scouts-l Mail Archive for August of 2000: Backpack Advice
Rick Seymour (Rick@KUDU.NET
Tue Aug 08 2000 - 02:10:06 CDT
Steve Berry writes:
> My son and I are getting ready to purchase backpacks for
> our Scouting adventures. I am curious what everyone would
> recommend as far as selecting a good backpack. I would
> like to purchase a good quality one that will last through my
> son's scouting days if possible.
It IS possible to purchase a good quality backpack that will fit your 11yo
son now and for the rest of his life.
We have had great success with introducing 10 and 11 year-old Scouts to the
joys of backpacking. They seem to enjoy themselves best when we limit the
first trip to less than 3 miles in each direction AND make sure BEFORE the
trip that an EXPERT checks EACH pack to make sure that it FITS correctly.
There are two main kinds of packs that will fit a small Scout correctly:
either a good quality, medium-sized adult INTERNAL-FRAME pack, or a
child-sized external-frame pack. The latter, however, will not fit after
he begins to grow. There are also hybrid external-frame packs with
an"internal"-style harness that is semi-detached from the width of the
frame, but see an expert about these.
We have found that many of the better internal-frame packs will adjust down
from a rugged 6' 4" Dad to a skinny 4' 6" Scout so that about 90% of the
weight of the pack correctly rests on his hips. However, MOST USED
adult-sized EXTERNAL-frame packs simply will NOT work because each half of
the waist-belt is attached directly to each side of the width of the frame.
This pack will _seem_ to fit correctly in the Troop room and at the trail
head, but once you get a 1/4 mile down the trail, that seemingly
tight-fitting waist-strap will simply slip down past his hips and all the
weight will be resting on his shoulders. Most Scouts think that shoulder
pain is the way it is supposed to be, and chances are that you will never
see that boy backpack again.
Be advised that you will get all kinds of contradictory advice on this
subject. The best wisdom I found was from Colin Fletcher who, in his book
_The Complete Walker III_, recounts his conversion from a famous advocate
of external-frame packs to that of internal-frame packs. Fletcher says
that even an world-renown expert such as himself should go to a local store
that specializes in backpacking and take the advice of a knowledgeable
salesman. Make sure that he adjusts the pack for both you and your son.
Don't be shy about asking.
If in real doubt, many people suggest renting before you invest. Rent from
a store that specializes in camping gear and from whom you plan to make
your final purchase. Sometimes you can arrange to have part or all of the
rental charge apply towards the purchase of the pack. Remember, however,
that the best stores will refund your money if you are not happy, so the
rental route is not really necessary if you go to the best store and ask
for their best salesperson.
The best specialty stores will also be happy to arrange a free back-packing
clinic for your entire Troop. Eastern Mountain Sports does this us. They
suggest that the Scouts bring their own packs to the clinic, and they
adjust them for free even though they were purchased elsewhere.
For some reason our four very smallest Scouts all purchased Kelty Redwing
packs this year. The Redwing comes in two sizes and the larger size is
better, about $80. The "over-night" size Redwing seems to be a good
compromise between price and size, although I would recommend a larger
"three-day" pack if you can afford it. With smaller "over-night"
internal-packs such as the Redwing, buy at least four good-quality
adjustable straps for attaching accessories to the built-in strap
tie-downs. The sleeping bag seems to fit best if rolled LENGTHWISE and
folded OVER the top and sides of the pack in an inverted "U" as was done in
the olden days.
If you know what you are doing, don't overlook high-quality used packs from
local hiking clubs, or "blemished" name-brand models from mail-order
sources such as Campmor.
Remember, above all, that it IS possible to buy a good internal-frame pack
that will fit your son now and continue to adjust in size until his own son
joins Scouting. Keep looking until you find an expert that agrees.
Yours in Scouting,