The Whats and Hows of Backpacks

There are a plethora of backpacks available to buy, but what should you choose?  The below infographic from REI takes you through the steps of picking a backpack and packing it.  There are lots of useful tips and advice to help you select the right backpack for you.

What capacity backpack do I need?

First up capacity, this will really help you narrow down the choices of backpack available to you.  At the smallest end you could start with a daybag at 20 to 50 litres right up to a 80+ litre bag for extended adventures.  Knowing the time you are likely to be away will really help narrow down your selection for the right backpack.  Also are you likely to be carrying tents, cooking equipment etc?  As this all takes up space too.

What size of backpack do I need?

Second to capacity is size, you want a backpack which will be comfortable for long hikes and extended adventures.  Picking the correct size will ensure it fits you well and isn’t going to cause you unnecessary aches.  Ideally its best to go into a store and try out several backpacks so you can find out whats comfortable for you and see the pockets and features of each bag.

How do I pack a backpack?

A common question is how do you pack a backpack.  There are two things to consider in our opinion, firstly what will you need when?  If you’re out walking and it starts raining you don’t want to unpack your entire backpack to get to your waterproof.  The other consideration is packing so that the weight is distributed correctly to carry.  The key here is to get the heavier items as close to your spine as possible for good support.

In the bottom of your rucksack pack your sleeping bag, torch and items you won’t need until night.  In the middle your heavier items this could include your stove etc.  Then at the top all of the lighter stuff such as clothing.  Make the most of the external pockets in your backpack for all the items you might need at short notice - Snacks, Map and Compass, Waterproofs etc.

What are your Backpacking tips?

Have a Backpacking tip?  Share it in the comments

Activity Essentials

Exotac Matchcap

Exotac’s goal with the Matchcap is to create a virtually indestructible and waterproof match case for you to keep matches or any other firestarting materials that must be kept dry.

The case as a red phosphorus striker in the threaded core of the capsule so there is no need to pack a separate striker.  The Matchcap also contains a concealed o-ring for waterproofing, durable square thread, a bottom strike anywhere striker and it looks cool too!

The Matchcap can carry any size of matches from the standard kitchen strike-on-the-box to NATO lifeboat matches and even the extended length stormproof matches.  With the dual-striker design you can use safety matches, strike-anywhere matches, or a combination of two.


  • Waterproof, safe and redundant match striker design
  • Replaceable striking pads
  • Works with both safety and strike anywhere matches
  • Holds matches up to 72mm in length
  • Square threaded cap for maximum durability
  • Unique lanyard attachment allows for two 550 paracord loops
  • Waterproof to depths >5 meters
  • Lightweight aircraft grade 6061 aluminum construction Anodized and laser engraved for durability
  • Unique knurl for grip and use with strike anywhere matches

Package includes

  • Match case
  • Extra O-rings
  • Extra match strikers
  • Lanyard
  • Instruction Manual

Shop for the Exotac Matchcap


Grower’s Cup Coffee

Sometime when your out on the trail or camping the only thing that will do is a “proper” coffee.  There are numerous solutions on the market, stoves with coffee plungers, the Handpresso and more.  But today we’ve found something a little more compact.  The Grower’s Cup Coffee Pouch.

The picture above may look like a normal coffee pouch but it’s not.  There is a filter inside the pouch.  Pour in hot water straight off the stove into the top and the water will pass through the ground coffee and the filter, then you pour your coffee from the side of the pouch.  This makes a simple way to make up to 3 cups of high quality coffee without having to carry a host of specialist cooking equipment.

The coffee available in 5 brews - Bolivia, Mexico, Honduras, Ethiopia, Nicaragua.


Handpresso Wild Hybrid Outdoor Set

Are you a fan of coffee, can you not bear to be without the luxury of a fresh espresso even when camping?  Then for a little luxury in your outdoor life try Handpresso.

The Wild Hybrid Outdoor Set contains the most versatile portable espresso maker that Handpresso have produced. As a Hybrid it allows you to use either E.S.E. pods or ground espresso coffee. Find your inner barista with ground espresso coffee, or insert the E.S.E. adapter and enjoy the ease of use that coffee pods bring. Handpresso Wild Hybrid brings versatility and quality together in one neat package.

