The Best Waterproof Backpacks and Dry Bags in Australia [2020]


Author: The Adventure Lab Staff

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more here.


If you go hiking, walking, or travelling when there’s a chance of rain, you should consider investing in a good quality waterproof backpack. And if your outdoor activities include kayaking, caving, or canyoneering, a dry bag is essential for safely storing and transporting your gear.

In this article we review the best waterproof backpacks and drybags in Australia and discuss the key things you should keep an eye out for when making your selection.


iMAGE
PRODUCT
OUR #1 RATED
OUR #1 RATED

SEA TO SUMMIT RAPID DRYPACK

  • Withstands extensive wear and tear as well as water
  • Removable waist strap and top handle for when it’s not on your back
  • Padded straps for extra shoulder comfort


PATAGONIA STORMFRONT WATERPROOF BACKPACK

  • Removable shoulder straps
  • Can be used with the Patagonia vest for easy front pocket access
  • Breathable


SEA TO SUMMIT BIG RIVER DRY BAG

  • White interior makes things easier to find
  • Lightweight
  • Budget-friendly 


Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack ? Dry Bag - Premium Quality with Padded Shoulder Straps - Mesh Side Pockets ? Front Pocket. For Hiking Kayaking Paddle Board Boating Skiing Snowboarding

CHAOS READY WATERPROOF BACKPACK

  • Durable, heavy-duty materials
  • Mesh pockets for storage and easy-access items
  • Floats, waterproof, and comes with a lifetime guarantee


CARIBEE TRIDENT WATERPROOF DRY BAG BACKPACK

  • Quick-release side buckles for the roll top
  • Back system includes padded air mesh
  • Utility loops and front zip pocket 

Waterproof Backpack and Dry Bag Buyers Guide

Consider what activities you like doing and where you’ll be going before buying a waterproof backpack or dry bag, along with the following considerations:

Water Resistant, Water-Repellent, or Waterproof

Water resistant materials are alright for light rain showers when cycling to work. They are usually made out of nylon or high-grade polyester. Water resistant fabric stops rain from penetrating, but rain will soak through over time.

Water-repellent packs are ideal for when you plan on spending more time outdoors in contact with water. They are constructed out of a textile fabric containing Polyurethane, Durable Water Repellency, or coated with TPU. These additives ensure the water puddles on top, and doesn’t soak through. The pack zippers will also be waterproof and the seams taped.

If you expect significant water exposure, stick to buying waterproof packs and bags. They are airtight so they float in water and include heavy-duty zippers and welded seams. This is your best bet for protecting expensive devices and cameras. Some styles can convert from a backpack to a dry bag with detachable straps.

Comfort

Key features to look for are a hip belt, chest strap, padded back panel, and padded straps.

Price Range

One of the main factors that will define your purchase is what kind of budget you have. You can find decent waterproof backpacks and dry bags for under $50, and some outstanding ones for over the $100 price point.

Capacity

You know what you need to carry with you, but remember you might also pick up a few things along the way. If you’re in the market for a commuters daypack, you may need enough space for work stuff and a padded laptop sleeve to store your device safely.

If you plan on using your pack for camping or watersports, check that every part of the bag is waterproof, and not just the main section - every exterior compartment should ideally waterproof as well. 

Colour

Obviously dark colours don’t show the dirt and bright, light colours are easier to see. If you are traveling to hot climates, it can be a good idea to stay away from dark colours. These attract and absorb the heat which is bad news for electronics.


Waterproof Backpack and Dry Bag reviews

#1 ​Sea to Summit Rapid Drypack

TOP PICK

BUY AT wildFIRE SPORTS

This hardy, hefty pack is completely waterproof, spacious enough for all your gear, and comes in blue and yellow colour choices. This is great for when you have to check-in your luggage and want something you can identify quickly on the carousel. The universal (one-size) pack and shoulder harness size is surprisingly comfortable and compact enough to fit in small boat bellies and SUPs.

The main chamber is top-loading and with a roll top closure. Once that’s sealed, it keeps the interior desert dry. If you don’t have time to scratch around for items at the bottom, there’s a zippered pocket compartment for easy-find essentials. The pack also has mesh pockets on the sides for water bottles and a roomy exterior zipper compartment.

