Kit advice page - Rucksacks
Welcome to this kit focus
We are in the process of developing these equipment advice pages for many of the key items of equipment, in order to help people prepare better for their trips. We are always editing these pages, so if you have any feedback about information we should add to the page, please let us know.
This page has largely been written by Emma from our Windermere HQ, and it's here that most people have their first contact with us, in person or on the phone. We feel it's important that all our staff are experts on the mountains and kit we offer, so we are all involved in developing these advice pages.

Which rucksack?
Rucksacks come in all shapes and sizes, each with a wide range of features designed to suit different purposes. One of the first considerations when choosing a new rucksack is the minimum and maximum capacity that you need. This will depend on what you plan to use if for (e.g. everyday bag or a week-long trip) and how much you need to take (the bare essentials, or kit for an overnight stay). Rucksacks are measured by the total capacity of all of the pockets in litres, i.e. you will be able to fit in 30 litres of gear in a 30 litre rucksack. The rucksacks we stock in our shop are between 22 litres, and 45 litres. Some rucksacks have adjustable capacity, such as Karrimor's Alpiniste 35l + 10. We recommend that a rucksack that has a maximum capacity of 40 litres is sufficient for the majority of our courses.To return to the equipment lists and advice pages overview, please click here.

The Fit
It is essential to ensuring that your rucksack fits you correctly so that you can carry it, and the weight of its contents, in comfort. The fit of a rucksack varies for every person, and depends on your build and back length.
The best way to ensure that a rucksack is suitable for your size, and will be comfortable, is to try them on and spend time adjusting the straps, and comparing to other rucksacks. The Icicle mountaineering shop has 7 different models of rucksack which you can try on and find the one that is the most suitable for your requirements, and the best and most comfortable fit.

Back or shoulder straps
The back/shoulder straps are the main straps that go over your shoulder. These are usually padded for comfort, and adjustable on most rucksacks. If the backpack sits too low, even when adjusted, it is too big for you and vice versa.

Chest and hip straps
Chest straps secure the padded shoulder straps from slipping off your shoulders. On most rucksacks the height of the chest straps can be adjusted so that you can set it to the most comfortable position, the chest strap can usually also be tightened bringing the back/shoulder straps closer together across the chest for optimum comfort.
A correctly sized, and fitted rucksack uses the hip straps to take around 70% of the weight of the pack onto the hips. This greatly reduces the amount of pressure placed on the shoulder straps, and can also reduce backache from wearing a pack.

Pockets and compartments
Many rucksacks have at least two separate compartments which are useful for organising and separating contents. Many have a compartment in the lid of the rucksack which is useful for small items that you need easy access to, such as a headtorch, gloves, etc. Some also have additional internal zip pockets within or on the underside of the lid compartment, which allows items to be safely stowed away, such as keys, money etc, and not at risk of falling out of the main lid compartment when opened.

External Attachment points
Some rucksacks offer additional capacity through being able to attach items to the outside of the rucksack via loops, straps, daisy chains (a strip of webbing loops), or elasticated cord systems. External attachment points allow you to quickly store items such as jackets, and to stabilise the bag shape when it is not filled by reducing the movement of the contents inside.
For mountaineering, useful attachment points on a rucksack would include for securing ice axes, ice tool pick pockets, welded crampon patch, and rope strap.
For skiing you may require a rucksack that has side straps that can accommodate ski's or snowshoes, and a means of fastening on ski poles or walking poles.
For running, you will probably want a light weight low capacity rucksack, that can also accommodate running or trekking poles.

Compression straps
Compression straps are adjustable straps that can usually be found on the top, side or down the front of the rucksack, which can be pulled tight to reduce the volume of the rucksack and to minimise movement of the items within the rucksack.

Getting advice
Our Icicle shop in Windermere stocks a wide range of kit. Here is a quick guide as to which we sell, and some key points to help you decide which are best for what you need. If you need any assistance in deciding which would be the best for you, visit our shop and Office in Windermere in the Lake District for kit and course advice; or see our online shop (click here) or email our team with any queries if you are looking to purchase anything, or wish to know if any existing kit you have is suitable.

Below is a table showing the range that we stock in the Icicle Windermere shop.

