A rucksack for every occasion

Published 3 July 2022

The transportation of personal belongings has come a long way since the time of the pilgrims.

Okay people, it’s time to talk rucksacks. Because everyone should talk rucksacks. It’s one of those things people just don’t talk about enough. Except when they do. But that’s another story.

I bought my first rucksack in 2005. A rucksack for walking anyway. Certainly not my first one ever. I had several rucksacks during my school and university years, usually slung over one shoulder because that’s what seemed to be the thing you did back then. Wholly unpractical of course, and I note that today’s teenagers seem to prefer the low slung sack – straps on both shoulders at least, but with the body of the rucksack dangling as close to their legs as possible. Neither seems particularly good for your back.

But anyway, I digress. As I was saying, I bought my first rucksack back in 2015. It was a fifty litre job, bought with a long weekend walking a section of the Pennine Way in mind. I still have it, and over the years it’s accompanied me on many a trail. Over the years it’s become part of a collection. There are so many rucksacks in my house, each with their own purpose and use.

So what have I got, and what do I use them for? Well my friend, let me tell you…

And don’t worry, nothing here is about selling you anything. There’s no affiliate links or anything. Most of my packs are many years old and now unavailable. But what’s below does let you know what I do with them.

Berghaus 24Seven 20L

Berghaus 24/7 rucksack

Without a doubt, this is the one that gets used the most. Although not really for walking. This is the pack I fill if I’m heading into the office, or need to shove a towel in for the swimming pool. That said, it does get used for day walks as well, mainly in the summer. It’s small size means you can fit in some food, water and a waterproof jacket in. Maybe a thin jumper if the weather gets cool.

There’s just one compartment, with a pocket if you want to put in a hydration bladder. Or, if you’re me, put your laptop in. As well as the large compartment, there’s also two side pockets. However the pockets don’t really allow you to put much more in than a small bottle of water. My large Sigg bottles never stay in.

It’s comfy but on hot days can – as with any rucksack that has a flat back – leave you with a sweaty back. The back is partly padded with gaps that are supposed to let some air in. It’s declared to be “flow technology”. But whether that makes any difference is another question.

The back of the Berghaus 24/7 rucksack – with “flow”

Perhaps one of the best features of the pack for me was the price. I got it free as part of a special offer at the (sadly closed) Berghaus store in Covent Garden. Spend over £50, get a free rucksack. I can’t remember what else I bought that day, but the rucksack’s been used on a regular basis ever since.

It does have a flaw. It’s got a nice long zip to make getting things in and out very easy. But if the pack is full and the two zips are closed at the top, they can work themselves into an undone position and your belongings can – and probably will – fall out. A few months ago my camera and hat fell out as I was on my way home after a walk. Thankfully they were just round the corner from my house and some kind stranger had put them on a garden wall, so I got everything back. But it was not a great scenario.

Despite that the pack remains in regular use. That said it is getting a little long in the tooth now. After many years of regular use, there’s an increasing number of small holes. No doubt it’s got a bit more life in it, but at some point it’s going to be the first pack I actually need to replace.

Berghaus 24Seven 30L

This is the most recent addition to my rucksack armoury. And those extra ten litres make all the difference. The difference being that you can – if needs be – stuff in both a coat and a jumper into your rucksack at the same time as housing all your food, water and other supplies.

Inside are two compartments, handy for organisation. I tend to put clothes in the compartment closest to my back, and the rest in the other.

Wear this backpack and it will be like having huge gusts of air going up your back.

As with all the bags, there’s space for a hydration bladder and walking pole holders. There’s also two side pockets, each far bigger than my 20 litre pack, and more than capable of carrying two large water bottles without problems. There’s some loops for carrying walking poles too.

Again it has a flat back with Berghaus’s “Flow technology” that is supposed to stop your back getting sweaty, but really doesn’t.  Still, this is now my go-to bag for day hikes where the weather is more unknown and I need more clothing options. It’s also a handy overnight pack if you don’t need to take that much with you.

Berghaus Freeflow 50L

A neat and tidy looking pack on the West Highland Way

You’re probably spotting a theme in my rucksack purchases. Yes, all my packs are Berghaus ones.

As I have mentioned before, Berghaus was for many years my main supplier due to me getting a hefty discount in their now defunct Covent Garden retail store through work. This rucksack was one of my first purchases from them, made in 2007 before we set off for a few days walking on the Pennine Way.

It’s been with me on most of my long distance walks. The vast majority of the multi-day hikes I have done where I have stayed away from home – in B&Bs and hostels – have been done with this pack. And I love it to bits.

