Rucksack Buying Guide

Whether you’re going hiking, camping or travelling, choosing the right rucksack is essential.

Whether you’re going hiking, camping or travelling, choosing the right rucksack is essential.

Rucksacks and daysacks have often been interchanged when it comes to names and products, with ‘rucksack’ attached to many smaller bags. 

We’ll cover essentials such as how to fit a rucksack, what size to choose and what features you might need, depending on your preference. 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about rucksacks and daysacks…

Anatomy of a rucksack & common features

There’s a surprising amount to consider when buying a rucksack, so we’ve tried to make things a little easier for you with our in-depth guide. See below for common features found on a high-quality rucksack. 

Shoulder harnesses

With the shoulder harnesses taking a good portion of the weight of the rucksack, it’s essential you’re happy they feel comfortable enough. 

The thicker the shoulder harness, the more comfort it will provide, although at the expense of flexibility and increased weight. Some also feature mesh for added ventilation. Most bags also feature load lifters at the top of the shoulder harnesses. These small (but important!) straps allow you to alter the bag, and raise it higher and above your hips if you feel it pulling away from you. 

Back panel

Depending on your activity, the back panel can either provide you with more comfort or look to cut down on weight. 

Hiking or backpacking can take its toll on your back after a while, so having a padded back panel can help ease the pressure and is also handy to prevent anything in your pack from digging into your back.

Front rucksack opening

This zipped opening at the front makes it easy to access the main compartment of the rucksack, meaning you can get items further down the pack without having to unpack everything from the top.

Sternum strap

This little strap can make a huge difference. It clips across your chest from the shoulder harnesses and helps improve the stability of the rucksackThe sternum strap keeps the harness in position, preventing it from moving too much, and can also help raise the pack so that it’s positioned above your hips.

Adjustable back system

An adjustable back system allows you to alter the position of the back padding to suit your height, body shape or comfort.

Shoulder straps

The adjustable shoulder straps under the harnesses allow you to raise and lower the pack to suit your comfort. 

Shoulder straps should be reasonably tight to keep the rucksack in the correct position but be aware of not over-tightening them. This can transfer the weight from your hips onto your shoulders! 

Hip belt

The hip belt is an essential part of the pack to ensure you carry it safely. It will likely come with decent padding to sit around your hips. 

The hip belt and sternum strap help stop the pack from moving too much. Always ensure the belt is on top of your hips and is reasonably tight.

Rucksack lid

The lid pulls over the top of the rucksack, helping to keep everything secure inside. It will clip to buckles usually located towards the bottom quarter of the bag, and most lids will include a top pocket, which is a great place for your personal belongings, first aid kit, and headtorch.

Side compression straps

Side compression straps will pull the pack in from the sides, reducing the amount of wasted space and ensuring a more compact and easy-to-manage rucksack.

Walking pole – ice axe loops

If you’re taking walking poles or ice axes with you, they can be attached to the rucksack on these loops when you’re not using them. 

Not all rucksacks will have these, so double-check if it’s something you know you’ll need. A top tip for when these loops are not in use is attaching your tent poles to this area, allowing you to pack your tent flysheet down to a size you wouldn’t believe!

Side pocket

Some rucksacks will feature side pockets that can store a few essential items you may need to access quickly and easily.

Side stretch pocket

Again, some packs may feature a stretch pocket on the sides, ideal for storing a water bottle you can grab when you need it. For good weight distribution, you can even keep your gas/liquid fuel in the opposite side pocket.


Other potential features

  • Reflective – some packs come with reflective sections for better visibility at night.
  • Rain cover – the rain cover will usually be stored in the rucksack lid so it can be easily accessed and pulled over your pack in case of a downpour.
  • Detachable daysack – some rucksacks come with a detachable daysack attached to them, allowing for extra storage space.

Other potential features

  • Roll mat straps – ideal for campers, roll mat straps sit underneath the pack and mean you can easily store your otherwise bulky camping roll mat.
  • Extra compartment (5 – 10L) – always a great place for sleeping bags with the amount of space they can quite often take up. In most cases, you should be able to make this compartment part of the main rucksack space if it’s not needed.
  • Hydration pack – having easy access to water is essential for hikers and backpackers, which is where a hydration pack can help. Bear in mind, however, that you won’t usually be able to store as much equipment in a hydration pack.

