a you-beaut tramping pack

On a long-distance tramp, you need a spacious pack to accommodate all that food and gear.

We’ve moved along with pack technology since the ol’ Mountain Mule with the thick leather shoulder straps. Most recent packs have well-designed harnesses with waist and chest straps to spread the weight to your hips and stabilise the load. They tend towards body-hugging contours to keep the centre of gravity as close as possible to yours.

People swear by their different packs, and who are we to argue?

The major issues in deciding on a new pack include:

Is the pack volume sufficient to hold all your essentials for 9 or more days—like 65—80 litres or thereabouts?

Can you fit everything inside? It’s not a good idea to have loose bits hanging off the outside of the pack as you crash through the shrubbery, getting around some forest windfall or slip.

A single major compartment is a sensible idea so you can bung everything inside a pack-liner, a large, tough plastic bag that keeps its contents dry when the weather turns inevitably to full-on precipitation. Nice to ensure you are going to have a dryish sleeping bag.

Breaking the compartment into sections, with the extra zips, will make it easier to get to things, but for the most part, you don’t actually need to get to much until you get to the hut or campsite. The more compartments, the more waterproofing becomes an issue. Zips leak and also have a habit of jamming or breaking, so the fewer, the better in the long term.

You do, however, need an extra pocket or two to house the bits and pieces you need to access during the day: sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, maps, etc. And somewhere for your lunch, so you don’t need to fully rummage into the main pack.

A pack cover: the jury’s still out as to whether these are really necessary. They are supposed to keep the majority of the usual New Zealand dampness off the pack and can provide some heightened visibility when tramping through areas frequented by hunters if you prefer the more florid-coloured variety. They are hard to keep on in blowy conditions or bushbashing-style operations when getting around fallen trees.

Dunno: give it a try.

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