Its no fun when you have a major equipment failure while out camping or hiking and once you’ve covered items like the tent and a solid pair of boots your left with finding the most durable backpack you can.
In today’s world of synthetic fabrics there’s very little trade off between weight and strength even when dealing with waterproof materials.
This is in stark contrast to vintage hiking kit where the only choice when extra durability was needed, meant using thicker and thicker fabrics.
Its Not All About the Base Material
Although what a backpack is made of does change the length of its lifetime massively, there’s a bit more to it. You can have the strongest fabric in the world but if its poorly put together or badly designed in the first place then all is lost. The bad design aspect also covers exactly what your using the backpack for (more on that later).
Extravagance Has Its Price
The less complicated a piece of equipment, the less likely something will go wrong along with being much easier to sort once its broken. Simple tools are always better at surviving the riggers of outdoor life and are a cornerstones of the survivalist mindset.
Bells and whistle on a backpack may do plenty for shifting them out of the stores but consider how much of those fancy additions you’ll be using in real life and maybe save yourself some money.
Its tricky to work out if the stitching on your new backpack is up to the job. Looking for some uniform neatness and above all the quality of the material used for stitching itself does help.
Look closely at the pressure points on the pack (bottom, where the straps meet the pack etc).
The whole poor quality zip (or zippers, depending which side of the Atlantic your on) thing bothers me way too much!
When you stop to consider how many times you really open and close a zip on a backpack before it fails, you’ll realize that if the same quality zip was fitted to jeans or coats, we’d all be freezing come wintertime. In the lower price budget packs the zip has to one of the most expensive components and it’s no wonder some producers will attempt to cut costs in this area.
Personally I try to stay away from buying a pack with zips fitted altogether, but at a push I’ll accept them on the side pouches only. Losing the waterproofing on that little bit of space doesn’t write the whole backpack off and can be worked around.
Fine tooth zips are next to useless on something that’s being used outside as they can be damaged by the smallest stones or even dirt. Look for the sort of zip you’d expect to see on jeans.
Plastic clasps are right up there with zips for me and I’ll try to avoid them at all costs. Its very difficult to judge the strength of the plastic fitted and although strong types can be made cheaply, that doesn’t stop the sort of plastic that breaks the first time you drop the pack being fitted to far too many products.
Fit for Purpose
Getting hold of the right pack that suits your outdoor activities also helps to prolong its life. Something like the Durable Outlander Daypack (pictured left) is ideal if your just out for a extended warm weather hike.
Take the same backpack and try to fill it to the brim with everything needed for a quick overnight camp and your heading for trouble.
Backpacks stretch over time no matter how much care you take with trying to fit too much in and you just can’t get away from the effect of gravity along with the heavier items we have to take out on the trail with us.
The True Test of a Backpack
Even with taking good care of your backpack there are the odd occasions when it can get destroyed and its not your fault (well not entirely).
Any sort of hiking or mountain climbing always comes with the risk of ending up on your arse at some point and if you’ve escaped so far, its only a matter of time 🙂
Slippery ground from morning dew or thick fog, taking a tumble on loose stones or hitting the deck because you’ve taking your eyes of the trail for that split second, are to me the ultimate measure of what you’ve got on your back.
Just think of all that weight instead a piece of material being violently shifted about rapidly and the force it exerts onto the seams and zips holding your backpack together.
In my eyes any pack that can manage a few nasty tumbles without spilling my possessions all down the side of a mountain is a winner. This is even more crucial if the pack has frames, as once they’ve been bent its nearly impossible to put them back into the correct shape again.
Knowing When to Let Go
Camping’s not a cheap hobby, especially if your investing in kit that’s going to last more than a season. This makes trading in a less then ideal backpack the last thing you want to do, but think of the alternative.
Having you pack spew forth all your gear is bad enough, without then having to work out a way of carrying it all.
This is why there’s always a few large bin bags in my pack. It may not look right, is not very comfortable to walk with but it gets the job done 🙂