Gender-specific rucksacks

Is there such thing as a men’s or women’s rucksack? Well, yes, there is.

Most rucksacks will be suitable for both men and women, but you’ll also be able to find options specifically designed for women. These rucksacks are built with narrower necks, different shoulder-to-hip ratios, and shorter back lengths to reflect the difference in a woman’s body.

What size rucksack do I need?

The size of the rucksack you need depends on the outdoor activity and how much you’re taking with you. Here’s a guide on the size of the bag needed for your activity:

Take the above as a guide, as the size you need may differ depending on several factors. 

For example, if you’re planning an outdoor adventure throughout the colder months, it may be beneficial to size up so that you have enough room to pack away extra clothing.

How to fit a rucksack

Proper fitting is only essential for larger rucksacks where you’ll be carrying heavier loads, although it’s always worth making sure your pack feels comfortable and is well supported.

A fitting is (generally) required for 50 litres or more, and those using it for long-distance load carrying. And when fitting a rucksack, remember that the strongest muscles in your body are in your legs. 

Your legs are where you will want to carry the weight of your rucksack, not on your shoulders, or you could cause serious injury.

Aim to have up to 80% of your pack’s weight distributed on your hips. The correct position will focus the load on your pelvis and, therefore, through your legs. The remaining 20% of the weight is distributed on your shoulders.

Top tips for fitting a rucksack

  • Use a rucksack that is (at least) partly full to simulate real-world conditions.
  • The hip belt should, funnily enough, sit on the hips, not the waist. If it’s too high, it will cause more pressure on your shoulders.
  • The pack should sit stable and close against your back, not with a large gap.
  • If your pack has an adjustable back, adjust it to feel comfortable and supported. You may also need to measure your torso length when buying a rucksack. Do this by measuring from the top of your hips to the base of your neck.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps to alter the height of the rucksack. 
  • Close and adjust the sternum strap until you feel it taking some weight off your shoulders. It should sit roughly in line with the bottom of the armpit.
  • A good rule is that your backpack should never go above eye level.

New rucksacks at Winfields Outdoors

If you’re a regular visitor to our blog, you’ll have read all about our recent Eddie Bauer UK launch. So, we thought we’d show you a few of the Eddie Bauer rucksacks we now have available!

If you would like to browse for a top-quality rucksack yourself, click here to be taken to our entire range. Or, click here to be taken to our full range of Eddie Bauer rucksacks and backpacks.

To start, we have the Eddie Bauer Adventurer Backpack. Ideal for those looking for a suitable rucksack for a variety of outdoor activities!

Available in a range of colours, the Eddie Bauer Adventurer Backpack features cooling back-panel technology that boosts airflow, helping to keep you supported and dry. 

What’s more, this superb rucksack option features 420D water-repellent finish fabric as well as four fleece-lined pockets. Perfect for stashing away personal belongings! 

Learn more about the Eddie Bauer Adventurer Backpack – 30L.

Next, we have the Eddie Bauer Adventurer Pack, a superb option for those looking for a rucksack that’ll see them through many hiking adventures. 

This premium quality rucksack features a water-repellent finish, shedding any moisture away from the bag. The cooling back panel technology will also work to ensure you’re kept dry and comfortable throughout any activity. 

The Eddie Bauer Adventurer Pack comes in a stylish dark teal shade and features pockets large enough to store away your laptop, eReader and mobile phone.

Learn more about the Eddie Bauer Adventurer Pack – 25L.

Eddie Bauer Maximus Daypack Backpack – 30L

Lastly, we have the Eddie Bauer Maximus Daypack Backpack – 30L. A great option for those looking for a rucksack to take on challenging adventures!

This ultra-stylish rucksack is incredibly durable and designed to withstand the harshest environments. What’s more, the water-repellent daypack features 450D polyester and offers a generous 30 litres of storage space. 

Learn more about the Eddie Bauer Maximus Daypack Backpack – 30L.


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