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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Three Tips to Choosing the Right Camping Backpack

“It’s just a bag”

That’s what most inexperienced campers say. Unknown to them, the choice of bag is no trivial matter to any serious camper. You will never appreciate how a good backpack can benefit your trek until you try going on a major one using an ill-fitting pack.

Take for example the experience of a trekker who went on a trip to the Appalachians in 1994. Instead of an exhilarating camp experience, he had to go home broken and bleeding from the weight of an ill-fitting pack damaging his hips. A decade later – with him a lot wiser and experienced – this hiker, accompanied by a better fitting pack, made 960 miles of terrain – a better and greater experience than having your trip cut short by inconveniences due to terrible equipment.

Now you know how important a good pack is, here are a few tips to help you choose a good pack for the journey that lies ahead of you.

1. Know what you need – hikers and campers vary sharply in camping preferences, some are very minimalist in nature and take only the bare essentials. Others take a lot more equipment on their trips. The amount and type of equipment you bring will definitely shape the decision you make towards what backpack you will need.

You can then do some simple computation on your space needs. Most capable sales representatives can give you the amount of space their bags offer. When doing this try using the measurement for the amount of equipment you take for the longest trip you expect to go on.

2. Is it comfortable – this is probably the most important consideration when choosing a backpack for camping. The goal of every good camping bag is to help campers carry the most amount of weight with the least amount of effort – and inconvenience for that matter.

Good packs distribute weight efficiently, allowing you maximum comfort when carrying the pack. To know how well a pack does this, you will have to test the pack itself. Most camp stores will have sand weights to place in the pack so that you can test how the pack holds up to the weight. You will have to carefully consider how comfortable these packs are before even considering them for purchase.

A rule of the thumb to remember is that the shoulder straps should carry about 30% of the weight, while the hips – being a lot more stable should carry about 70% of the weight. When testing the pack, make sure the shoulder straps are not uncomfortable or restrictive. Try moving around in them to see how much mobility the backpack gives you.

Most packs also have a sternum strap. These straps help stabilize the backpack. Sternum straps should be positioned below the collarbone to ensure comfort and stability.

The hipbelts on the other hand should not constrict your breathing, nor should they be too thick that they reduce your mobility too much.

Designs always vary and backpack companies are always heralding a ‘new and improved’ technology for campers to try out. The only way to really know if these new bags work is for you to try them out

3. Choose your frame – there are two types of frames to choose from – internal and external. Internal frames are slimmer and hug your body closer, making them ideal for hard trails since they are so maneuverable and do not restrain mobility. They are a bit harder to load though. External framed backpacks are great for beginners on easy trails since they are easier to pack. However, they are a bit stiffer and may restrict mobility. It’s the best type of backpack for children and beginners though.

4. Extras – when purchasing backpacks consider whether the pack is compatible with weather sheets to protect your pack against the elements. Also consider how attachments can be adapted for your pack. Most packs rings and snap-ons that allow for accessories to integrate with your pack.
In the end, a good pack is almost synonymous with a great trek. Choosing a good pack will definitely enhance your camping experience tenfold. Choose carefully, since your backpack will probably be your most trusted companion in all of your camping trips. Good luck hunting!

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