The Whats and Hows of Backpacks

There are a plethora of backpacks available to buy, but what should you choose?  The below infographic from REI takes you through the steps of picking a backpack and packing it.  There are lots of useful tips and advice to help you select the right backpack for you.

What capacity backpack do I need?

First up capacity, this will really help you narrow down the choices of backpack available to you.  At the smallest end you could start with a daybag at 20 to 50 litres right up to a 80+ litre bag for extended adventures.  Knowing the time you are likely to be away will really help narrow down your selection for the right backpack.  Also are you likely to be carrying tents, cooking equipment etc?  As this all takes up space too.

What size of backpack do I need?

Second to capacity is size, you want a backpack which will be comfortable for long hikes and extended adventures.  Picking the correct size will ensure it fits you well and isn’t going to cause you unnecessary aches.  Ideally its best to go into a store and try out several backpacks so you can find out whats comfortable for you and see the pockets and features of each bag.

How do I pack a backpack?

A common question is how do you pack a backpack.  There are two things to consider in our opinion, firstly what will you need when?  If you’re out walking and it starts raining you don’t want to unpack your entire backpack to get to your waterproof.  The other consideration is packing so that the weight is distributed correctly to carry.  The key here is to get the heavier items as close to your spine as possible for good support.

In the bottom of your rucksack pack your sleeping bag, torch and items you won’t need until night.  In the middle your heavier items this could include your stove etc.  Then at the top all of the lighter stuff such as clothing.  Make the most of the external pockets in your backpack for all the items you might need at short notice – Snacks, Map and Compass, Waterproofs etc.

What are your Backpacking tips?

Have a Backpacking tip?  Share it in the comments



Lowe Alpine Airzone Backpacks

Lowe Alpine have launched their range of Airzone rucksacks exclusively with Cotswold Outdoor until February.  The Lowe Alpine Airzone Backpacks come in a range of colours and sizes from a 20 litre pack that would be perfect for the commute or short hikes, to a large 45 +10 litre pack which gives you that extra space for a long day or occasional nights.

The Airzones are classed as technical day sacks, they each have different features which make them suitable for a wide range of uses, whether you want a simple clean Backpack, like the one pictured above or a more fully featured pack with pockets etc around the outside.

All styles feature the Airzone back system, which has minimal mesh to maximise airflow and comfort.  The backpack is curved for a better fit and to reduce pressure points.  Some of the packs in the range feature the centro adjust system and the adaptive fit hip belt which allows you to adjust the fit to your body.

Much of the range is hydration compatible also so if you use a Camelbak or similar it can be stored in these packs and has a special exit for the water tube.

Each Airzone has different features to fit different uses, the table below shows these, taking you from an overnight camping backpack through to an active walking or commuting bag.


Backpacking Gear List

When you’re backpacking what gear should you take with you?  This is a question we’ve been asked a few times so we’ve put together the ProCamping essential backpacking gear list!

This list covers the “essentials” but should only be used as a guide.  Depending on the time of year, the duration and terrain of your backpacking adventure you will want to tailor your list (a Mountain would be very different to a Desert!).

1 –  Backpack

Probably obvious but the first item on our Backpacking list is a Backpack itself!  The type will depend on how long you are away for and how much walking you expect to do but something comfortable to carry, a sensible size for the length of your trip.

2 – Map

A map is the next item on our list.  Especially if you’re hiking in a unfamilier area you don’t want to get lost!  In the UK Ordnance Survey Maps are a great choice and they even offer a laminated range of Explorer maps, perfect for coming in wet weather conditions.

3 – Compass

A Map on its own will only get you so far, paired with a compass you’ll be unstoppable!

4 – Mobile Phone, Wallet and Identification

We’ve grouped these together, we embrace modern technology so a mobile phone is a must incase you need to call for help.  But don’t rely on it alone as batteries can fail or you may have to wait for help so pay attention to the rest of the list too!  A wallet, incase your out for longer than you intent it’s always handy to have a little cash or a card on with you and it’s just sensible to have identification!

5 – First Aid Kit

You never know what might happen so much of backpacking or camping is about being prepared.  You hope you won’t need to use a first aid kit but take one just in case!  Also if its Summer time Sun protection lotion is also a must, when you get up in the morning you may not realise how hot the sun might get so always carry it incase!

