Daysac or big pack, you can make your load more convenient, more comfortable and more stable by following a few simple guidelines. We tell you how.
When Lowe Alpine were researching women's packs, they found that
girls favoured lots of compartments and hidden pockets so they could
be organised and logical when it came to packing. Boys, on the other
hand, seem to prefer something they can just throw things into willy
nilly with the vague expectation that whatever it is they need might
resurface at roughly the right time.
Fortunately, between these two extremes, lies a logical
compromise. Follow our quick guide to packing your rucksac and your
load will carry better, you'll be surer on your feet and the odds and
ends you need will be instantly at hand when you need them. Neat huh?
small to medium-sized day sac should be the easiest pack to load up.
For one thing, you should be carrying a relatively light load, which
won't have a big impact on your stability however you distribute it.
That means your main consideration should be easy access to the
things you're likely to need easy access to during the day.
Things like compasses, snacks, hats and gloves for example and
perhaps your shell jacket, should be either in pockets, stuff pockets
or a at the very top of the main compartment where you can reach them
Less frequently used kit - a survival bag, spare fleece, headtorch
and so on, can be safely packed away at the bottom of the pack.
Perhaps in its own stuff bag to keep it separate.
The other consideration may be to keep any hard objects from
poking through the back system and into your back. Some packs use a
plate in the back system which will protect you anyway, but if your
pack has a soft back, pad the area next to your back with, say, spare
clothes and maybe a sit mat to avoid discomfort.
Try to be consistent with where you carry stuff - that way you'll
know that your compass and hat are always in the lid pocket for
example, and the fig rolls live in the side stuff pockets...
you're toting a climbing rack and ropes, you'll have to deal with
relatively dense, heavy objects. Our tip, comfort allowing, would be
to try and pack them close to your back with lighter objects further
away. Doing this will keep your overall centre of gravity close to
your packless centre and enhance stability and balance.
Load distribution with a day load is still less crucial than with
a big pack, but it will make a small but appreciable difference.
of the ultralightweight packs with no back system or padding -
GoLite's Gust for example - mean that you have to modify your packing
technique as well as sticking with other ultralightweight items to
keep the load comfortable.
In particular, you need to use padded items, generally a sleeping
mat, to compensate for the lack of padding in the back system. As a
less comfortable alternative, you may be able to fold your tent flat
and use that, but whatever you do, you'll need to pad the back
section to prevent hard items, like pans, from pressing against your
For the rest, again try to keep the heaviest items closest to your
back for stability. A hydration system can work well here too.
Remember water weighs one kilo per litre, so a three-litre hydration
bladder works out at over six and a half pounds of weight. Again,
stuff you're going to use during the day, a camera for example,
should be put somewhere accessible.
a conventional internal-framed pack with a well-fitted hip-belt and
back system, weight transfer will make weight distribution slightly
less crucial, but how you distribute your load can still have a huge
effect on how comfortable and stable your pack feels.
Again you should aim to keep the heaviest kit you have close to
your back. On good, smooth trails, many experts suggest that you pack
heavy kit high as well. That's fine as long as the ground isn't too
technical. If it's rough and you're potentially going to sway around,
high loads, even close in, will make you feel unstable. For that
reason, when backpacking on rough, technical ground, keep the heavy
items low and close to your back. That way your overall centre of
gravity will be as low and close to your body as possible.
The more kit you're toting, the more methodical you need to be
about organising your load. One answer is to use stuff sacs to divide
your load internally. Spare clothes in one, cooking gear and stove in
another and so on. Again, think about what you need during the day to
avoid tedious pack decanting every time you fancy a raisin for
You'll have to compromise a little - even if your camera is
weighty, for example, it makes more sense to carry it somewhere
packs come with a lower 'sleeping bag' compartment, but that doesn't
mean you have to use it for that. If you're carrying a heavy wodge of
climbing hardwear for example, or a weighty tent on unstable terrain,
it may make more sense to carry that low down in the pack and put the
relatively light sleeping bag higher up where it has less impact on
your centre of gravity.
Wherever you put it though, make sure it's watertight or you can
expect a damp, miserable night at some point. One answer is to stuff
it into two strong plastic bags inside the stuff sac. Another
solution is a dry bag. Don't. whatever you do, stow it on the outside
of the pack where it's more likely to get damp.
Be careful with inflatable mats too. They are prone to puncture so
keep them off the outside of the pack and away from sharp objects...
Side pockets are great for accessibility, but best suited to light
items like spare clothing or polystyrene foam beads... One tip, if
you're sac isn't large enough for the load you're going to be
carrying, is to use a couple of canoe dry-bags under your side
compression straps and makeshift pockets. They work surprisingly well
and are waterproof too.
few packs on the market are waterproof - Berghaus make a few as do
Vango - and most will leak through untaped seams and zips. Pack
covers are one answer, but they're vulnerable to the weather can can
simply blow off.
Our suggestion would be to use lightweight dry bags, particularly
for items you need to keep dry like sleeping bags and spare clothes.
It's tempting to go for a single sealable pack liner, but it's
actually a less versatile system. Plastic bags and liners, by the
way, are okay for short trips, but usually give up the ghost with
Remember too that you need to protect dry items from wet stuff -
tents perhaps or waterproofs. And ideal solution for the latter is an
external stuff pocket, maybe a mesh one.
Discuss this story
See more comments...
Surely by heaviest this thread actually means densest.
As we are packing the entire contents of a sack within a predetermined volume (that of the contents asuming some compression straps) the density is what troubles us not the weight.
Eg. A 1 litre platypus of water is less massive than most sleeping bags, it therefore has greater mass than the sleeping bag, however, it will have a far lower volume (even with the bag compressed) and will thus be less dense.
You should clearly pack the water closer to your back than the sleeping bag, I put the water in the platy to avoid accessibility agruments.
I know how to make myself unpopular....
Posted: 03/08/2005 at 00:08