The Handpresso generates a 16-bar pressure with the hand pump, you add hot water from your stove or thermos, an E.S.E. pod or ground coffee, and prepare high quality espresso with the push of a button. No battery or electricity needed.

The Outdoor Set includes

  • 1x Handpresso Wild Hybrid
  • 1x Outdoor Case
  • 4x Unbreakable Cups
  • 1x New Thermo Flask with integrated thermometer
  • 1x Napkin
  • Instructions

Activity Essentials

Therm-a-Rest Sandals

If I said Therm-a-rest then I’m sure most of you reading would instantly think inflatable sleeping mats, and I’m sure many of you (like me) own a Therm-a-rest! What may not spring to mind is sandals, but all that is soon to change. Therm-a-rest and footwear manufacturer Freewaters have partnered to create a Therm-a-rest Sandal.

Freewater aren’t just a footwear company, as the name suggests there is another element to them. Freewaters believe that access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right. Each pair sold helps support global clean drinking water projects.

On the new range of Therm-a-Rest Sandals Freewater Co-Founder Eli Marmar said “This type of partnership is something rare and really special, not only do Freewaters and Therm-a-Rest have perfectly symbiotic product technologies, we also share a passion for transforming lives through clean drinking water projects.”

The sandals contain a proprietary foam formula which provides the unique combination of instant comfort with strong rebound and durability. The signature Therm-a-Rest ridge pattern provides insane grip, flexibility, air circulation and water sipping. Combine all this with Freewaters ergonomic midsoles and attention to fit and the result is a total game changer in sandal comfort and performance.

Freewaters are an American company based in California, you can visit their website here. Currently there is no information as to whether these will come to the UK.


Vango Banshee 200

The Vango Banshee 200 is a best selling tent and part of Vangos core tent line.  The tent is a 2 person lightweight and compact tent, suitable for many uses including hiking or overseas travel.  The tent is 2.14 kg in weight, packing down to a size of 45 x 15 cm and is a tunnel tent with 2 pre angled poles.

Vango say the Banshee 200 can be erected in 7 minutes.  The below video from Cotswold outdoors shows a little more information about the tent and most importantly how to pitch the Vango Banshee 200 Tent.

Banshee 200 Specifications

  • All in one pitching - the flysheet and inner simply and quickly pitch together.
  • 70D Protex® Polyester featuring Vango hexagonal pattern.
  • Breathable polyester Inner Tent.
  • Polyester groundsheet waterproof to 6,000mm.
  • Colour coded poles.
  • Pre-angled poles.
  • Flysheet door can be opened as a vent.
  • Rain stop flysheet door.
  • Multiple reflective points on the pegging points to pick up your torch light.
  • Flysheet vents with mesh covering.
  • Walking pole attachment eyelet in door.
  • Part mesh inner door.
  • Compression stuffsac.

Have a Banshee 200 Tent?  Leave a comment and let everyone know what you love about it and where you have been with it!

Activity Essentials

Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Kitchen Sink 10L

When I’m off on holidays, particularly if I’m taking the car I probably take a little too much, packing everything I might need!  Sometimes I’m accused of packing everything but the kitchen sink.  Well no more, as now I can take the kitchen sink!

The Sea to Summit 10 Litre Ultra Sil Kitchen Sink is an Ultra Lightweight version of their Kitchen Sink weighing only 49g.  The “sink” is made out of High-tech materials such as Ultra-Sil® fabric, Hypalon® carry handles and a Delrin® stiffener ring which make the sink small enough to fit in a pocket and light too.

  • 10 litre capacity
  • Super lightweight and compact - only 1.7 oz/49g
  • Made from Ultra-Sil® 30 D siliconized CORDURA® nylon fabric for exceptional strength
  • Fully seam sealed and leak proof
  • Lightweight and strong Hypalon® carry handles
  • Delrin® reinforced rim for strength and easy use
  • Micro stuff sack for convenient packing

Activity Essentials

Silva Expedition 4 Compass

If you’re an avid hiker or Rambler its all very well having a GPS or a Smartphone, but you should always have an “Old-Fashioned” map and compass to fall back on.  Alternatively sometimes I find half the fun of a walk is following your route on a map, getting slightly lost is part of the fun.

