Choose the best rucksack for trekking in the Andes

by on 12th December, 2014

Choose the best rucksack for trekking in the Andes

This week, outdoor clothing specialist Rachel Keir talks us through the maze of which rucksack to choose for which trekking trip, drawing on her experience at Silverfox Travel & Outdoors.

She writes:

Choosing a rucksack for trekking

So you’ve made the decision to book a trekking or adventure holiday with Andean Trails, which means you’ll need to start planning what equipment to take with you…and this will all start with choosing the right rucksack for trekking and outdoor adventures.

What size rucksack should I buy?

There’s absolutely no need to buy the biggest rucksack available, unless you’re a fan of back pain and general discomfort.

Larger rucksacks encourage over-packing, which is all good and well when you’re not carrying your bag for extended periods of time. For most treks, such as the Inca Trail, you will find that a rucksack around 50-60 litres will offer plenty of packing space for your gear.

On multi-day treks you will be carrying the rucksack around with you for a few days, so you really don’t want to be carrying all your worldly possessions around with you. Buy a rucksack that is big enough for your sleeping bag, trek essentials and clothing and you’re onto a winner.

Can I just buy a cheap rucksack for the trek?

While it may seem like a good idea to save yourself some money and get a cheap rucksack for your trek, you will most likely find that it will be uncomfortable and unreliable…do you really want to trust a poorly made bag to carry all your essential gear?

It’s really not worth the risk, and we can guarantee your trekking buddies won’t appreciate you trying to load them up with gear, like your own personal luggage mule, when your rucksack fails.


Pampa grass, Quebrada, Atacama, Chile

Do I need a rucksack with an adjustable back system?

This is down to preference, but rucksacks that come with an adjustable back system allow you to adjust them to fit your build and height. As you can slide the shoulder straps up and down, you can ensure that they are set at the correct height for you, which enables you to put less strain on your back.

Fixed back systems allow you to adjust and tighten the straps, but you cannot adjust the back length, which is the bit that makes all the difference to your carrying comfort.

Are there different rucksacks for men & women?

When choosing the rucksack for your adventure, you should also take into account your gender, and we’re not being sexist here. Many rucksack manufacturers have female specific rucksacks designed with a shorter back length to accommodate the shorter female torso. These rucksacks often come with additional padding on the hip belt and shaped shoulder straps to help stop the straps from digging into your chest…a god-send for more buxom ladies.

If you are fairly short (approximately 5’-5’5”) then choosing a rucksack with a shorter back system is a wise move, as this will offer a good level of support and comfort. You should also keep the size of your rucksack to no more than 70L to avoid putting strain on your back. Women of an average height will be able to choose between a standard rucksack or female specific one, depending on their personal preference.

What features does a trekking rucksack need?

Rucksacks come in a range of styles, with lots of different features you may want from a trekking pack. Generally it’s best to opt for a rucksack with the traditional top loading design, but there are options on the market that offer front panel access to the main compartment.

Rain cover

During treks and outdoor adventures you will often find yourself up against varying weather conditions, from scorching sun to rain and even hail. So many rucksacks often come with their own waterproof rain cover to protect your bag and its contents from the elements.

If your rucksack doesn’t include one, you can buy one separately for around GBP 5-10. You can also get high-visibility options, which are great for poor weather conditions, where visibility is low.

Trekkers Fitzroy Patagonia Argentina

Trekkers Fitzroy Patagonia Argentina

Walking pole loops

When you’re not using your walking poles, a handy feature many trekking rucksacks have is walking pole/ice axe attachment loops, so you can attach them to your rucksack until you need them again. Not an essential feature, but definitely a useful one.

Hydration compatibility

Trekking is a strenuous activity, and you will be walking for several hours at a time, so keeping hydrated is essential. While many rucksacks come with external bottle pockets for you to store water bottles, a more convenient hydration solution lies within hydration compatible rucksacks.

If you choose a hydration compatible rucksack you can fill up a hydration bladder, place it inside the dedicated internal pocket and feed the drinking tube through the top of your rucksack. This allows you to drinks hands free, great when you need to keep your hands free for using walking poles.

Internal dry bag

While a rain cover will protect your bag from the elements, you may also want to consider a back- up for your rucksack’s contents. Some models come with internal dry bags for protecting your gear, or for storing wet items after a long day of trekking, or you can simply buy a dry bag or rucksack liner separately for around £3-10, depending on the style you buy.

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