Why? Several reasons. For starters, it’s 50 litre capacity means I can easily fit in everything I need. The pack is arched, meaning it only touches your back at the very top and bottom of the pack, keeping you cool and sweat free. It’s tall and thin, and – as long as you put the heavy stuff at the bottom – distributes the weight well on your hips rather than your shoulders. Well as long as you use the waist strap anyway! As I tend to carry my luggage rather than use baggage services, this is an important factor!

The arched back and mess panel make for a slightly less sweaty back on a sunny day.

There’s a top pocket where you can stash smaller items, a long, narrow pocket on the front for maps or books, and the large interior compartment that can be zipped off into two if you desire. Obviously there’s a pocket for a hydration system if that takes your fancy, as well as two big side pockets more than capable of holding large water bottles. As this is a serious walking pack, there’s loops for holding your walking poles securely. There’s also a raincover that stashes away in the top pocket – although don’t expect it to keep everything perfectly dry in heavy rail. It’s no substitute for a good rucksack liner or dry-bag.

It looks neat. It looks sleek. And it’s comfortable. Oh so comfortable. It’s brilliant, and has lasted well despite having some pretty intensive use over the years. I recently estimated it’s walked at least 1,300 miles on my back.

A few things are showing their age now, with some issues with joined fabric coming lose, and other fabric fraying at the zip. That said, Berghaus offer a free repair service and I’ll soon be seeing if they can do anything with it. Hopefully it will be able to keep on going for many more years.

Berghaus C7 2 Series 70 + 10

My massive rucksack at the end of the Southern Upland Way

Coming in at 80 litres of capacity, my final pack is by far the biggest. And the least used. I bought it in 2011 ahead of walking the Southern Upland Way. For that trip I intended to camp and that meant my 50 litre pack simply couldn’t cope. My stoves, camping mat, and sleeping bag wouldn’t fit in it, nor would all the food I’d need to carry. I could have rigged something up – strapped things to the outside. But my preference was to keep everything inside a pack and that meant a bigger model was needed.

This one is a monster. The main compartment can take 70 litres, and the side pockets and lid increase that by another 10.

It has all the things you’d expect. Pocket for your hydration system, highly adjustable straps, places to put your walking poles, raincover, big fat waist strap and all that. There’s also oodles of padding on the back to ensure your back doesn’t get too sweaty, and lots of other stuff.

It’s also quite heavy. 2.7kg – almost double that of my 50 litre pack. It’s about a kilo heaver than other rucksacks of the same size. But it’s heavy for a reason and I thought – and continue to think – that the reason justifies it.

One large rucksack at Wood End on the Southern Upland Way

When you’re carrying a lot on your back, lots of people focus on weight. Can you make everything you carry as light as possible? Some even go to the extent of shaving off a few grams by breaking off half the handle from their toothbrush. It’s understandable. I do it myself. Not the toothbrush thing. That’s bonkers. It saves you next to nothing, and makes brushing your teeth harder. But I have weighed my walking trousers in order to ensure I wore the heavier pair and had the lighter ones as a spare.

So why am I extolling the virtues of this heavy rucksack? Simple. Comfort. Pure comfort. For this pack has Berghaus’s BioFlex system.

How to explain it? Well have you have ever walked along with a heavy rucksack and lost your balance? I certainly have. The weight of your pack can make things worse. What may have been a stumble if you didn’t have a pack on, can turn into a fall because of the way the weight of the rucksack affects your balance.

With Bioflex, you don’t have that problem. The Bioflex system pivots the pack as you move along. It moves subtly to keep the weight distributed evenly. It’s always moving, always making sure the impact of the pack weight is reduced as much as possible. It’s a bit weird when you try it, especially when empty. But I found it incredibly comfortable to wear. Even when carrying huge amounts of stuff, it was brilliant. After a couple of days wearing it on the Southern Upland Way, it just felt natural. It was a bit of a pig to get the thing on when full – and I was camping so was carrying a lot of stuff – but once it was on my back, I was well away. It may seem counter-intuitive, but for me the extra weight of the BioFlex system meant a much more comfortable walking experience.

Having extolled all these virtues of Bioflex, it looks like Berghaus don’t sell any packs with it any more. Perhaps the weight of the system put people off. Perhaps they don’t see that much of a market in such big backpacks. But I think that’s a shame because Bioflex is great. This pack is going to be my go-to one for camping trips for many, many years.

So there you are. That’s me packs. Most people probably won’t need four of them. Hey, I could get away with three. Maybe two. But still, I wouldn’t change them for the world. Well, until the holes on that first one get just that bit too big, anyway…



5 January 2024 at 6:45 am

I wonder what it looks like on the inside!

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