A few years ago, some girlfriends and I took an awesome backpacking trip to Frontenac Provincial Park for my 30th birthday. It was a trip we threw together without too much preparation. I had 1 year old twins at the time, and honestly, I just wanted a little taste of adventure. The kind of adventure that is hard to come by when you are a mother of young children. Or stuck in a job that takes up way too much of your time. Or stuck in a monotonous circle of hell. Whatever it may be, it happens to us all.
It being the middle of October, we knew we’d need some warmer clothes, a decent tent and some larger backpacks. We grabbed some food, water and our hiking shoes and set off. I hadn’t invested in a decent multi-day hiking backpack, but I thought I’d manage perfectly fine with my canoe-tripping pack that I’d purchased almost 10 years prior.
Wrong. After a long day of hiking with way too much weight on my back, I was sore. So sore that a crippling tension headache decided to make itself into my already tired brain that night. What a mess. Hiking out the way we came in was almost impossible the next morning. My amazing backpacking girlfriends hiked out to the nearest road and got us a ride back to our car from a park ranger; the easy way out.
It happens. You plan for adventure, it gets cut short. If you plan well, you’re able to circumnavigate these little headaches and continue on. Two things changed for me after this trip. I now pack advil with me on every overnighter and I became somewhat knowledgeable on hiking packs. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:
1. Invest. Backpacking gear is an investment. If you treat it well, the stuff should last you years – a decade even. So spending the extra money on a pack with a good reputation (like Osprey or Gregory) is a really good idea.
2. Sample. Try that pack on in the store. Throw some weight in it. Make sure there’s a lot of room for adjustment and lots of padding for comfort. If you spend 8-10 hours a day hiking with this pack on your back, loaded with your necessities for survival – you truly want to make sure it’s comfortable.
3. Sizing. Packs range in capacity from daypacks (20-30L), to overnighters (30-55L), to expedition (55-75L). It may seem like a great idea to buy an expedition pack to cover your weekend away and any future, multi-day expeditions that may come up, but you’ll actually end up carring more than necessary with a bigger pack. Buy the size that you will use most often. Borrow the size that you rarely need. Or rent, as many outfitters have that option.
Invest your money, spend the time and know what type to buy! Good used backpacks are out there, too. Leave the canoe-tripping packs for the canoe adventures.