6 – Pocket Knife of Multi Tool

A Swiss Army knife or similar can help you out in all manner of situations, it could be as simple as food preparation or for use with your first aid kit, but you’ll use a pocket knife more than you think!

7 – Flash light or Headtorch

A great part of backpacking is you go at your own rate, when you want to stop and soak in the outdoors you do, no time limits and not a care in the world.  But if you do lose yourself be sure to have a flashlight to hand, we recommend a headtorch so your hands are still free!

8 – Food and Water

Always pack food and water.  You don’t know how long you’ll be out so be prepared.  How much you take will depend on where you are backpacking and how long you will be away.

9 – Waterproofs

Theres nothing worse than being stuck outdoors and soaked through so (particularly in Britain) Waterproofs are an essential item, they’ll keep you dry and keep off the wind chill.

10 – Shelter

If you’re backpacking for several days you may be taking a tent but if not a bivvy bag is a must so in the worst of conditions you have shelter.


These are just a few Backpacking essentials.  The Time of Year, Location, Weather Conditions, Duration of you adventure will all greatly affect your kit list.  Do you have any tips or essentials that we haven’t mentioned?  Leave a comment and share it with our readers.




How to Clean a CamelBak

If you use a CamelBak while camping or adventuring you need to make sure you clean it properly after every use.  This is especially true if you fill the CamelBak with something other than water.

Tip 1 – Only fill your reservoir with water, if you use energy drinks, protein or supplements its likely to get sticky or have liquid left in it if it isn’t cleaned well.

Tip 2 – After every use clean your reservoir, run water through it, and then hang it up to dry throughly, the new CamelBak bladders contain dryer arms so they are easy to hang in a way that allows air to circulate.

But if you need to give it a really good clean…

Buy a CamelBak Antidote Cleaning Kit.  This pack includes – A reservoir brush which will help you give the main reservoir a good scrub, a tube brush which will reach right down the tube, an Antidote™ Quick Link™ reservoir hanger which allows you to hang the reservoir upside down allowing a good airflow to dry it fully, 2 extra folding dryer arms and 2 cleaning tablets.

Whether you use the CamelBak cleaning kit, baking soda or bleach CamelBak give the following instructions on their website.

  • Use hot water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda or bleach.  Mix the solution inside your reservoir and hold it up above your head while you pinch the bite valve, allowing the bleached water to run through the tube.  You can also use CamelBak Cleaning Tabs.
  • Let the reservoir and cleaning solution sit for about 30 minutes.
  • Wash the reservoir with hot water and mild soap. Be sure to completely rinse away any bleach or cleaning solution before using again.  You can also use CamelBak brushes from our Cleaning Kit to scrub your reservoir and tube.  Brushes are the best way to ensure you are scrubbing all of the areas of the reservoir clean.
  • Once the reservoir is clean, be sure to air dry the reservoir so no moisture is trapped inside, which can cause mold to grow.
  • These steps will make your reservoir safe for use.  If you have spots left from the mold, they will never come all the way out because the reservoir is permanently stained, but still safe and usable.

CamelBak Mule 2012

The CamelBak Mule (2012 edition) could be the perfect activity bag.  CamelBak’s are of course known for their water bladder and pipe system making it easy to drink on the go without having to stop, unpack and repack your bag.  The Mule has a 3 litre bladder with all the features you would expect from a CamelBak – Quick Link™ System, 1/4 turn – easy open/close cap, lightweight fillport, dryer arms, center baffling and low-profile design, patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, PureFlow™ tube, easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening.  CamelBak say 3 Litres is enough for 3 or more hours of mountain bike action.

The Rucksack itself has a cargo capacity of 9.5 Litres packed with pockets and features -Media pocket, bike tool organizer pocket, stash pocket, four point compression, stretch overflow helmet storage.  It’s designed to carry Helmet, multi-tool, pump, spare tube, extra layer, lunch, MP3, phone, wallet, keys – so pretty spacious whatever your use.


The North Face Base Camp Free Fall Backpack

The North Face Base Camp Free Fall makes the perfect day bag.  It will fit a 15” laptop, though if you’re out camping we really suggest you leave the laptop at home!  North Face describe it as being built in bombproof Base Camp Duffel material which makes it super strong. The backpack has a wide opening for ease of loading and it’s built to last with rugged duffel fabric. The 21 litre capacity is divided into a large main compartment and a smaller secondary compartment with organisation.

