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GO Outdoors Rucksack Buying Guide

Whatever activity you enjoy, you need to ensure that all your essentials are close to hand. A classic rucksack can be used for long days walking, or for climbing or camping trips, whereas a daypack can be useful for short day long use when you need to carry less gear.

Rucksacks are carried on the shoulders but are supported by your back, legs and other muscles, so getting the right fit is crucial. Although there isn't one perfect rucksack, the best bags can be adjusted to suit your shape and the size of your load. 

Daypacks- Common Features

Daypacks are best described as lightweight rucksacks designed for walking and similar pursuits as an all-purpose, one-day use.

Most daypacks lack more advanced features such as major hip padding and back systems that rucksacks use, but for most one-day activities this is not a problem as they aren't really required. 

Have a look below at the common features we recommend you to look for in a daypack: 

Daypack Features Diagram 1,2,3.

1. Hydration Compatible 

Look for an internal pocket, drinking straw exit hole, and fastening for mouth piece that allow a hydration unit to be fitted to the bag. This ensures you stay hydrated throughout your day of walking, minimising dehydration risk. 

2. Integral Rain Cover 

An integral rain cover as shown on this diagram is packed away in the base. Most covers pack away here, or in the lid to give your bag extra rain protection without getting in the way of your gear. 

3. Wand pockets 

The slim ridges indicated on the picture are known as wand pockets. These are fabric or mesh pockets located on the sides at the base of the rucksack that allow long items to be fixed to your pack or storage for smaller items for fasts access.This could be a ski or walking poles, ropes or similar.

Daypack Features Diagram 4,5,6.

4. Walking pole attachment 

Loops or eyelets at the base of the bag and fastening higher up. 

5. Compression straps 

Straps on the sides of the rucksack that allow a bulky or partially full rucksack to be compressed making it easier and more comfortable to carry. 

6. Padded hip belt 

As the weight of a rucksack increases so should the percentage of the load that is carried on the hips. Smaller packs that will carry heavy loads should be equipped with a suitably padded waist belt. 

Daypack Features Diagram 7,8.

7. Hydration unit 

Some models include a drinking system which consists of a tough flexible bladder, drinking straw and mouth piece. This system is essential in hot weather or during intense activities where regular drinking is necessary. 

8. Air flow back system 

A tensioned mesh back that creates a large air space between the bag and the users back to keep it cool and free of perspiration. Not suitable for very high intensity activities like climbing and running.


Common Rucksack Features

These rucksacks are designed for multi-day use and for carrying heavier loads than the daypacks above. Most of these backpacks have all the features of the daysack but with additional padding, pockets and fixing points for your extra gear. 

Most have an internal structure and are fitted with adjustable back systems to ensure a comfortable fit, flush to your back. 

Backpack Features Diagram 1,2,3,4.

1. Bellows side pockets 

An alternative to fixed side pockets these collapsible pockets give useful fast access/extra storage when deployed but can be packed away to keep your bag compact.

2. Padded hip belt 

As the weight of a rucksack increases so should the percentage of the load that is carried on the hips. Large backpacks or smaller packs that will carry heavy loads should be equipped with a suitably padded waist belt. 

3. Expansion section 

An extra section of material around the opening of the rucksack allows the top of the bag to be ‘overfilled’ increasing your storage capacity. 

4. Base opening & Additional fixing points 

More common on larger packs these zipped openings allow easy access to the bottom of the rucksack. Extra points of Backpack Adjustable Back Systemattachment allow the fixing of all kinds of equipment to the outside of your pack.


Adjustable back system 

Usually on larger backpacks, they allow the distance between the shoulder straps and hip belt to be increased/ decreased to suit people of different heights, providing a more comfortable fit.

Most manufacturers now have slightly different types of adjustable back systems. The general principal in them is the same - which is... 

"It allows the shoulder straps to be moved up or down to accommodate longer of shorter backs" 

Common Travel Pack Features

Travel Packs will always have a large front zip for quick and easy access to your belongings. 

They may also feature concealable compartments for your documents' safety and most often have a daysack attached to the front for use while you are busy being tourist! 

Perfect for any traveller, be it around the world or around a city. 

Travel Pack Features 1,2.

1. Front opening 

The key feature of travel bags, this large zip opening give easy access to the whole of the bags contents. Front openings are also available on some trekking backpacks. 

