kit advice series

Need some expedition rucksack advice? In the latest of our advice videos, Secret Compass co-founder, Tom Bodkin, guides you through the different sizes and back systems of expedition rucksacks and how to fit them, helping you decide which to take on your next adventure.

Choosing the right size rucksack

We’re going to look at the different sizes of rucksack that are on the market and what their utility is. Here we have an 80 litre plus rucksack. This is ideal for multi-day expeditions, when you’re carrying all your own kitchen equipment for extended periods of time. For us, this work type of bag works really well on our Kamchatka trip, Kurdistan, Armenia, or anywhere where you’re going to carry all your own equipment or your own provisions and all your own food for extended period.

Next we’re going to look at a 50 litre plus bag. This is ideal for when you’re on a multi-day trip, but you don’t have a huge amount of kitchen equipment for whatever reason – it might be a warm climate. This sort of bag works really, really well for our jungle trips. Panama, for instance, in the Darien Gap, this is an ideal bag size for that expedition, also Madagascar. It’s not too big, and not too bulky. It’s exactly the right size for the amount of kit and equipment you’re going to need to carry.

And lastly, we’re going to look at day sacks. Now these day sacks are between 20 to 40 litre in size towards the upper end of the size range, and are ideal for areas where you’re just carrying kit and equipment for that day. For instance, on our Wakhan Corridor trek where your main bag is carried by pack animals, and you’re just required to carry a day sack, this size like ideal.

Fitting your rucksack

The key difference between the majority of all rucksack brands is the back system, and this is the bit that we really want to get right. What you’re looking for is a nice comfortable set of shoulder straps that spread the load evenly across your shoulders.

Next, you’re looking for back system that’s comfortable. Some have them, like this one does, in a flat looking system. Others take the bag away from your back. It really is personal preference.

Finally, you’re looking for a very, very thick, fully supported, waist system, especially on the larger packs.

The most important thing when giving expedition rucksack advice, particularly a large one such as this, is that it fits you right. If it doesn’t fit you, it doesn’t matter how comfortable the straps are, it won’t work for you. The most important thing on the fit is that the distance between the shoulders and the waist is correct, so when it sits in your back it lines up correctly.

When you have the rucksack on, you need to make sure it fits correctly on the hips. It wants to just sit comfortably on the hips – not too low, so it’s moving around with your bum, and not too high, so it’s in the small of your back.

Once your rucksack is fitted there, you want to make sure that the shoulder straps fit comfortably on your shoulders, and they’re not pulling the rucksack up, or that the shoulder stops aren’t too high. Ensure the straps are done tight so they’re pulled into the body and then you should have a nice comfortable fitting rucksack.

Looking for more kit advice? You’ve come to the right place. Our journal is packed with tips, tricks and recommendations.

Read next: Choosing the right expedition footwear