We’ve tested, and found the best
MAIN COMPARTMENT ENTRY The entry to the main compartment may be a conventional lid with a buckle or a zipped closure. There are pros and cons of both designs, with lids having the advantage that there are no zips to break, you can overstuff the bag and the lid often has an excellent pocket for smaller items such as maps and guidebooks. COMPRESSION STRAPS These are on the sides of some rucksacks and allow you to compress the body of the sack to help stabilise the load. They are also useful for stashing items onto the side of the sack, such as trekking poles and waterproof jackets. WAND POCKETS Originally designed for avalanche probes or ‘wands’, these pockets on the side of a rucksack are often made of stretchy, mesh fabrics and are ideal for stashing the ends of trekking poles, as well as smaller items including water bottles or snacks. HIPBELT This is designed to carry most of the load if the pack is heavy, but when carrying lighter loads it may only be used to ensure stability of the pack. Either way, it should fit snugly around your hips while being comfortable and easy to adjust. Look for some foam padding for maximum comfort. POCKETS At least one external zipped pocket is useful for guidebooks, maps and GPS receivers, but some people like more and others can tolerate less. Stretch pockets without zips are commonly placed on the front of the rucksack and these are ideal for stowing waterproof jackets between showers. Pockets on the hipbelt are ideal for snacks and GPS receivers. Lid pockets are great for guidebooks, sunglasses or suncream. VENTILATED BACK SYSTEM So that you don’t get too sweaty, many rucksacks have mesh panels that hold the sack away from your body to increase airflow and reduce the horrid, clammy sensation that you get wearing some rucksacks. The greater the airflow across the back, the less sticky you will feel. SHOULDER STRAPS The shoulder straps take some of the weight, but they need to be carefully contoured and padded to make them comfortable. As we are all different shapes it is important to try them for size, fit and comfort before parting with cash. HYDRATION POCKET If you like to use a hydration bladder with a feeder pipe to drink from rather than a waterbottle, then look for a rucksack with a pocket for the hydration bladder inside the pack. All the sacks featured here can accommodate a hydration system. SNOW LOCK EXTENSION Located under the lid and attached to the body of the main compartment this extension of material provides additional protection for your kit. It will have a drawcord closure so you can close the top of the main compartment independently of the lid to ensure it is well protected from the elements.