Climbing and mountaineering involve lots of walking. Although roadside crags exist, quite often climbers can spend up to 90% of their day walking. For example, a day ‘mountaineering’ on Striding Edge involves five hours walking for half an hour scrambling. The renowned mountaineering expedition, the Cullin Ridge on the Isle of Skye, involves some sustained and technical climbing yet consists largely of exposed walking. ‘Walkers’ or ‘trekkers’, therefore, are using a rucksack in much the same way as ‘climbers’ or ‘mountaineers’ use a sack for a large portion of their time. Consequently, walkers and trekkers do, in many ways, ask the same from their sacks.
Hardwearing yet lightweight.
Comfortable and supportive back and hip belt system, appropriate to the loads being carried.
Pocket/s to take car keys, head torches and Mars bars.
Ice axe loop/s for that walk up Snowdon in snowy conditions when an ice axe is advisable and useful.
Wand pockets on the side to take trekking poles.
With all this in mind, most, if not all, of our climbing and mountaineering sacks are fit for purpose for walking. However, there are some things to consider:
As a walker you will be carrying much less equipment than a climber (the same kit minus climbing ropes and hardware). The rucksack does not need to be carried wearing a harness, therefore, there is no need to worry about reducing the size of the hip belt, allowing a normal size padded hip belt to be used. You might not need/want a rope attachment strap on the sack (although it is always useful for strapping on a jacket). With this in mind a climbing rucksack like a Stratus might be ideal for day-walks in the UK as well as the odd winter day or lightweight overnight adventure (for instance staying in a bothy). With a capacity of 37L it would be equally suitable for hut to hut treks in Europe such as the Tour du Mont Blanc.
If you are looking at doing bigger treks or overnight camps over multiple days, a larger volume sack such as a Zenith/Zephyr would be more suitable. With a capacity around 50L (Zenith 47L, Zephyr 47+10L) these sacks are big enough for multi-day camping treks as long as the rest of your gear is sorted and you are travelling reasonably lightweight. The other type of rucksacks to throw into the mix here are zip around rucksacks. These give you easier access to your kit, allowing you to remove or re-pack an item without repacking the rest of the sack. Smaller zip around sacks like the Arête and the Chamonix (25L and 22L respectively) are smaller and shorter than top opening sacks and can be better for small short day walks. They can also be used for other sports such as mountain biking or piste skiing, travelling and general purpose. The larger Gouter or Zermatt (30L) are true all-rounders, big enough for full-on mountain days, they also incorporate side squeeze buckle compression straps making attaching skis for day-touring or a rope for that Jack’s Rake scramble quick and easy.
The downsides to a zip around sack are that they are not overly weatherproof, due to the zip, although we do incorporate a storm flap to keep out the worst of the lovely Great British weather! Also unlike a top loading sack where you can almost indefinitely squeeze another jacket or bottle of water in on top, when a zip around sack is full… it really is full!
At the end of the day, the size and style of rucksack you need is dependent on three things. The walks you do and are hoping to do, the amount of equipment you are carrying and a large dose of whichever sack catches your eye!
The main thing to remember is that just because you are a ‘walker’ doesn’t mean you can’t use a climbing/mountaineering sack; in fact it might well be the most suitable. After all, ‘climbers’ do a good deal more walking than they realise!