Pros
  • Withstands extensive wear and tear as well as water
  • Removable waist strap and top handle for when it’s not on your back
  • Padded straps for extra shoulder comfort                                                    
cons
  • Roll top closure can sag if the pack is not completely full
  • Read instruction manual for how fold the top closed for 100% waterproof effectiveness                                                     

#2 ​​​​Patagonia Stormfront Waterproof Backpack

BUY AT surf stitch

​The Patagonia Stormfront has removable straps that are designed to slot into their convertible vest, but works equally well as a stand-alone item. It’s extremely lightweight, with a mesh lining at the back of the pack that separates the straps.

The 3D mesh permits air to flow across your neck and back, and this allows your shoulders to dry while your pack remains impermeable. It’s this breathability, along with the removable straps that turns the Stormfront into a dry bag, and makes this a stand out waterproof luggage choice.

Pros
  • Removable shoulder straps
  • Can be used with the Patagonia vest for easy front pocket access
  • Breathable                                               
cons
  • High end price
  • Limited colour options Black/Charcoal/Orange                                                     

#3 ​Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag

best value

BUY AT snowys

​The Big River Dry Bag is a classically designed, old school dry bag that’s perfect for both recreational and advanced watersports. The Big River keeps your gear nice and dry; it’s manufactured from material that repels water and the seams are taped, not welded.

Under prolonged submersion, this bag may allow a small amount of water inside. However, it’s budget-friendly and durable enough to handle regular use.

Pros
  • White interior makes things easier to find
  • Lightweight
  • Budget-friendly                                       
cons
  • May leak under constant submersion
  • No straps for easy handling and carry on                                                         

#4 ​​Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack

Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack ? Dry Bag - Premium Quality with Padded Shoulder Straps - Mesh Side Pockets ? Front Pocket. For Hiking Kayaking Paddle Board Boating Skiing Snowboarding

BUY AT amazon

​This dry bag with backpack capabilities is 100% waterproof. You can throw the worst Melbourne downpour at it or travel in a tropical monsoon, and your electronics will be protected. The Chaos Ready floats, which makes it doubly effective against accidental drops in water.

The high-quality tarpaulin material keeps the bag lightweight and foldable; it’s this compactness that makes it easy to transport and pack. Don’t expect any perforations on this bag, it’s durable and flexible enough to withstand the roughest treatment on the road.

Pros
  • Durable, heavy-duty materials
  • Mesh pockets for storage and easy-access items
  • Floats, waterproof, and comes with a lifetime guarantee                                  
cons
  • Bag bottom sags which makes it fall over from upright
  • Tarpaulin has been known to shred during motorbike accident                                                      

#5 ​​Caribee Trident Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack

BUY AT EBAY

​Any adventure becomes more enjoyable when there’s no fear of losing your gear: this includes water damage. In the long run, it’s easier to buy a high-quality waterproof dry bag backpack like the Caribee Trident, then it is to buy waterproof electronics and accessories.

It’s easy to see why travellers love the highly functional and versatile Caribee. It ticks all the dry bag boxes with its TPU-Nylon and heat-welded seams. The roll top opening is easy to fold shut; the padded shoulder straps, sternum strap + back supports make this dry bag backpack super-comfortable to carry.

Pros
  • Quick-release side buckles for the roll top
  • Back system includes padded air mesh
  • Utility loops and front zip pocket        
cons
  • Only comes in black
  • Interior colour makes it hard to locate items                                                       

verdict

Although all the waterproof backpacks and dry bags on this list have the best essential features to make every user happy, take your own requirements into consideration before choosing the right one for you.

Our pick of the bunch is the impressive Sea to Summit Rapid thanks to it's durability and wide range of features.

Related Articles:

Hiking for Beginners: A Guide to Get You Started

Hiking checklist for beginners

Many people get into hiking as a way to exercise or get outdoors. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to start hiking, as a beginner, getting started can be pretty daunting, especially when you consider that trails can be tough and that the weather can change at a moment’s notice.

