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Buying a backpack/rucksac

Discussion in 'What equipment should you use and take' started by Covey, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    Having walked the Camino Frances a number of times, it is amazing just how many pilgrims suffer pain and discomfort because they have inadequate backpacks, or badly fitting ones.

    The general rule is that you should aim to carry a maximum of 10kgs on your back, and anything over 12kgs is going to make the walk difficult for most. Remember that the Camino is not just a weekend trek but 5/6 weeks walking 25kms a day EVERY DAY!!

    Your backpack is your most important bit of kit after your footwear and needs careful selection.

    Just as you will buy your boots/shoes from a store and try on various sizes and makes, you should buy your pack the same way.

    Most serious hiking stores will have a measuring frame to ensure you get the correct length frame for your back and most good makes will come in 3 different frame sizes to suit your own back. Getting the right frame size will save you a lot of suffering later!!

    Most packs quote a volume size in litres. This is a somewhat variable estimate by the maker and is often inaccurate.

    For most pilgrims, a 50 litre pack is more than adequate. Anything more and you will feel the need to fill it up, and you will suffer carrying all that extra weight to justify the pack you bought.

    The empty weight of the pack is vital! A good framed 50L pack should not weigh more than 1.5kgs, and the more the empty pack weight, the less kit you can carry and still hit the 10kg limit.

    From your 10kg limit, you have to deduct the empty pack weight, another 2kgs for water and food, so you have 6/7kgs for clothes etc.

    Pack fitting is vital. The waist belt is there for a reason, and that is because you carry most of the pack weight on your hips, so the belt must be tight and keep the pack snug on the hips. You should be able to stand with a full pack and feel almost no downward pressure on your shoulder straps. If there is downward pressure on the shoulder straps, the pack is not fitting properly. You should be able to place your fingers underneath the shoulder strap without difficulty. The shoulder straps should just stop the bag falling backwards and should not carry the weight of the bag.

    This is why getting the right frame size is vital. Buying your Camino kit via mail order is fine, but get your footwear and pack from a specialist store where you can try different makes and sizes.
     
  2. Leslie

    Leslie Administrator

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    You are going to hate my answer on this one covey.

    I was living in Vienna and bought a rucksac from a supermarket in Bratislava for €13 - seemed like a great deal - hey I was a student studying in Wien at the time.

    I still use it and it is falling apart - but the amount I carry is very light - even on the camino I was down to about 6kg my second time and I am fairly big so I seem to get away with it okay.
     
  3. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    The difference is that you are an experienced walker, young (ish!!) and fairly fit and probably not someone contemplating their adventure of a lifetime in their 40s and onwards and wondering what to do and take.

    I have seen folks in July kitted out as though they were going to Everest with enough weight on their backs to break a pack horse. I have seen folks abandon their dream 7 kms from St Jean when they suddenly realise the difference between a dream and cold reality. I have seen what happens when folks have been sold poor badly made and ill fitting kit by shops who should know better.

    My first time on the Camino was just the four days from Sarria to Santiago and I used a walking pack with no frame or waist belt, so all the weight was on my shoulders, and I suffered. The kit needed for the Camino need not be expensive and need not be new, but pick the right kit, and life will be a lot easier on the trail!!

    There are a lot of experienced walkers from all over the world on the trail, but there are also a lot of folks who have never undertaken anything like the Camino, and it is them I direct my ramblings at.

    Have fun:D
     
  4. Leslie

    Leslie Administrator

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    I hear you.

    i spent time telling people how to wear their rucksac - yes, not on the shoulders but on the hips that is where most of the weight should be.
     
  5. John Hussey

    John Hussey Super Moderator

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    I sometimes believe that going "light" is a strange concept that almost all beginning long-distance hikers must apparently learn the hard way. Most beginning hikers, without having accumulated the painful experience of the harsh reality of taking far more than is really necessary on a trek, seem to take far more than is really needed.

    I imagine everyone ponders and deliberates over every article of gear or clothing before they leave and usually just throw it into a single pile "to take" for a "just in case" scenario, and then finish with a huge, and extremely heavy pack of seldom used "stuff" . What they should do is to separate all the gear into three piles: The first pile holds the absolutely necessary items. The second pile is for those occasionally nice to have items. The third pile is for the luxury items. Then, after all their sorting is finished, they should leave at home a quarter of pile one, three quarters of pile two and all of pile three! Then they can enjoy their hike.

