuses on planting new trees to help the environment, you can lessen your impact by purchasing quality packs that will last and donating them when the time comes for a new one. On a final note, factors like brand and colour are subjective – the bottom line is if you are spending $200 on a daypack, regardless of brand it will be bombproof. Some adventurers prefer darker colours to help them blend in with the locals and not stand out. The flipside is some love bright and bold colours in order to stand out in photographs (guilty!). Utilize the above to ensure your exploration is hassle free – at least where your backpack is concerned!