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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Backpacking Tips: How to Know How Big Your New Backpack Should be

Don’t buy a backpack any larger than your backpacking needs.

Canon Deluxe Backpack 200 EGImage via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia
There are plenty of backpacks to choose from when it is time to buy one.
The temptation is to buy big – bigger than you really need for the majority of your backpacking trips. Don’t.
Keep the size and capacity of your prospective backpack within logical limits. Unless you’re doing a long-distance hike like the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest Trail, don’t buy an 80-liter expedition pack. Instead, think more in the line of 40 to 60 liters.
So, what’s wrong with buying a bigger pack “just in case” and not filling it up on shorter backpacking trips?
Just that. You’ll more than likely fill it up.
Nature hates a vacuum. And, we humans seem to as well. You’ve probably heard it as well as I have. If we are given a certain amount of time to do a job, we’ll likely use every minute of the allotted time to get the job done.
If we are given a larger-than-normal plate for dinner, we tend to fill the plate instead of loading it with the same amount of food as we would have put onto a normal-sized plate. Take a bigger suitcase and you’re likely to jam it full, even if you don’t need the extra stuff that fills the extra space.
Here’s one way to figure out what size of a backpack you will need. Plan a backpacking trip for a few days, real or imaginary. Then gather the items you’ll need: tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food etc. Then stuff your items into a sturdy garbage bag or a laundry bag. Compress everything down as much as possible. After that, measure the bag three ways: height, width and length. Take these measurements to your outfitter to help you choose the right bag. I know. This method isn’t really precise, but it can help give you an idea of what size of a backpack you will need for the majority of your backpacking trips.
Another thing you can do is to buy a backpack that is returnable. Then you can load it at home with your stuff and exchange it for a different one if you need to.
One more thing. If you only do day hikes, buy a day pack.
All of this discussion is in the realm of backpacking lighter. Lighter is always better – within logical limits, of course.
Backpack lighter. Enjoy your backpacking more.
By Richard Davidian, Ph.D.

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