    But, that's easier said than done, when you havn't done it before.
     
  6. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    I was very lucky in that my first look at the Camino Frances was just the Sarria to Santiago stage when I joined my son who had walked through from St Jean. This meant that when I went back to St jean the following year I knew what kit I really needed and what I could leave behind.

    Each year I refine my kit list, so by 2050 I should have got it right!!

    Last year I thought I might do a really stripped down kit list, but in the end I chickened out and carried the kit I used the year before. ie: I normally carry 4 walking high wick shirts by Berghaus, 2 long sleeve, 2 short. I could just carry two but that means I have to wash them every other day instead of every 3-4 days. To me the extra flexibility is worth the extra weight!.

    I am always amused at the amount of kit abandoned at Roncesvalles by those who lugged it up the hills from St Jean only to have a reality check when they arrive at Roncesvalles.
     
  7. John Hussey

    John Hussey Super Moderator

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    You should see the massive amount of completely useless gear that hikers abandon shortly after tackling the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in the US. Discarded items are strung out and abandoned alongside the trail, in shelters for a hundred or so miles and fully one half of the would-be through-hikers are forced to abandon their dream in just a few days simply because they carried far too much upon their back. I have actually seen some who started with over 100 pounds. But, the smart ones learn quickly and pare their load down to a manageable amount. And, just a handful become part of the very, very few who persevere, and even finish the extremely hard trek, 2175 miles(3500 km) about 5 or 6 months later.
     
  8. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    I have been looking at some youtube clips of the AT and feel the feet beginning to twich a little.

    If you had to walk a 1000 mile stage, which bit would you do?
     
  9. John Hussey

    John Hussey Super Moderator

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    Appalachian Trail

    Covey:

    If you have the time for 1000 miles, which is almost one half, then start either at the beginning, Springer Mountain in Georgia, just north of Atlanta, and go north bound (NOBO) or at the end, Mt Katahdin in Maine and go south (SOBO). Going north you can leave any month you wish but winters are brutal. Most hopeful thruhikers start around April so as to allow for enough time to get to katahdin before mid October because the climb up is quite difficult and so it is closed for snow in the winter at Baxter State park.

    Most that choose to go southbound from Katahdin, wait until June so as to start the trek after the brunt of the black fly season has passed. By a huge margin the vast majority is NOBO and start around April, with April Fool's day being a favored start. NOBO has a herd of hopefuls at the beginning, and is quite interesting to participate in and watch. You will begin to develop a "family" relationship of hikers, much like upon any of the Caminos, and these you will continue to see off and on as you all migrate, following the cool spring northward towards the heat of summer, and then the cold again of fall towards the end.

    It is best if you begin in as good a shape as you can because the AT is brutal and much more difficult that any of the Caminos. At places you scramble or climb or slide hand over fist and the trail seems to go straight up and over all of the mountains and hills and contour around all too few of them that the CDT along the Rockies prefer. After just a few days of following the familiar white blazes which mark the Appalachian Trail for you, you will begin to call them, just as everyone els, PUDs, or Pointless Ups and Downs.

    You will sweat profusely at times in shorts and tee shirt and then walk in the biting cold in snow at others, if you start in the spring, and all in the span of just a few days, too. The weather is fickle and the higher you go the colder. Gear selection is VERY important and to better one's chances of finishing one has to be good at its selection-or they will learn the hard way. And, equally important, one has to be good at limiting what one carries, too. Carry too much and you likely fail. Food is the one place where everyone begins with a load of far too much and wind up leaving most of it in Hiker's boxes along the way. Your appetite quickly will diminish to needing just about 1.25 pounds/day (or less) at the beginning, so carry no more than that. A few weeks later your appetite will begin to kick in after your body has had time to adjust itself to your burning over 6000 calories per day yet consuming the same 2000 you were accustomed too just a couple of weeks earlier. When it does kick in, your appetite will become ravenous. You will begin to eat two or three times your accustomed amount of food. You will find yourself having difficulty eating enough, though, even after wading through as many of the AYCE s (all you can eat restaurants) that you find during your town stops and your weight will begin to drop like a stone. By the time you cross over the Mason Dixon Line in the north, which separates the north from the south, you will have become one lean, mean, walking machine, no matter what weight you once had a couple of months back, at your start..

