50 litre Rucksacks
I think a 50l Rucksack is the perfect size for most Alpine and Winter use. I use the Lowe Alpine Attack 50 by preference. (I tend to use a Lowe Alpine 65+15 for backpacking.)
When choosing a bigger rucksac, the most important things to bear in mind are;
Comfort, comfort and comfort!
Everyone is a different shape so what works for one person sometimes doesn’t for another, some manufacturers try to help by having a different shapes for males & females, and/or complex adjustable back systems. However if when you try it on (full loaded with heavy stuff) and its comfortable as it is, then all of that adjustable stuff is irrelevant and just adds to the weight you’ll be carrying or the price you’ll pay.
So in respect of comfort; you need the back length set to allow the shoulder straps to lightly touch your shoulders (they should NOT be weight bearing – they are just there to stop the bag falling off backwards). The waist strap should take the majority of the weight around the top of your pelvis and waist. So a good waist strap is therefore essential and good padding here genuinely adds to the comfort.
The next thing is the actual size; there is a huge variation between manufacturers around what they say the volume of the bag is – and what it actually is. My Lowe Alpine Attack 50 is very big for a 50 and is easily 20l bigger than my old Berghaus Freeflow III 50 – which has a quite small usable volume due to the back system. Be aware that much of the quoted volume may be ‘lost’ in pockets.
I’m generally suspicious of all the extra pockets, zips, straps, clips and ‘features’ that manufacturers put on sacks just to help sell them or because everybody else does. Personally i think they mostly add weight and are rarely much use, and sometimes actually detrimental – i.e. the extra seams around zips, pockets or different panels of coloured material just serve to let in water in the rain. So justifying the fancy rain cover they want to sell / give you.
I think the one exception to this are those elasticated mesh pockets on the sides of bags which you can reach into without taking your bag off, these are great places to keep a hat & gloves or extra snacks when you are on the go. I personally find two ice axe attachment points important – but that depends on what you will use it for.
Finally i always customise my rucksacs by adding some sort of little pocket so my compass is always within reach.
Author: Phil Newby