Your Complete Guide To Choosing The Best Rucksack For Hiking

common hiking mistakes for beginners
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When you start to go walking you probably won’t need a rucksack for the first few walks, as you won’t be walking far to start with. But once you’ve been a few times you’ll start to think about more miles and getting away for a few hours, and then a rucksack becomes an essential part of your walking gear.

How To Choose A Rucksack For Walking

When you’re out and about, it’s really important to have all of your essentials with you. But carrying a lot of stuff around can be really tough, especially if you don’t have the right bag. A rucksack is the perfect solution for this problem!

Rucksacks are designed to be comfortable and spacious, making them the perfect option for carrying everything from your waterproofs to your water bottle. It’s hard to know what to look for when choosing a rucksack. But with so many different types of rucksacks on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. Do you go for capacity or comfort? What about weight? Let’s take a look at what factors to consider.

What size rucksack do I need for a day walk?

As our main aim is to give advice for beginner hikers, most of you will be looking at day walks until you build up to weekends away or longer.

A day walk can be tailored to a range of different ability levels and packing needs, so there is no one definitive answer to this question. Some people may just need a small pack for water, snacks, and a layer or two of clothing, while others may need something bigger that can accommodate trekking boots, a full set of clothes, and camping gear.

The best way to figure out what size rucksack you’ll need is to consider the specific activities you’ll be undertaking on your day walk. If you’ll be hiking up steep hills and scrambling over boulders, then you’ll need a pack that can handle more weight and has more robust straps and construction than if you’re simply going for a leisurely stroll on the flat.

Capacity of rucksack

It’s not just about finding a bag that looks good – you need to make sure that the capacity of the rucksack is right for your needs. If it’s not big enough, you’ll end up leaving stuff behind or having to carry multiple bags with you, which is both inconvenient and heavy.

The first step to choosing a rucksack is deciding how big it needs to be for your walks. To do this, consider the number of days you plan on going hiking for and what bulk items you’ll have with your like water bottles or food packs. Do you need to carry waterproofs as the weather looks changeable, or is it scorching hot and you need to carry extra sunscreen?


A daypack is a small backpack that’s perfect for carrying essentials for a day out. They typically have a capacity of 15-20 litres.

Daypacks are perfect for carrying the essentials while hiking, trail running, or sightseeing. They typically have one main compartment and a few smaller compartments for organizing gear, as well as straps to secure bulky items like jackets or sleeping bags. Some daypacks also come with hydration bladders and straws for drinking on the go.

Some features to look for in a daypack are comfortable shoulder straps, a padded back panel, and plenty of pockets to store your gear. If you’re looking for something lightweight and compact, consider a daypack made from ripstop nylon.

25-40 litre rucksacks

A 25-40 litre rucksack is good for 2 to 3 day hikes. You’ll want to pack food, water, a first-aid kit, map and compass, extra clothes, a stove and fuel if cooking meals on the trail, and overnight clothes if staying in hotels or B&B’s.

You may also want to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, binoculars, and a multi-tool. Depending on the climate and your activity level, you may need to pack additional items, such as a raincoat, water filter, and headlamp. They are also good if you are going for day walks but with a family, where you may need multiple water bottles, food, extra layers of clothing etc.

When packing your rucksack, try to distribute the weight evenly between the front and back panels. This will help to keep your shoulders from getting tired. And make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, especially if you’ll be hiking in a hot climate. Having food and water available will help you stay energized during your trip.

45-60 litre rucksacks

When choosing a camping backpack, you need to consider how much gear you’ll need to bring with you. A 45-60 litre backpack is a good size for weekend camping trips, as it will allow you to carry enough equipment while still being lightweight and easy to manage.

Some things you’ll want to pack include a tent, sleeping bag and pad, cooking supplies, food, water, and clothes. If you’re bringing a tent or other large items, make sure the backpack has a separate compartment for storage so the weight is evenly distributed. Additionally, look for features like padded shoulder straps and a waist belt for added comfort when carrying heavier loads.

A 45-60 litre rucksack is a good choice for carrying a tent and camping equipment because it offers a good balance between capacity and weight. It’s also large enough to carry everything you need for an overnight camping trip, but not so large that it becomes cumbersome to carry.

Another advantage of a 45-60 litre rucksack is that it provides plenty of pockets and compartments to help organize your gear, which makes it easier to find what you’re looking for when you need it. And last but not least, a good quality rucksack will last for many years, making it a wise investment in your camping gear.

Can you use a regular rucksack for hiking?

You might be able to get away with using a regular rucksack on some short walks, but there are several reasons why it’s not a good idea for longer hikes:

  • A regular rucksack usually doesn’t have a lot of padding or support, which can cause discomfort and pain if you’re carrying a lot of weight.
  • A regular rucksack is often too small or too short for carrying large items or for accommodating people who are taller than average.
  • A regular rucksack doesn’t have enough straps or compartments to organize your gear efficiently, which can lead to frustration and lost items.
  • A regular rucksack is likely to be less durable than a hiking-specific backpack and may not hold up.
  • A regular rucksack won’t have the design features listed below to keep steady on your back and distribute the weight evenly.