The Silva Expedition 4 Compass pictured above is the civilian version of the compass that is developed by Silva for use by the British Army.  Traditionally it is used in the infantry as a soldier’s or officer’s compass.  The compass has a full sized base plate.


  • Type of compass - Silva 1-2-3 System baseplate compass
  • Compass capsule / needle
  • Sighting System - No
  • Magnifying lens - Yes
  • Declination adjustment - Decl scale in capsule
  • Clinometer - No
  • Illumination / active time after activation in light - Yes 4 hours
  • Luminous compound - Tritium compound 80 mCi
  • Silicon friction feet - Yes
  • Other - Patented red/black N/S lines in capsule

I found the below video on You Tube, it is a great video taking you through the functions and uses of a compass (despite fuzzy background noise)


Robens 3 x 3 Trail Tarp

When I visited the Outdoor Show Robens was the only Tent manufacturer on show.  It was disappointing that not more of the tent companies had chosen to show their latest 2013 tents at the show.  But Robens had a great stand.  Today though I thought I would write about Tarps not Tents.  Last year I spent a very wet weekend camping in the Wye Valley.  A friend had brought a tarp and this proved to be a great lifesaver.  Whether you’re with a group or out on your own you don’t want to spend the whole day / evening hiding out in your tent so being able to sit under the tarp in the dry with a mug of tea in my hand while the rain pours down was relaxing!

Robens neatly split their range into Xtra Lite, Lite, Trail, Adventure and Outback, once you know what your needs are its then easy to pick your products from the relevant range.  Pictured above is the Robens Trail Tarp.

Robens description of the trail tarp is - the Trail Tarp measures 3 x 3 m and offers versatile shelter whether used with our telescopic poles, walking poles or in any other of the many ways that tarps can be rigged. Light durable guylines are attached to strong webbing loop hangers along the straight sides, reinforced to take punishment in the most trying conditions.

As you can see from the image there are 5 loops on every side of the tent (3 and the corners if we’re being precise) this gives you a great amount of flexibility in how you pitch the tarp, whether it’s a classic even amount of shelter each side, or if like in the image you pitch one side long and the other shorter for the view.  The Trail Tarp weighs 1.1kg, so if your carrying a tent too this is probably more of a basecamp model but if you want something lighter Robens offers them too, I just felt the trail tarp was the right mix of functionality and price.

Use a tarp?  Leave a comment and tell us how, or your favourite camping stories.

Activity Essentials


SplashMaps were on show at the Outdoors Show in London but I completely missed them!  I have since read a couple of articles on the Splashmap and thought how could I have missed that!  But I guess however carefully you walk round an exhibition centre you’ll always miss something!  Splashmaps is a great concept, their thought is that traditional maps aren’t designed for the outdoors, a paper map gets dirty, ripped and wet, a plastic coated map is bulky and difficult to carry.

Enter the SplashMap, a fabric map, this makes it lightweight and durable.  The creators are even seen wearing it as a bandana while mountain biking!

The above You Tube clip shows a BBC News feature on Kickstarter a crowdsourced funding site which Splashmaps used to gain enough funding to attend the Outdoors Show and produce a new map.

The Maps

You won’t recognise any of these maps, they are not your traditional 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 maps, they have combined Ordnance Survey data and Open Streetmap data to create a map specalised to the needs of an outdoor adventurer!  This means the scale is actually 1:40 000, a scale that they describe as the sweet spot between having enough detail to know where you are, but being a large enough scale so you can cover a decent distance with just the one map.

Today SplashMaps are just starting out, they have two maps available to purchase directly on their website - The Western South Downs and the New Forest, they plan to continue to expand the range with maps of the National Parks of Great Britain, site-centred maps and maps of other parts of the world!

What do you think?

What do you think?  Would you find a fabric map an essential or do you find a traditional map just fine and see no need to change?  Leave a comment and let everyone know.