    Much like The Camino, it is an amazing hike. But on the AT, I guess a third is gone by Neel's Gap, just less than 40 miles away, three or four days from the start. It is not surprising that only less than 10 % of starters actually finish. I don't know the actual AT statistics but this website will tell you everything you wish to know about any AT question you might have, much like this one for the Camino:

    http://whiteblaze.net/forum/

    Keep us posted with your progress.

    I'll be happy to help in any way. Hell, I might even join you and go again
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2009
  10. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    Many thanks for your time and great advice.

    Had a quick look at WhiteBlaze. A very interesting site which will entertain me this weekend.

    Saw this post from a lady who wanted to know if she could walk the AT as a vegan. The reply was priceless!!!

    "The vegans I've hiked with really seemed to enjoy a cheeseburger in town."

    The AT is obviously a much stiffer test than the Camino, but I have in mind to do part next year and go SOBO as I have family in Connecticut.
     
  11. vjpulver

    vjpulver New Member

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    The Ultimate Backpack!

    Looking for the ultimate backpack? Here's a little April Fool's Day foolishness: check out this video on the ULTIMATE backpack!

    A little long but pretty funny.

    <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nM6wfjuirE&NR=1
    <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nM6wfjuirE&NR=1>>

    FYI: my own Camino pack wieghs a mere 22 ounces and fits well. I really like to travel light - makes the whole adventure sooooo much better!

    Leaving for Spain in less than three weeks! :)
     
  12. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    Buen Camino!!
     
  13. rekkapix

    rekkapix New Member

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    hi vj,

    i had a read at your blog, interesting stuff, no offense intended but your cutting off of labels and extra buttons kinds freaked me out a bit, it would be a bit excessive for me, but good luck to you trying to get your weight down. i packed mine without much streamlining and got 6.5kg, which is ok for me i think.
    maybe see you along the way :)
     
  14. vjpulver

    vjpulver New Member

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    I am laughing at your being "creeped out" by my clipping excessive tags, labels, straps, etc. It is pretty common among ultralight backpackers. I am doing it mostley just to see how much wieght I actually save by paying attention to this kind of detail.

    So far I have cut off a total of 11 ounces of excess stuff - does not sound like much, but when you consider my pack wieghs only 22 ounces and my trowsers wiegh about 12 ounces, my fleece wieghs 12 ounces...my t-shirt is only 3 ounces. Wll you see it makes a difference.

    Why not shave off unneccessary decorations and non-functional stuff?

    My feet, knees and back will be happier as I dance down the road thinking pleasant thoughts. "Less is [definately] more" when it comes to carrying a pack!

    I'll post my packing list and wieghts (on my blog) - probably on the 18th...I am still vacillating a bit on what to take and what to leave behind (I loooove clothes). Forty days with only one change of clothes - I better really like what I take. :cool:

    Happy packing!
     
  15. rekkapix

    rekkapix New Member

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    agh don't laugh, I don't know these things :(
    I guess that's the difference between someone who likes 'ultralight' backpacking and has done it before and, well, me :eek:

    buen camino :D
     
  16. vjpulver

    vjpulver New Member

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    Oh it is not derisive or cruel laughter...just my nature to laugh frequently! :cool:

    I wiegh in at about 120 pounds so I don't want to carry too much stuff. I am travelling in April so I am taking a sleeping bag and some extra layers to accommodate colder temperature extremes. (I camped in Galicia years ago and about froze one cold August night! You never know!)

    Travelling light just makes the journey easier so I watch the ounces. I can also indulge in some foolish item if I scrimp on the weight in other areas. I always travel with one or two "comfort" items to buoy my spirits if I am feeling blue or missing home.

    Well, off to walk the dog...wish I could take her along! :cool:

    Wieghing in from Santa Fe...
     
  17. sunflower

    sunflower New Member

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    Hi,
    I was wondering if a 34L pack would be sufficient to fit the essential for the walk? I'm quite small built and wondering if a pack this size would be OK to fit everything for the trip?
    thanks
    SF
     
  18. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    Re: Buying a backpack/rucksack

    The smaller the pack, the less un-necessary kit you will be tempted to take!!

    As a rough rule, you should aim for 10kgs which includes the pack, clothes water and food. The smaller the pack, the less the empty pack should weigh. I use an Osprey Atmos which is approx 1kg for the pack. I allow 6kgs for clothes, 1kg for bits & pieces such as mobile chargers, 1kg for water and 1kg for food items.

    I don't carry maps or guide books cos everybody else is carrying them and all you have to do is follow the little yellow arrows.
     
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