Spreading the weight of your rucksack across your body

The difference between a good walking rucksack and something that’s just for show? Well, the harness and back system does it all. Together they allow air to circulate so you won’t get sweaty in scorching weather or feel like an imbalance has been put on weight distribution when carrying heavy loads- which means no more back pain!

The harness

The harness system is made up of shoulder straps, a chest strap and a waist belt that helps to distribute the weight of the load evenly across the body. By fastening this all comfortably tight the weight is spread evenly around the hips and torso, not just the back. It will also help with stability and stop your rucksack from swinging side to side as you walk. The harness also allows you to adjust the position of the rucksack on your body, which ensures that it is in a comfortable and balanced position.

The back system

The padded or channelled back system is a simple panel with padding and channels which direct warm air away from your body, but still allowing maximum storage space. The suspended design pushes the load away from you for better ventilation but limits how much extra stuff can be stored behind it – making them perfect if small packs are all that matter!

The fit of a rucksack

The very best rucksacks will come in a variety of lengths. There are a few reasons why rucksacks come in different back lengths. The most obvious reason is to accommodate people of different heights. A rucksack that’s too short for a person’s height will put unnecessary strain on their back, while a rucksack that’s too long will leave a lot of extra space at the bottom, which can cause the load to move around and become unbalanced.

Another reason for different back lengths is to cater for people with different torso lengths. A person with a shorter torso will need a rucksack with a shorter back length, while someone with a longer torso will need a rucksack with a longer back length. This is because the hip belt needs to be positioned correctly.

Ladies should also keep an eye out for women’s rucksacks that are especially designed to work around broader hips and narrower shoulders. They may also come with S-shaped chest straps that will avoid sitting on their bust.

Are rucksacks waterproof?

Generally speaking most rucksacks are not waterproof, but will withstand small showers. Smaller rucksacks tend to have zipped openings, which is a potential issue, whilst the larger rucksacks will probably have a buckle down lid which goes over the top, thus creating more of a barrier to rain.

Many of the rucksacks from the better brands will come with a raincover that you can pull out when it starts to rain, and whilst they are still not completely waterproof, this will suffice in most conditions. To completely protect the contents of your rucksack, it would be wise to invest in some dry-bags to store your valuable things inside your rucksack.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some other questions that people ask when choosing a new rucksack for hiking.

What brands make the best rucksacks?

If you go to a specialist outdoors shop you will be able to see many different brands – look out in particular for Deuter, Gregory, Lowe Alpine, Osprey and Vaude.

How much do hiking backpacks cost?

As with all things, there’s a wide variety of what you can pay for a hiking rucksack, and as usual you will often get the best quality the more you pay. For a daypack expect to pay around £10-20; for 25-40 litre rucksacks £30-40 upwards; and for 45-60 litre rucksacks £50 and upwards to £150.

What should I pack for hiking?

At the very least you should be carrying water and a snack to keep you nourished for your walk. But as you have a rucksack, and obviously it depends on how far you are walking, you should also consider a map or guidebook, waterproof jacket and maybe trousers, spare socks, Vaseline, and maybe a torch. I’ll look into this in more detail in another post.

What is the biggest size rucksack I can use as a carry on for an airplane?

If you hike often, and also travel abroad often, you may want to use your rucksack as carry on hand luggage. Each airline will have it’s own size limits, but if your rucksacks isn’t completely full you may be able to squish it a little to fit in their size test boxes.

  • British Airways 2022 size limits are : 56cm x 45cm x 25cm, and can weigh up to 23kg.
  • Easy Jet 2022 size limits are : 45cm x 36cm x 20cm (or 56cm x 45cm x 25cm if booked with ticket).
  • Jet2 2022 size limits are : 56cm x 45cm x 25cm, and can weigh up to 10kg.
  • Ryanair 2022 size limits are : 55cm x 45cm x 20cm, but can weigh only up to 10kg.
  • TUI 2022 size limits are : 55cm x 45cm x 20cm, but can weigh only up to 10kg.
  • Virgin 2022 size limits are : 56cm x 36cm x 23cm.

Whilst this information is correct as at January 2022, please double check with your airline prior to flying.

Conclusion – How To Choose The Best Rucksack For Hiking

We’ve taken a good look at what to look for when buying a rucksack for your forthcoming treks. The most important thing is to choose a suitable size for your needs – if you are only ever going to do day walks then you will easily get by with a compact daypack, whereas if you are hiking for a week at a time and camping overnight, then a 60 litre rucksack would be more suitable.

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