noun /ˈrəkˌsak/ /ˈro͝ok-/
A bag with shoulder straps that allow it to be carried on someone’s back, typically made of a strong, waterproof material and widely used by hikers; a backpack
Seems fool proof, just a bag with straps. So you’re probably scratching your head thinking, “huh? there’s an art to rucksacks??” Well, after living out of one for three or four months you’ll begin to see that there HAS to be some sort of trick to living life out of a bag with straps. Various websites will tell you how to best distribute the weight to make it easier on your shoulders and back. The method below is pretty good although I didn’t find it until well after I started traveling and by then it was too late to change.
Of course the key is to carry the weight on your child-rearing hips by tightening the waist strap, instead of on your shoulders. Do this and you’re well on your way. Or better yet, distribute the weight on someone else entirely…
But this is just the science of the matter. Weight distribution, gravity, friction, work = distance over time (w=d/t), Newton’s law of Grouse… never heard of it? A discomfort unabated, will remain uncomfortable unless acted on by an outside force of complaints leading toward nuisance resolution. See? Sciencey stuff…..
The art of the rucksack goes beyond that. It is the difference between knowing that your shirt has been packed in the designated “medium” area, and finding that shirt among all your other articles of clothing without having to pull them all out. So I suppose you could say it’s more an art of finding items within a rucksack. Same, same, but different.
The best way to not lose your belongings or your mind among all the compartments and zippers, hidden pockets and Velcro pouches, is to put your things in the same place every time. Seems like an obvious notion, but in a hurry you don’t always do the obvious thing. It will prove to be a good practice though, believe me. Your nail clippers are in that side pocket because that’s where you always put them. That metallic feeling thing in the big compartment is your hair dryer because all the other metallic things are in the bottom section. No, that’s not your swim suit you’re feeling in the main compartment, because you always put that in the left pocket. See how this logic might be helpful?
And that brings me to my main point: When it comes to your rucksack, your hands are your best friend. When you’re taking the Baz Bus from the western coast of South Africa to the eastern coast and you only have a short stop over at a hostel, you do not want to unpack every item of clothing to find your pajama pants. You can’t possibly unpack everything every time…. Although Noel somehow managed to do just that, to which she earned the name Ridiculous Meticulous for the way she would then repack it. So let me amend: normal people can’t possibly unpack everything every time. Soon after traveling you’ll start remembering how certain things feel, particularly when it comes to clothing. My pillow case is always cool and crisp to the touch, that fancy shirt has ribbed cloth and my quick dry towel has soft microfiber. The black cargo pants I packed are near that coca-cola t-shirt, so when I feel all those buttoned pockets I know I’m getting close. Once you master this it won’t matter if you’re staying a month or 3 hours, in broad daylight or in the dead of night, you’ll find your toe socks, lederhosen, granny panties, little black dress… you name it, you’ll find it.
It is definitely an art to be able shove your hand deep into a bag with straps, containing every possession you have on that continent in search of your blue, rock-paper-scissors shirt, and seconds later pull it out with out even looking.
I just have a couple other tips before I close. Things that I didn’t do on my first backpacking trip around Europe, but found so helpful when I was on my most recent adventure.
- keep your socks and underwear in a separate compartment or small mesh bag because they’re small and WILL get lost.
- a mesh bag is also a good idea to use for keeping those seven-days-worn underwear away from your clean-only-three-days-worn underwear.
- keep your bag smelling nice – it gives the impression of cleanliness. Normally I would suggest putting dryer sheets here and there throughout your bag, but two weeks into our trip when I discovered South Africa doesn’t sell or use dryer sheets I had to come up with plan b. I perused the isles and found my self in the air freshener section. A few Rand spent on a Glade ‘Continuous Freshness’ refill…… 5 months of Morning Fresh scented clothes. No matter how many mornings those clothes weren’t fresh.
Good luck on your travels, whenever and wherever they might be. Spend time out in the world exploring, not exploring the insides of your bags.