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Backpack Guide: How to Choose a Rucksack


21/02/18

From backpacking across the world to commuting through town, a rucksack will help you carry everything you need for outdoor adventures. This guide will take you through sizes, features and accessories to help you choose the best backpack for you.


Backpack Sizes

 Size  Capacity  Suggested Uses
 Mini and Small Backpacks  6 -10 Liters  Days Out / Kids Bags / Sports
 Daypacks  10 - 30 Liters  Commuting / Hiking / Day  Walks
 Medium Backpacks  30 - 50 Liters  Overnight Trips / Camping /  Hiking
 Large Rucksacks  50 Liters +  Travelling / Backpacking /  Expeditions

Mini and Small Backpacks: 6 Liter, 8 Liter, 10 Liter

Best For: Days out, Kids and Sports.

Not Suitable For: Carrying large heavy loads or for extended trips.

Esprit 10l

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Mini Trek 6l

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Dash 10L

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Kids Penguin Bag

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Small backpacks are very versatile and are as suitable to shopping trips as they are for day trips or walks. An 8 or 10 liter backpack will easily accommodate a packed lunch, drink and some packable waterproofs.

Their compact size also means they make great kids backpacks. An 8 or 10 liter backpack makes the ideal school bag whilst our 6 liter backpacks are the perfect size for younger children.


Daypacks: 10 Liter to 30 Liter

Best For: Day walks, hikes and expeditions, commuting.

Not Suitable For: Weekend trips that require you to carry sleeping bags and other camping gear.

Wanderer 20 Liter

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Merlin 23L

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bolt 18 l rucksack

Bolt 18L

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Lincoln 15L

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Daypacks can be any size between 10 and 30 liters and as the name suggests are primarily designed for one day trips. They are well suited to walkers and hikers who will be spending the day outdoors. Some daypacks will be hydration compatible so a hydration system can also be carried in the pack.

A 30 liter backpack, is also suitable for weekend trips as they will easily accommodate spare clothing, water, food and other essentials. However, if you have to take sleeping bags and other camping gear, it’s likely you’ll need a larger backpack.


Medium Backpacks: 35 Liter to 50 Liter

Best For: Overnight Trips, Camping Trips, 3 day hikes if packing light.

Ventura 40L

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Saker 35L

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High 35L

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Cargo 40L

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Medium sized rucksacks (often between 35 and 50 liters) are designed for multi-day use and for carrying heavier loads than daypacks. Most of these backpacks will have all the features of a daypack but with additional padding, pockets and fixing points for all the extra equipment you’ll need for a longer trip.

A medium sized backpack would be ideal for those thinking of an overnight trip. If you pack light, a 40 or 50 liter pack would also be sufficient to hold your clothing, tent and sleeping bag for a 3 day hike.


Large Backpacks: 50+ Liters

Best For: Travelling, Backpacking, Dofe Expeditions.

Traveller 60+20L

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Tor 85L

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Inca 65L

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Tor 65L

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A large backpack is ideal for anything from an extended hike (which will include camping) to backpacking around the world. These backpacks are designed to be able to hold a substantial amount of kit and will have plenty of pockets for storage.

A 65 Liter rucksack, is well suited for trekking and is a popular choice for those taking part in expedition award schemes.

If your trip will be for one week or more, a 70 or 80 liter backpack is highly recommended.


Choosing The Best Backpack For You

One of the main factors to consider when choosing the best backpack or rucksack for you is how big it needs to be. This will depend on what you plan to use if for (eg. everyday bag or a week-long trip) and how much you need to take (the bare essentials or kit for an overnight stay).


Backpack Liter Capacities

People often ask how big is a 65 liter rucksack? Or how much can I fit in a 30 liter backpack? Backpacks are measured by the total capacity of all of the pockets in liters. Essentially, you’ll be able to fit 30 liters of gear in a 30 liter backpack. This however might not mean a great deal when you are trying to decide if a rucksack is big or small enough for your needs. It’s often easier to look at the actual measurements (perhaps even compare to a bag you already own), to get an idea of how big the backpack is.


What is the Difference Between a Backpack and a Rucksack?

A backpack (or daypack) will invariably be smaller and a rucksack will be larger. However, both terms are often used interchangeably.


The Fit

It’s important that your backpack fits correctly so you can carry it in comfort. This will depend on your build and back length (not your overall height). Most backpacks will come with adjustable back straps (bigger backpacks are also likely to have adjustable chest straps) to ensure your backpack fits securely and comfortably. If the backpack sits too low, even when adjusted, it is too big for you.


Common Backpack Features

Rain Cover

A rain cover (tucked away in a handy pocket) is useful for covering your backpack to stop the contents getting wet in the rain. If your pack doesn’t come with a rain cover you can buy one separately. 

Hip Belt

Around 70% of the weight of the pack will sit on your hips. An adjustable hip belt is a common feature on medium and large backpacks as it helps to secure the bag around the hip area for added support and load transfer.

Compression Straps

Compression straps (adjustable straps which can be found on the top, side or down the front of backpacks) can be pulled tight to reduce the volume of the pack and to minimise movement of items within.

Back & Chest Straps

Adjustable straps are essential for ensuring a good fit. Chest straps ensure the pack is secure and help distribute some of the weight. For larger rucksacks you can adjust the height of the straps depending on the length of your back. Straps will often be padded for added comfort which is especially important for heavy rucksacks.

External Clips & Hooks

External clips and hooks can be used to attach equipment to your backpack, especially useful for hikers and travellers. These include daisy chains (a strip of webbing loops), elasticated cords and walking pole hoops. Carabiners can also be purchased seperately to attach additional kit to your backpack.

Pockets & Compartments

Multiple internal and externals pockets are useful for organising and separating contents. Internal security pockets are essential for stashing valuables whilst side mesh pockets are ideal for holding water bottles.

Many Mountain Warehouse backpacks also have an MP3 player/Ipod pocket inside with an earphone outlet so you can listen to music easily on the move.

To help divide contents further, some larger packs may have a completely separate bottom compartment with zipped access that is closed inside with a drawstring. Larger rucksacks might also include a hip belt and lid pockets for easy access to important and frequently used items.

Reflective piping

If you plan to wear your pack in the dark, reflective piping will help you be seen.

Internal Frames

Larger rucksacks may have internal frames to distribute weight and provide support to your hips to help you keep an upright walking posture.


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