Caring for your Rucksack or Travel Pack

Mildew can be a problem particularly if you have stored your pack wet. The best advice here is simply don't let it happen! If the pack is canvas and you do in fact have a mould problem a number of specialised canvas mould removers are available for pre-w

It is inevitable that your pack will get dirty during the course of its life and it's inevitable that you will want to clean it!

This is easier than most people imagine. Regardless of what base material it is made of simply scrub the pack down using a scrubbing brush with a mild detergent/soap in warm water then hose or rinse off. The pack will then dry easily if hung outside.

Mildew can be a problem particularly if you have stored your pack wet. The best advice here is simply don't let it happen!
If the pack is canvas and you do in fact have a mould problem a number of specialised canvas mould removers are available for pre-wash treatment. If the pack is of any other material the best bet is a mild, warm, detergent/soap solution and a lot of elbow grease.




Be warned any heavy detergents or bleaches can do significant damage to the fabric, so if in any doubt use warm soapy water!

Neither canvas nor nylon packs are totally waterproof. While the actual fabrics may be (and usually are) waterproof, water is still able to seep through the seams or zippers in very wet conditions. Because of the shape and construction complexity of most packs, sealing the seams of a rucksack, either in the factory or at home, is difficult and not very effective.

The good news is that there are several other relatively simple ways to improve the weatherproofing of your pack. These include the following:

  1. For top-loading packs, the most effective way is to use a waterproof pack liner. These are simply large bags made of highly waterproof fabric with tape-sealed seams or welded seams to keep them waterproof, which are placed inside the pack to act as a lining. Look for a model that extends higher than the actual body of your pack, so you will have ample material to tie a gooseneck knot at the top. To do this, tighten the drawcord, twist the neck tightly and double it back on itself so it creates a U bend. Tie this off with the cord from the drawcord. Some models may have waterproof seals at the top, but these are often heavier.
  2. Another option, which works for both travelpacks and rucksacks, is to use a collection of waterproof stuffsacks. These are like smaller versions of the pack liner described above. You can purchase a variety of sizes with the seams already tape-sealed, or seal them yourself with a quality seam sealant like Sealcoat or Aquaseal. Two thin coats are better than a single thick one. An advantage of this approach is that by using different coloured stuffsacks, you can easily organise and locate gear within your pack. Stuffsacks are also effective in keeping dust and sand out of you gear.
  3. The third way is to use a waterproof pack cover. These are like huge shower caps for your pack. They have an elastic hem which hugs the body of the pack leaving only the harness exposed (so you can carry it!). This works very well with travelpacks.

Loading Your Pack
It is worth spending some time at home loading your new pack with the gear you expect to take on trips. Note where it fits or doesn't fit! Below are some suggestions which may help.

Pack your sleeping bag in its stuffsack at the bottom of your pack. It is the last item you will need each day. The soft bulk of the bag will not dig into your hips and provides a firm platform on which to load your other equipment. Your sleeping bag is essential shelter in remote areas and should be protected. For this reason we strongly recommend that you do not strap it to the outside of your pack where it can be easily damaged, rained on, or stolen.

Folding, rather than rolling, your sleeping mat and loading it vertically against the frame on the inside of the pack helps prevent the contents of your pack from digging into your back. This works best with self inflating mats.

Pack heavy items towards the frame of the pack. This keeps the centre of gravity close to your back, allowing you to walk upright. Stoves, fuel, food and similar items are ideally placed here. Large heavy gear, such as your tent, should be arranged near to your back and about shoulder height. Having your tent near the top is also convenient when you stop to set up camp.

  • Gear which is needed frequently or quickly should be easy to access. Lid pockets and back pockets are perfect for snacks, gloves, cameras, map and compass, first aid kits and rainwear. Remember that pockets are the least waterproof areas of the pack and use stuffsacks to protect your gear where necessary. If your rainwear is too bulky to fit into a pocket it should be tucked under the lid of the pack where it can be quickly retrieved.
  • Try to avoid attaching equipment to the outside of your pack. In the bush, it is easy to damage or lose gear from the outside of your rucksack by snagging it on dense scrub. On a travelpack, gear which is hanging off the outside of the pack is an easy target for thieves, and can be damaged or lost during baggage handling. It also makes the pack awkward and unwieldy to carry.
  • The exception to the above is, of course, skis or mountaineering equipment. Skis are best carried on a pack by lashing them to the sides with compression straps or straps in plastic lash tabs. Secure them tightly to the pack, as they are prone to shift about while walking. Alpine packs often have patches of reinforced fabric on either the lid or front panel, which are designed for attaching crampons. Face crampons points on each other so as to limit any damage to the pack fabric.
  • Utilise all available space by packing small items such as underwear or socks inside shoes etc.

Getting a Comfortable Fit

  • Release the webbing straps before you put the pack on. Set the hip belt around your hipbones, not up around your stomach. Tension the buckle so that it fits quite snugly (70% of the pack's load should be carried by your hips, not your shoulders). Next, tension the shoulder harness straps so they curve snugly around your shoulders. There are often top tension straps on the shoulder harness which pull the load of the pack closer to your back. Adjust these straps so the pack is firm and not shifting about as you walk. At the sides of the hipbelt there may be similar straps: tensioning these in brings more of the load onto the hipbelt.
  • One other strap that might require adjustment is the sternum strap. This does not need to be fastened all the time, however, it is useful for people with slim shoulders who find the shoulder straps slipping, or to stabilise the pack when traversing rough terrain.
  • The soft metal in today's internal frame packs can change profile in transit and may require reshaping. Although not usually necessary, this can be done over an edge or over your knee if necessary.
  • Check that the pack is loaded evenly with an equal amount of weight distributed across the width of the pack. If not, rearrange your load.
  • Avoid wearing clothing which creates pressure spots between you and the pack. Zips or bulky seams on garments or knives carried on belts are common offenders.
  • It is common practice to sit on one's pack during rest stops, lunch breaks or at train stations. Although convenient, it is not likely to prolong the life of your pack and you should expect the pack to suffer in the long term if you do this


Sourced from Paddy Pallin