How to choose, adjust, and pack your backpack

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In this article, we give you the essential tips on how to choose, adjust, and pack your backpack. It’s no rocket science but there are a few pointers that are good to know.

Selecting the backpack

The first thing to do when selecting your backpack is to consider its intended use. What kind of hiking trips do you like to do, in what conditions, and at what time of the year. If you like to hike in the summertime and don’t spend more than a couple of nights in the forest, you will manage with a lot smaller pack than a person who enjoys week-long hiking trips in the wilderness. For longer trips (week or more), you should select a backpack that is at least 60 liters. One of course needs to consider the size of the hiker as well. For example, a tall guy that wears Mega Large clothes needs more space for the sleeping bag and spare clothes than an X-Small pixie. Another thing to take into consideration is how heavy gear you own/want to own. Ultralight spandex hiking is a whole new ballgame than vintage military surplus.

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If you want to do other things besides sitting by the campfire, such as fishing, hunting, climbing, or canoeing, you probably want a backpack that is made of tough and water-resistant material. For heavy loads, it might be wise to choose an external frame backpack.

When you know what kind of backpack you need, you should try out several options and find a suitably sized and well-fitting one. Many backpacks either allow the back length adjustment or the same pack is available in various sizes. It is worth remembering that a well-fitting heavier backpack is more comfortable to carry than a lighter one that is very uncomfortable.

Adjustment

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Start the adjustment process by loosening the following straps: hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, and the sternum strap. Put some stuff inside the backpack because it is a lot more difficult to adjust an empty backpack properly. Lift the backpack on your shoulders and tighten the hip belt below the navel at the ilium. Tighten as tight as you comfortably can. The final place of the hip belt varies from user to user. Some folks like to wear it below the ilium. The hip belt is too low if your hip flexors get tired far too early.

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After the hip belt is adjusted, tighten the shoulder straps so that one-fifth of the weight is on the shoulders and four-fifths are on the hip. Then tighten the load lifters at the upper part of the shoulder straps so that the pack sits tightly against the upper back and the center of gravity isn’t far away from you.

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Finally, tighten the sternum strap to prevent the shoulder straps from sliding off the shoulders.

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Packing

When packing the backpack, you should aim at having the center of gravity as close to the upper back as possible. Pack all the light stuff at the bottom, in the side pouches, and at the top, and leave space for all the heavy stuff, such as water, beer, and other fluids around your upper back. If possible, avoid overpacking and hanging dingly danglies outside the pack. The ideal situation is to pack the shelter, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag inside the backpack.

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When packing, you should think about what you need most often during the day and put them in an easily accessible place. It is vital to get hold of the first aid kit very easily as well as the headlamp or flashlight if you hike in low-light conditions. Your sleeping gear can easily go at the bottom. It is also smart to use separate bags inside your backpack. For example pack clothes in one, food in another, etc.

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