Before you hit the trails, here are some important hiking essentials to consider:


1. Keep your objectives small, at first

When starting out, you may be tempted to go out and accomplish a big day in the hills. Especially if you’re keen for a good workout, you might want to tackle quite a few summits and a whole lot of mileage.

Unfortunately, such a mindset, at least at first, can be a recipe for disaster. In the beginning, start small. If you’re new to hiking, you might not know how quick your pace is or how much your body can handle each day. Elevation gain (and loss!) also significantly increases the amount of effort required during a hiking day.

Choose trails that are well-marked, somewhat popular, and relatively short (think a half-day outing) to get you started. Eventually, you’ll work your way up to full days, longer days, and overnight trips, but we all have to start somewhere.

RELATED: Hiking Boot Reviews


2. Do your research

Trekking in Australia

​Especially if you’re going out on your own or with other inexperienced hikers, you’ll really want to do your research on your destination.

Check out trail conditions ahead of time and scour the internet or ask friends for information on the trail you’re hiking before you set out. There are many great internet forums for hiking trail information out there these days, but don’t take any single person’s word as gospel - what’s easy or difficult for them might be the opposite for you. Rather, we encourage you to make your own decisions based on the information you can gather.


3. Tell someone where you’re going

Bush walking gear

​This is perhaps the most important thing you can do when you’re going out for a trip in the backcountry. Although we hope that nothing bad will happen to us on our trip, conditions can change rapidly and turn a sunny day into a howling gale.

Telling someone responsible where you are and what time you plan to return can really help authorities if they need to come looking for you. It’s a great habit to get into and could save your life.


4. Pack the right gear

Although the gear you need to be prepared for a day out will vary greatly based on your itinerary, experience level, and the anticipated conditions, in general, you’ll want to pack food, water, warm clothing, waterproofs, a first aid kit, and navigation tools (e.g. map, compass, GPS).

Also, if you're going to be hiking in exposed areas be sure to always pack sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to help prevent sunburn and heatstroke.

There is no ‘one-size fits all’ answer to what gear you need, so you’ll need to do some thinking to determine what’s important for your location and the conditions you’ll encounter.


5. Leave No Trace

When we travel into the backcountry, we will undoubtedly leave behind evidence of our activities, whether that be footprints, trash, or an overturned rock. Following Leave No Trace principles can help minimise our impact on the landscape so that we can continue enjoying these wild places.

Do some research to learn about Leave No Trace before you set out and check with local authorities to see if there’s anything specific you ought to keep in mind. Keeping our wild places beautiful is a job for us all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mountain guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gaby Pilson

Professional Mountain Guide


A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

Water Purification Tablets: The Basics You Should Know

Purification of drinking water from a stream

Author: Gaby Pilson - Professional Mountain Guide

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more here.


Whether you’re heading out into the hills for a long backpacking trip or you’re travelling overseas to a place where the water is a little iffy, chances are good that you’ll want to have some method for making water potable.

Water is critical to human life as we know it, but in many parts of the world, it can also harbour all sorts of pathogens that can be dangerous to our health.

Thus, we need to find a way to treat our water to reduce the likelihood of contracting a nasty illness.

Especially for outdoorsy people and world travellers who adventure in places without modern sanitation systems and water treatment plants, there’s a high likelihood of contracting a waterborne illness.

Luckily, there are a number of different water filters and treatments that can make water potable regardless of where we are in the world.


​The Dangers of Untreated Water

Iodine vs Chlorine Water Purification Tablets

Even if your water is crystal clear, it may not be okay to drink. Even the most beautiful flowing water can harbour waterborne diseases, especially if you’re in a remote place in a developing country. The most common waterborne diseases, bacteria, viruses, and cysts include:

As you can see from this list, you definitely want to steer clear of untreated water. 

Although some of these diseases and illnesses will knock you out for just a week or less, others can easily turn deadly if left untreated. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world succumb to these diseases each year because they lack reliable access to clean water.

While your likelihood for contracting one of these illnesses is highest in the developing countries of South and Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, outbreaks of some of these diseases have been known to occur in Australia, North America, and Europe, too. Thus, when backpacking or travelling, it’s better to take some extra precautions and treat your water.