Despite it’s rugged strength its also comfortable to carry thanks to an anatomically shaped FlexVent™ injection moulded padded shoulder straps and a padded Chemise back panel with Spine Channel and PE sheet for extra back comfort and support. Includes a tablet sleeve and removable hip belt.

Reviewers at Cotswold Outdoor rate it 5 stars with comments including

“very good quality backpacks”

“It has taken me ages to find a bag which is both practical- waterproof, laptop section, loops to attach bike lights, and looks good (I’m a girl so it’s hard to find proper backpacks that don’t look massive). It also feels like it will last the test of time.”


  • Super-strong pack with padded laptop sleeve and retro styling for everyday use. FlexVent™ injection-molded shoulder straps
  • Comfortable, padded Chemise back panel with Spine Channel and PE sheet for extra back support
  • Removable hipbelt
  • Large main compartment with universal sleeve
  • Secondary compartment with organization
  • Durable, water-resistant zippers
  • Weight/ 765 g
  • Dimensions 47 cm X 32 cm X 23 cm
  • Laptop Compatibility 15″: 38 cm x 3 cm x 27 cm
  • Volume 21 liters

Osprey Kestrel 68 Rucksack

The Osprey Kestrel 68 Rucksack is the largest in their Kestrel range.  As the name suggests this is a 68 litre Backpack which Osprey describes as from their multi use range.  There are many features to the Kestrel 68 Rucksack, best shown in the below video, but the most unique part of this rucksack is Osprey’s Stow on the Go functionality, which allows you to hang your walking poles without having to stop and remove the pack.


  •     Airscape™ Backpanel
  •     Dual vertical zippered side pockets
  •     External hydration pocket
  •     Hipbelt pockets
  •     Intergrated Raincover 1
  •     Intergrated Raincover 2
  •     Removable sleeping pad straps
  •     Reverse StraightJacket™ compression straps
  •     Stow-On-The-Go™ Trekking Pole Attachment 1
  •     Stow-On-The-Go™ Trekking Pole Attachment 2
  •     Stretch woven front pocket
  •     Tool attachment
  •     Torso adjustable harness
  •     Zippered sleeping bag compartment
  •     Zippered top pocket

CM: 77 x 39 x 36
IN: 30 x 15 x 14



Mountain Equipment Wet & Dry Bags

Mountain Equipment Wet & Dry Bags are great all round kit bags.  The Wet & Dry Bags are available in 4 size options, 40 Litres, 70 Litres, 100 Litres and 140 Litres.

They are made from a strong tarpaulin waterproof fabric augmented with an strong 1000 denier nylon base.  The 100 and 140 Litre Bags come with a fully adjustable Shoulder Harness making the bag carriable as a rucksack.  All the bags come with side and handles and a long strap from end to end.  So many carrying options!

These bags are named Wet and Dry Bags because although the complete bag is a dry bag they have a internal divider which effectively gives you two dry bags, perfect for when you finish a days surfing or kayaking as you can put your wet kit in one section but anything that needs to stay dry can stay in the other half!

If though you don’t fancy carrying your kit on your back, or know you don’t have far to go, Mountain Equipment also offer similer 70 ltr and 100 ltr roll bags, which have wheels for easy movement over smooth surfaces.

Specifications – Wet & Dry Kit Bag 100 ltr

  • Weight: 2160g
  • Volume: 100 Litres
  • Internal waterproof divider
  • Removable shoulder straps
  • Wide U shaped zipped lid for easy access
  • Nylon webbing reinforced carrying straps
  • Tough tapaulin/1000D Nylon outer fabric
  • Dimensions: 75 x 40 x 40cm

Specifications Roller Kit Bag 100 ltr

  • Weight: approx. 4350g
  • Volume: 100 Litres
  • Internal waterproof divider
  • Internal mesh pocket
  • Wide U shaped zipped lid with lockable zippers
  • Nylon webbing reinforced carrying straps and handles
  • Tough tarpaulin/1000D Nylon outer fabric
  • Internal and external compression straps
  • Lockable and retractable pull-out handle
  • Durable custom wheels and wheel housing
  • Protective skid rails
  • Reinforced corners for extra durability
  • Base: 46 x 75cm (L)
  • Height: 47cm max