Blog 04.03.2024

How to pick and pack your DofE rucksack

Choosing the right rucksack for your expedition is very important. Get it right, you’re good to go! Get it wrong, and you could be in for a long, uncomfortable journey. That’s why we’re here to help – we’ve compiled our best rucksack advice into one, to help make your expedition easier.

Before you set off on your expedition, here are some things that you’ll need to consider:

Decisions, decisions…

There are so many different trekking rucksacks to choose from that finding the right one for you can start to feel slightly overwhelming, so let’s break it down.

Modern rucksacks are made from lightweight fabric, with lots of padding and pockets – some even have narrow straps for smaller people. They’re sized in litres and for DofE, you’ll want at least 60 litres (maybe even more for the Silver and Gold Awards).

Make sure you’re careful not to overspend; more costly rucksacks are intended to be used for months of travelling, not days. There are many things that will affect which rucksack you should purchase, so make sure you don’t rush into it and take the time to consider what will work for you.

 The perfect fit

 Just like a good pair of jeans or some new shoes, your rucksack needs to fit you. If possible, purchase your rucksack in-store so that you can try it on first and get a feel for which rucksack is the perfect fit before you buy.

Extra features

All DofE recommended rucksacks come with a hi-vis waterproof cover, but if you are using a different rucksack make sure you know it will keep dry. Top tip: use a large dry bag or rubble bag inside the rucksack to help keep everything dry.

Adjustable back systems on rucksacks are great because it means you can borrow a rucksack from a kit store (or friends or family) and helps make sure the rucksack fits your height.

All DofE recommended rucksacks have padded, breathable waist and shoulder straps, adjustable back systems and hi-vis waterproof covers. Check out all the ones we recommend here.

Practice packing your kit

 Whether you’re trying to fit in a few extra snacks or rummaging to find your last pair of clean socks at the bottom of your bag, your expedition is going to require a lot of packing and unpacking!

Before you set off, make sure you practice packing you kit away at least once so that you know the best ways to organise all of the kit that you’ll need to bring with you. We suggest no more than 25% of your body weight for the weight of your rucksack and kit inside – speak to your DofE Leader if you are worried your pack is too heavy.

Familiarise yourself with how much space your bag has, as well as all of the pockets that could come in handy for keeping your smaller pieces of kit organised. This will make it so much easier to pack your rucksack again each morning before another day of trekking, as you’ll already know what to do!

 Using dry bags to help separate kit can keep your pack organised – one bag for food, one for clean clothes, one for dirty – you can also use one full of clothes as a makeshift pillow for extra comfort when sleeping in the tent!

Check out expedition kit resources for advice on where to pack different bits of kit and why.

Here are some tips for during your expedition:

Essentials at the top!

Water, snacks, map, headtorch, first aid kit – all of these items are essential to a smooth, comfortable expedition. Make sure you keep these near the top of your bag so that you can access them whenever you need them. Anything you think will be important or may come in handy, keep it near the top!

UK weather can be temperamental, so don’t get caught out by the wind and rain. Keep yourself comfortable with a warm, dry piece of clothing that you can access at a moment’s notice.

Adjustable straps

Most rucksacks will have some variation of adjustable straps. Our DofE recommended rucksacks from Vango come with adjustable straps designed to improve its wearability, so don’t forget to adjust your rucksack to a comfortable position so that you can set off on your expedition with ease.

And lastly, here are some things that you’ll need to think about after your expedition:

Keep it dry

The last thing you want after getting back from your DofE expedition is mouldy kit. That’s why it’s so important to dry out your rucksack before storing it away.

Keep it clean

Chances are… your rucksack probably got a bit dirty on your expedition! And that’s ok – we just have to make sure we give it a clean once we get back. Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof is perfect for prepping and maintaining your rucksack, before and after your expedition. It’s also a good idea to cover your rucksack with a cover/bin bag to protect your rucksack from dust and dirt.

Finding the right rucksack for you is an ongoing journey of discovery. There are lots of factors that go into it, so make sure you take the time to weigh your options and find the perfect rucksack that works for you! All in all, your rucksack is important – take care of it and it will take care of you!

For even more advice on choosing a rucksack for your expedition, visit our rucksacks and packing page – you’ll even find our DofE recommended rucksack and money saving tips.

If you do need to buy a rucksack, make sure you use your DofE Card at our recommended retailers, where you’ll save at least 10% (and often more) on all your adventure essentials.