​Types of Water Purification Tablets

Hiking and camping safe drinking water

Water purification tablets are one of the many ways in which we can treat our water to kill off many of the common waterborne diseases, bacteria, viruses, and cysts. Essentially, water purification tablets are small pill-sized lumps of water treatment chemicals that can be used to kill off the microorganisms that cause waterborne diseases.

To use water purification tablets, one need only drop a tablet into the manufacturer's specified quantity of water (usually 1 litre) and wait for the specified length of time. At this point, one can presume that the chemicals in the water treatment have killed off these microorganisms and that the water is suitable for drinking. We always recommend following the manufacturer's specific instructions, but this is the basic idea for all water purification tablets.

Although they're pretty simple, as technology goes, there are quite a few different water purification tablets available on the market today, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few different ones you should know about:

1. Iodine Tablets

Common brands: Potable Aqua, Polar Pure (liquid/crystal form)

Iodine is a chemical (a halogen, specifically) that is actually required in small amounts within the body for proper thyroid function. As a water purification method, it is very effective in killing giardia, which is the main cause for concern in backcountry water sources in North America but cannot kill cryptosporidium.

Iodine is a relatively cheap water purification method and can be found all over the world, which is why it is fairly popular among backcountry enthusiasts. However, it does create a very distinct flavour in your water, which some people really don't like. Plus, people with standard thyroid function can only take iodine for up to 6 weeks at a time and it's not recommended for people with thyroid complications, people with iodine sensitivity, and for anyone who is pregnant.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Found all over the world
  • Effective against Giardia                        
cons
  • Weird taste
  • Maximum 6 weeks of use at a time
  • Ineffective against Cryptosporidium     

2. Chlorine-Based Tablets

Common Brands: Aquatabs (Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate)

Chlorine is the most commonly used chemical for purifying water. They are quick in the time it takes them to purify water, but, water treated in this method will inevitably become contaminated again if stored for a prolonged period of time.

Chlorine tablets, like iodine, are effective in killing giardia, but cannot eradicate cryptosporidium. Plus, it leaves behind a distinct chlorine flavour, which can only be eliminated by letting the water sit unprotected so the chlorine can evaporate. 

Pros
  • Easily found around the world
  • Can be used by people with iodine sensitivity
  • Effective against Giardia
cons
  • Stored water treated this way will become contaminated again
  • Bad taste
  • Ineffective against Cryptosporidium

3. Chlorine Dioxide Tablets

Common Brands: Potable Aqua, Katadyn Micropur, Aquamira (liquid solution)

Although it sounds similar to a chlorine-based tablet, chlorine dioxide-based tablets are wholly different. Chlorine dioxide tablets specifically operate using oxidation, which infiltrates a microorganism's cell walls and destroys the microorganism. Plus, unlike iodine and chlorine, chlorine dioxide is generally effective against viruses, bacteria, cysts and even the troublesome cryptosporidium.

Chlorine dioxide is a great tablet to use because it leaves behind significantly less aftertaste than some of the alternative options. That being said, it usually takes a bit longer to purify with chlorine dioxide than with other methods and it tends to be a bit more expensive.

Chlorine dioxide is also available in a liquid solution form, under the brand name, Aquamira, which is specifically designed for use in backcountry and international travelling situations.

Pros
  • Effective against most microorganisms
  • Can be used by people with iodine sensitivity
  • Minimal aftertaste
    Can be stored for a long time
cons
  • Longer treatment time
  • More expensive                                        

​Alternative Water Filters and Treatments

Steripen Australia

While water purification tablets are a great method for treating water, they’re not for everyone. They tend to be more expensive in the long run than other options and, since you can only carry a finite amount of purification tablets at one time, it’s possible to run out on a long trip. Thus, it’s always a good idea to consider other water treatment options before you settle on your method of choice.

Besides water purification tablets, the most popular methods of treating water are filters, UV, and boiling. Let’s look at them here:

1. Water Filters

Water filters are exactly what they sound like - they’re devices  that physically separate dangerous pathogens from our water. There are a few different kinds of water filters out there, but the most common are pump and gravity-powered. A popular option is the Katadyn Vario Ceramic Filter.

