Points To Ponder
some strange reason the carrying capability
of a rucksack is measured in litres.
This is quite hard to visualise so check
them out in the flesh to establish sizes
in your minds eye. It is generally felt
that bags of about 20 litre capacity
are suitable for school use, trips to
town, and summer low level walks while
those with a 30 to 40 litre capacity
are for year long serious use on the
hill. Normally these are also excellent
for weekend hostelling or lightweight
Although canvas is still used by
some manufacturers, cotton has now been
superseded by man made fibres. Whereas
some companies use "off the shelf"
materials to construct cheaper bags,
most technical manufacturers assist
develop their own fabrics to give good
abrasion resistance and tear strength.
This has created a confusing jungle
of material brand names but should ensure
quality even at the budget end of their
ranges. Rucksack fabrics normally have
a polyurethane finish but this does
not mean that they are waterproof for
most leak at the seams. It pays to pack
your gear wrapped against water in your
Asda carrier bag!
Besides the use
of quality fabrics, fastenings are equally
important. These should be reliable
and easy to use even when wearing gloves.
Plastic, quick release buckles are now
the norm and heavy duty YKK zips are
renowned for their resilience. Stitching
should be checked to ensure that it
will not come adrift especially at points
of high strain such as the shoulder
straps. Larger capacity sacks may well
have vulnerable areas, such as the base,
reinforced with additional material.
Many bags are now
contoured to sit and hold a load correctly.
Larger sacks often have a hip strap
to assist stability over broken ground.
For the same reason, side straps are
sometimes provided to compress the sack
to obtain a clean cut, low profile when
carrying small loads.
Rucksack shoulder straps should
be padded and not compress under load.
Padding may come in the form of high
density foam with reinforced stitching
or dual density foam; one foam providing
the padding while the other creates
lateral support to prevent the straps
distorting and digging in. Foam should
also be of the
variety to stop them soaking up water
like a sponge. Tapered straps are also
available for comfort where a wide strap
may rub. Straps should be easy to adjust
with one hand while the sac is on the
back. Some bags have an elasticated
chest strap which attaches between the
shoulder straps to hold them in the
correct position when worn.
Back ventilation and protection
from the pain inflicted by rogue flasks
was once achieved by a light metal frame.
Backs are now protected by soft padded
fabrics which, unfortunately, can encourage
the back to sweat. Manufacturers use
a number of methods to overcome this
problem. These include sown V-shaped
channels to funnel air around the back
and the use of foam and airmesh (a string
vest type material) to encourage air
flow. Some sacs have removable padding
which can be used as a sit mat at coffee
Most day bags have a pocket located
on the lid. This is very useful to keep
under control those quickly required
roving items, like gloves, hat, camera
and trail snacks. Consider side pockets
to provide easy access to larger items,
such as first aid kit and water bottle,
which also have a habit of migrating
to the bottom of your pack! Clean cut
sacks without side pockets are desirable
to prevent snagging when scrambling,
climbing or mountaineering. Many of
these have side brackets upon which
to sling detachable pockets or ski's.
Ice axe and crampon fixing points are
required by those going out on the hill
For those low level walks on a balmy
summers day it is worth while considering
a bum bag. These comfortable specialist
bags are worn around the waist. Normally
about 3 to 6 litre capacity, there is
enough room in them for a windproof
top, a drop to drink, camera and trail
snack. Some of these beltpacks have
a separate carrying facility for a water
bottle. These are also ideal for fitness
walking and running.