Rucksack Name


Key uses


Key features

Black Diamond Epic 45l rucksack

This guide-style pack can be used for multi-day alpine routes, casual crag outings. This pack covers the diverse needs of the four-season climber.

45 litres
Thermoformed backpanel, ergoACTIV suspension with SwingArm shoulder straps, Removable lid, Ice-tool PickPockets, Rope strap, 3-point haul system, Crampon patch, Removable padded hipbelt
Black Diamond Epic 35l rucksack
Exactly the same technical spec as the Epic 45, but slightly smaller. This bag is our top seller, and ideal for all of our Alpine courses.
35 litres
Thermoformed backpanel, ergoACTIV suspension with SwingArm shoulder straps, Removable lid, Ice-tool Pick Pockets. Rope strap, 3-point haul system, Crampon patch, Removable padded hipbelt
Karrimor Alpiniste 35l + 10 rucksack
Versatile Alpine rucksack with an adjustable capacity between 35 and up to 45 litres. This makes this pack an ideal choice for more technical climbs, and when the volume adjustment is important to keep the load comfortable on your back.
35 + 10 litres
Airmesh back system with removable F-format frame, Removable hip belt, External hydration sleeve access, 3 point haul system, Easy access gear loops, Wand pockets, Top tension straps, Chest strap, Rope compression strap, Extendable lid, Bungee system, Protective front print, Splash guard zips, Axe loops and retainers
Karrimor Hot Rock 40l rucksack
A bag this size is useful for courses where you may need a slightly larger pack capacity, such as a hut to hut ski tour, or a technical climb. These bags have easy stash elastic webs on the outside to quickly store items such as jackets, and to stabilise the bag shape when it is not filled.
40 litres
Airmesh back system with F-format frame, Hipbelt, External Hydration sleeve access, 3 point haul system, Mitt friendly grab handle, Side compression straps, Wand pockets, Chest strap, Lid pocket with key clip, Bungee system, Axe loops and retainers
Karrimor Hot Rock 30l rucksack
A 30l bag is for those who want to travel fast and light in the Alps or UK hills, where the size limits you from taking too much, yet it is sufficient for climbs such as Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn or Eiger.
30 litres
Supercool padded back, Easy access hydration sleeve, 3-point haul system, Easy grab haul loop, Reflective safety details, Side compression straps, Wand/bottle pockets, Sliding & elasticated chest strap, Pocket in lid, Front shock cord carrying system, Ice axe/walking pole attachment points, Key clip
Black Diamond Demon 36l rucksack
A top loading pack that is well designed, with a single ice axe strap, and 2 side compression straps, this pack is a good light-weight choice for ski touring. It is a great minimalist pack that is well suited to the Alps.
36 litres
Removable 20mm aluminium stay and framesheet, Padded hipbelt, Zippered top-loader access, Tuck-away rope straps at top of pack, Ice axe, trekking pole loop, Hydration compatible, Zippered top-loading panel has a guidebook pocket for quick route references, Side compression straps, Tuck-away rope strap, Ice axe/trekking pole loop
Black Diamond Speed 22l rucksack
For those going fast and light, this day pack is ideal. It has a 22 litre capacity, and can carry two ice axes or trekking poles. The size is enough for crag climbing too, or for hiking. As with all Black Diamond gear, it is very well made.
22 litres
Ultralight, frameless design with thermo-molded backpanel, Top loading with removable floating top pocket, Hydration compatible, Tuck away rope strap, Micro ice tool PickPockets, Removable webbing waistbelt and glove friendly buckles
Highlander Rucksack cover (size medium)
Black rucksack cover, designed for packs between 40-50 litres capacity. Ideal for wet days in the mountains, to help keep the contents of your rucksack dry.
Draw cord adjustment to suit most 40-50 litre capacity bag shapes and styles. Easily removed or put onto bag, ensuring easy access to the contents of the rucksack.

Photo of the day - updated every time the page loads

Key ropework
If you are on a climbing or skiing course, you may wish to refresh or learn some of the key knots and ropework before your trip. Click on a knot on the left to visit the page that explains the 9 most popular knots that you might use, as well as the 1:3 and 1:5 rescue hoists.

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