Pump filters require the user to physically pump the water through a ceramic filter. These can filter water fairly quickly, especially if you’re a solo traveller. Gravity filters, on the other hand, use the power of gravity to push large amounts of water through the filter to remove the pathogens.

Filters are great because they can filter out bacteria, dirt, and other debris, but unfortunately, the vast majority of filters on the market do not have pores small enough to block out viruses.

They’re also bulkier and heavier than many other water treatment options, so they’re not great for people travelling light and fast.

But, if you can’t use chemical treatments and want something that also cleans out the debris from your water, filters are a great choice.

Another popular option is the LifeStraw, as seen in the video below:

2. UV Radiation

UV radiation is useful in treating water because it affects harmful pathogens on a cellular level, which prevents them from reproducing and making us sick. It leaves behind no added taste and is effective on pretty much any pathogen you might find in your water.

This type of water treatment generally takes the form of a small battery-powered “wand” of UV light that you swirl around inside a bottle of dirty water. After stirring the wand in the water for a handful of seconds, the water is properly treated and can be considered okay to drink.

These devices are often sold under the brand name “Steripen” and are great for people who want to be sure that their water is free from harmful pathogens.

But, like anything battery-powered, they can fail, so it’s important to always have a reserve method for treating water.

​3. Boiling

Boiling water is the original method of treating it as it requires only a stove and fuel, which most backpackers already carry with them. Bringing water to a rolling boil is a great way to kill off pretty much anything that’s living in the water without affecting the taste or adding any chemicals.

The main downside to boiling water is that it takes time (though an efficient stove helps here) and fuel, which may be in short supply. But, boiling can rid your water of harmful pathogens, so it’s a great back-up water treatment option, even if it’s not your go-to choice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mountain guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gaby Pilson

Professional Mountain Guide


A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

The Best Soft Shell Jacket in Australia [2020]


Author: Gaby Pilson - Professional Mountain Guide

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more here.


Softshell jackets are the unsung hero of the outdoor gear world - they keep you warm in the cold, protected from the wind, and dry in light rain all while staying breathable and comfortable during high-octane activities. Although it might seem like no one jacket could possibly do all of these tasks, softshell jackets have proven themselves time and time again to be one of the best layers for outdoor enthusiasts.

Since softshell jackets are made from so many different materials and in so many different styles, it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you. Coming up, we have the ultimate guide to the best softshell jacket.

After the summary table below we have tips on what to look out for when choosing your jacket, followed by reviews of the best models available today.


iMAGE
PRODUCT
OUR #1 RATED
OUR #1 RATED

SALOMON RANGER

  • UPF 50 sun protection
  • Water and wind resistant
  • Active fit and adjustable features
  • Lightweight


KUHL IMPAKT

  • Water and wind resistant
  • Insulated with grid fleece for breathability


MARMOT GRAVITY

  • Very warm
  • Great wind and water resistance


APEX BIONIC 2 JACKET

  • Stylish
  • Nearly waterproof
  • Very warm


VIGILANTE REVELSTOKE

  • Very warm
  • Highly waterproof
  • Comfortable and stretchy

How to choose the Best softshell jacket

When purchasing a softshell jacket, there are a few key things you’ll need to look for. Keep an eye out for these critical criteria:

Breathability

Many outdoor enthusiasts prefer softshells over hardshells for high-output activities because they are more breathable than jackets with a waterproof liner. Not all softshells are created equal, though, and some are more breathable than others.

Some softshells are even made with more breathable fabrics around the torso and more water resistant fabrics around the shoulders, arms, and hood, to help with breathability.

Water-resistance

The main difference between a softshell and a hardshell jacket is that softshells are water-resistant while hardshells are waterproof. This means that while a softshell will keep you dry in mist or light rain, it’s not meant for a deluge or downpour. While there are some truly waterproof softshells, these are few and far between - and very expensive.

Generally speaking, you’ll want a softshell with some semblance of water-resistance and a durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the outside.