2. Detachablrr e day bag 

Most common on travel packs these small volume bags 15-25 litres can be kept attached to the main bag or used separately.

Common Climbing Pack Features

Climbing packs are usually constructed with a supporting structure for durability and rigidity while climbing routes. They are equipped with gear loops for your rack and are generally fitted with more harnessing materials to keep the pack stuck to your back. They are generally tall to increase stability and have compression straps to pack down jackets, sleeping bags and hardware in them. 

See below for features we recommend you look out for in a climbing pack: 
See our range of climbing packs here.


Climbing Pack Features Diagram 1,2,3.

1. Removable waist belt 

Climbers and mountaineers often find the hip belt hampers freedom of movement or access to their harness, the removal of the hip belt eliminates this.


2. Gear loops 

Unique to climbing/mountaineering rucksacks these heavy duty loops on the hip belt or shoulder straps allow climbing gear to be secured for easy access.

3. Ice axe attachment 

Loop/s at the base of the bag and fastening higher up that allow ice axes to be securely fixed.

  • First drop the ice axe in through the loop at the bottom
  • Then turn upside down and fix the bottom of the handle to the strap

Other Climbing Features: 

- Crampon pouch 

Some kind of toughened flap or pouch located on the front of the rucksack that allows crampons to be secured without damaging your rucksack.

- Rope compressor 

A simple loop with quick release clip located under the rucksack lid allows a rope to be securely fixed and yet remain easily accessible.

- Haul loops 

Similar to the carry handle on the back of you pack a haul loop is located on the front. These two loops used in conjunction allow a rucksack to be easily pulled up a climb where it would be too heavy to carry.

- Adjustable Lid Height 

Allows the rucksack to be filled maximally but with more protection for the contents from the elements.

Size Recommendations

Rucksack Size Recommendation Table

How to pack your Rucksack

When packing your rucksack, we believe you should keep these four things in mind to spread the weight and keep you comfortable for the duration of your activity: 

  • Always pack the rucksack with all storage areas open
  • Always pack the weight evenly on each side
  • Always pack tightly with as few gaps as possible.
  • Try to avoid fixing anything to the outside of your pack (sleeping mat and walking poles are the exceptions)

The following diagram should explain where you need specific items to make your life easier if it starts to rain, or you are in need of a quick snack: 

Rucksack Packing Diagram

Rucksack Fitting

Skeleton Waist Diagram
Backpack fitting is only generally required for packs 50+ litres and only for those performing long distance load carrying. 

The strongest muscles in your body are in your legs, so you want to carry the weight of your rucksack through your legs AND NOT your shoulders.

If your rucksack’s waist band is too high the weight will load onto your spine (i.e. the band in red). 

The correct position will transfer the weight straight onto your pelvis and thus through to your legs (the band in green).


The aim is to have the weight distributed 70-80% on the hips, 20-30% on the shoulders. The pack should be comfortable, stable and be sat close against the back. 

The order in which you fit your rucksack is important, and at GO Outdoors, we recommend doing it the following way to ensure the rucksack is the right one for you. If you are in-store, then please ask one of our trained staff to help fit your rucksack with the correct weights and know-how.

  • The waist belt should be tight (and still comfortable), bearing in mind the positioning of the belt in reference to the crest of the hip.
  • You should then fit the shoulder straps and tighten them.
  • Following this, the waist belt stabilizers should be adjusted for maximum comfort on your hips and until firm.
  • After the waist, the shoulder strap stabilizers should be adjusted. This will bring the whole pack into balance. Do not over tighten the shoulder stabilizers as this may create a gap between the shoulder and the shoulder strap which will cause rubbing and overbalancing of the rucksack once you start walking.
  • The final process to undertake is to clip and adjust chest strap. This can be uncomfortable if placed in the wrong place, especially for women. The strap should fit level with the front of the shoulder joint and tightened until it takes the pull off the front of the shoulder.

How to pack your Rucksack

The back length is set too long leaving a gap behind the shoulder. 

The back length is set too short putting too much weight on the shoulders and leaving the waist belt too high up the body. 

To test the weight distribution you can follow the following instructions:

  • If you get someone else to grab the waist belt firmly and shake it, you should move with it, and not stay rigid.
  • If someone pulls the shoulder straps apart they should move but give some resistance.