Like all of us, when ?lockdown? happened, we expected it to last for a month. Then, like all of us, we were surprised when it seemed to go on and on. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, or maybe some of you are feeling stir crazy as well. We live in Colorado, a little over an hour from the Rocky Mountain range ? a year-round playground right in our backyard! When the state closed access to trails due to Covid-19, it was reassuring to know that we could access wilderness as soon as lockdown was over.

The walks, runs, and bike rides on trails around the city have been great, but the longer it lasted, the more we longed for the crisp, clean air and mountain solitude. Once restrictions started to ease, we planned our first hike and soon after, headed out to the mountains.

We started out early on Saturday morning to beat most other people to the trailhead…or so we planned. It was a beautiful drive through the winding canyon towards Indian Peaks wilderness, and we were excited for the morning ahead of us. Until we saw the policeman in the middle of the road, alerting drivers that the trailhead was full?!

Not to be deterred, I checked the map and found another small trail to a lake in an open space protected area ? a little off the beaten path so not very popular. The easy trail was more of a long walk in the woods than a hike, but it was still great to be outside with very few people!

The starting point at mountain lake 8000ft (2439m) above sea level was a short walk away. From there, we set off on a 5-mile (8km) loop gaining less than 1000ft (305m) of elevation – a great way for our legs to ease back to sloping terrain after over 3 months of flat city life. Our previous day out at altitude (over 11000ft!) had been for snowboarding in March ? an entirely different season and what feels like a lifetime ago!

Being out in the spring air was refreshing, with the smells and sounds of the forest all around.

The hike was shorter than planned, but exactly what we needed! The forest of green aspen and pine trees with mountain peaks rising tall above open meadows and an added bonus of the small mountain lake nestled within its midst, was a great start to the weekend. What a way to get back into nature!

The pandemic is still prevalent, but this should not stop us from planning and preparing our next adventure when travel resumes. We still have hopes of getting to Taiwan at the end of the year, so check out our Xue Mountain trek and our Holy Trail trek.

We also have lots of how-to videos, sharing of tips on topics such as photography, backpacking, climbing, diving and trekking on our Youtube Channel and website, to prepare you for your next adventure while staying at home. Subscribe to your Youtube channel now to receive updates whenever we upload great content!

 

Even now as Im preparing for our New Zealand trek, Im getting asked, “How to choose a backpack perfect for trekking”. Preparing for a trek can be daunting, especially if it is your first time. What I would say, from over 14 years of tramping around the mountains, is that while there is not a backpack for all occasions, (I personally have four different types) here are some pointers to help find one that is most suitable for you on your next adventure.

 

Tour and Travel Company

Let’s start with three main considerations:

Backpack capacity:?The size of your pack is directly related to the length of your trip, the temperature range you expect and how much weight and bulk you want to carry.

Backpack features:? Features like gear loops (ie. to stow hiking poles, ice axe, carabiners), accessibility (ie. side access, front pockets, side pockets etc.), top load versus side load, compartments etc. affect how the pack works for you. Think about what you need your pack to do for you.

Backpack fit:?How the backpack fits you has a direct impact on how comfortable (or uncomfortable) you feel throughout the trek. What is most important is the length of your torso, not your height.

  • Backpack capacity

As a rule of thumb, I go by the following benchmark based on duration of the trek:

  • A small to medium pack of 30-50l for a weekend trip (1-3nights).
  • A medium pack of 50-70l for a multiday trip (3-5nights)
  • A large pack above 70l for trips longer than 5 nights

Another key factor that affects backpack capacity is the season. During warm weather treks, I may get by with a 60l pack for a 4nights trek. On a winter trek requiring crampons, ice axe, downjacket and base layers, bulk builds up. A larger pack can more comfortably accommodate extra clothing, a warmer sleeping bag and a 4-season tent (which typically includes extra poles).

  • Backpack features

The backpack frame type makes a big difference to the fit of the pack.

Internal-frame backpacks:?These are body-hugging internal frame packs that are designed to keep a hiker stable on uneven, off-trail terrain. They incorporate a variety of load-support technologies that all function to transfer the load to the hips.

External-frame backpacks:?An external-frame pack may be an appropriate choice if you’re carrying a heavy, irregular load, like carrying actual boxes or a cooler. External frame packs also offer good ventilation and lots of gear organization options.

Frameless backpacks:?Ultralight devotees who hike fast and light might choose a frameless pack or a climbing pack where the frame is removable for weight savings.

Some packs have a ventilation feature, essentially a mesh back panel stretching taut to create space (?ie. a ventilation vent) between your back and the pack to prevent the pack from sticking to a wet, sweaty back. The ventilation vent reduces discomfort and has the added advantage of ?airing? your sweaty back to help it dry off.

Pack access is perhaps the most straightforward. Most packs come with top-loading openings?are pretty standard. Items not needed until the end of the day go deepest inside. Items that are regularly needed are located nearest to the exit point. Some packs also offer a zippered front panel which folds open exposing the full interior of the pack, or a side zipper, which also makes it easier to reach items deeper in your pack.

My personal favourite is the pockets. Side pockets that are elasticized, expanding when filled and flat when empty are like magic containers wherein all sorts of loose objects (ie. water bottle, tent poles, map etc.) may be stowed. And then there are the hipbelt pockets which would contain snacks, mobile phone, perhaps a headlight, energy gel ? items that are small are you need to access quickly. .

Front pocket(s):?Sometimes added to the exterior of a shovel pocket, these can hold smaller, less-bulky items.

A fancy feature in some packs is the Removable Daypack / Top Lid. Some packs are designed with a removal daypack that is perfect for day trips, or the summit push. Some packs have top lids that detach from the main pack and convert into a hipbelt pack for day trips.

Finally, we also need to think about where the sleeping bag would go. The Sleeping Bag Compartment is a zippered stash spot near the bottom of a packbag. It’s a useful feature if you don’t want to use a stuff sack for your sleeping bag. Alternately, this space can hold other gear that you’d like to reach easily.

Backpack fit

It is the torso length that matters. Height is not correlated to length of torso. Your torso is essentially your trunk. Use a tape measure. Take your measurements like you would when tailoring a new suit. To find the perfect fit, you need perfect measurements.

trekking climbing backpacks
Finding the perfect trekking backpack fit.? Our friends at Hypelite Mountain gear, has this guide as a rule of thumb.

 

DO NOT forget padding. If you’re using a lightweight pack with a hipbelt and lumbar pad that is not adequately padded, your hips and lower back will be sore. With the right padding, you would not even feel it.

Final note, do your research. To find the perfect match, you need to put in time and effort.

There are many styles and types of backpacks on the market. There is no perfect backpack that meets all needs.? Our advice is to find the one that?s a good fit, that fits correctly on your torso, and has good padding on the hip belt. This will keep you feeling fresh at the end of the day.

Happy Trekking!