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Backpacking 101

A backpack is generally made of tough water resistant fabric, with shoulder straps and a waist belt for carrying gear on the back. They come in various sizes ranging from 45 to 85 litres. The pack’s weight is supported by the hips when hiking, trekking or camping. Backpacks are primarily classified as framed and frameless. Framed packs are offered with an internal or an external frame. Internal framed packs have metal stays found inside the bag that provide a form fit to your back. External frame backs have an outside metal frame to which a bag is attached and gear like sleeping bags and tents are fastened to the frame above or below the bag. Internal frame packs provide more flexible movement in close quarters. Frameless packs are most often referred to knapsacks which are used for day hikes or caring small loads.

Backpacking usually occurs in the wilderness remote areas where facilitates are absent so the backpacker must carry all the necessities for survival including; food, water, stove, kitchen supplies, sleeping bag and a tent or bivy sac. A backpack with number of outside pockets or storage areas is a good idea to help separate gear so that it is easy find when needed.

The fit is very important for a pleasurable experience. It very important the pack is set up that most of the bag weight is transferred to your hips. This is accomplished by ensuring the waist belt is securely resting on your hips and the shoulder straps should be loose enough so the weight of the bag is transferred to your hips. Also, it is important to pack the heaviest gear close to your back. Carrying a backpack in this manner will ensure many enjoyable hours of trekking.

When packing for a trip, the key concept to keep in mind is “Less Weight means More Fun.” A heavy backpack can very quickly tire and exhaust a seasoned adventure to the point the hike becomes an arduous ordeal. Be very wary on how much weight you add to your pack. There are certain items that are a necessity like sleeping bags, and shelters but beyond this think LIGHT. There many ultra light products on the market like stoves, fire starters, saws, headlamps and first-aid kits. Take minimal clothing with you such as a wicking layer, a fleece top, a waterproof shell and pants, a spare pair of socks and a hat. Using freeze dried foods that have the water weight removed is also a good start. Food bought at the store for an adventure should have excess packaging removed and be repackage in smaller bags. Ziploc bags are a backpacker’s best friend.

A good adage to remember: If you don’t really need it. Leave it at home!

Being familiar with navigation using map and compass or GPS is good skill set to acquire when venturing into backcountry whether you are following marked trails or travelling off trail. See the section on “Using Map and Compass” for more information.

It is also good practice to follow no trace camping ethics:

  • Value and respect areas you visit
  • Travel in small groups
  • Camp in designated or established areas
  • Leave the campsite in the condition you found it
  • Pack-out what you pack-in
  • If no washroom faculties are available (Boom Boxes), Dig a shallow trench and bury your waste in the top 15 cm of soil away from water sources, trails and camping areas
  • Toilet paper should be burned or packed out
  • Feminine hygiene product should be packed out
  • Use a small portable stove for your cooking
  •  Use a candle lantern for evening light
  • Burn dead wood only
  • Use only enough firewood to ensure ashes are left when the fire is no longer required
  • Fisherpersons ,use lead-free weights and burn fish guts
  • Wash your dishes away from creeks, lakes and other water sources
  • Dump your grey water on soil well away from water sources
  • Hang your food or make it animal-proof according to your location
  •  Carry a separate bag for garbage

Depending of the terrain you are moving through a good daily limit is between 7.5 to 15 kilometres. A good pair of sturdy hiking boots with ankle support is a must. Remember to take frequents breaks especially when climbing up hill and drink plenty of water.

For all the gear you need stop in at Joe’s Sport & Surplus and talk to our seasoned staff. They will help you pick out the backpack that is best for you!  

We stock Deuter, North Face,and Chinook