Insulation

Although many softshells come with a thin layer of fleece insulation, some have none at all. As you can imagine, softshells with fleece insulation, no matter how thin, will be warmer than their non-insulated counterparts and better for colder temperatures. But, insulation decreases breathability, increases bulk and weight, and makes the jacket less suitable to warm-weather use and high-octane activities.


softshell jacket reviews

#1 Salomon Ranger review

TOP PICK

BUY AT amazon

​Salomon is known for producing gear for endurance athletes and the Ranger is no exception. A purpose-built technical softshell, the Ranger is designed to keep you protected from the elements when you’re covering some serious distance and elevation.

Packed with fantastic features like, water and wind resistance, an adjustable hood, and even a UPF 50 fabric, there’s not much that can stop you in the Salomon Ranger. Plus, the Ranger breathes well and has an active fit, so it’s ready to accompany you on your next adventure into the mountains.

Pros
  • UPF 50 sun protection
  • Water and wind resistant
  • Active fit and adjustable features
  • Lightweight                                                                     
cons
  • Not warm enough for casual hikes in colder temperatures

#2 ​​Kuhl Impakt jacket

BUY AT amazon

The Kuhl Impakt is a softshell jacket that looks just as good on the trail as it does in town. Made with a comfy 4-way stretch fabric with grid fleece on the underarm and side panels, the Impakt is designed to keep you warm while also allowing you to charge up the trail.

Plus, the jacket is water and wind resistant to help keep you dry in foul weather. That being said, the Kuhl Impakt is fairly heavy for a softshell jacket, is insulated, and doesn’t come with a hood, so it might not be best for overly aerobic activities in the alpine, though it excels on moderate day hikes and short backpacking trips.

Pros
  • Water and wind resistant
  • Insulated with grid fleece for breathability
cons
  • No hood
  • Too heavy for high-output activity         

#3 Marmot Gravity jacket

BUY AT WILD EARTH

The Marmot Gravity is a durable and practical softshell layer for outdoor adventure. It is insulated with a light fleece liner and boasts some serious water-resistant and wind-resistant power, which is great when the weather turns sour.

However, the Gravity prioritises warmth and protection from the elements over breathability, so it’s probably best used as a warm layer for less strenuous hikes than as a wind buffer on your next trail run. But, the Gravity is stylish enough for use in town, too, so if you’re a weekend warrior, this jacket might be the one for you.

Pros
  • Very warm
  • Great wind and water resistance               
cons
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Not breathable enough for serious excursions
  • No hood

#4 ​APEX BIONIC 2 JACKET

BUY AT THE NORTH FACE

The North Face is a brand that blends style and functionality, which is exactly what you get with the Apex BIONIC. This softshell jacket is made with WindWall fabric, which is almost completely waterproof and is 100% windproof.

This jacket is warm enough to keep you happy in windy and wet conditions at higher elevations, but also stylish enough for wearing around town.

Pros
  • Stylish
  • Nearly waterproof
  • Very warm                                                 
cons
  • Expensive
  • No hood
  • Too warm and heavy for endurance activities

#5 Vigilante Revelstoke review

BUY AT EBAY

​The Vigilante Revelstoke is a classy-looking softshell jacket with some high-end features. Built out of a highly water-resistant fabric that’s fleece lined, it’s ready to keep you warm in the rain.

Plus, it’s got a large assortment of pockets that can hold goggles, smartphones, and gloves. The hood on the Vigilante is detachable, too, so it fits in well in town. That being said, it’s pretty warm and heavy, so it’s not great for hiking trips. Rather, the Vigilante is probably best used as a jacket for resort skiing or for use around town on cold days.

Pros
  • Very warm
  • Highly waterproof
  • Comfortable and stretchy                         
cons
  • Very heavy
  • Bulky
  • Not great for backpacking or lightweight trips

verdict

If you can only choose one softshell jacket, our choice is the Salomon Ranger. Built for aerobic activity, the Ranger is water and wind resistant, breathable, and is made with a lightweight a UPF 50 fabric. Plus, it is easily layered with other jackets when the weather changes and you need a bit of extra warmth.

At the end of the day, however, it’s important to find a softshell fabric that meets your needs and suits your lifestyle. Happy trails!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mountain guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gaby Pilson

Professional Mountain Guide


A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Leave No Trace Principles

Hiking gear reviews

When we head outside, it's important to keep in mind that our actions have a significant impact on the environment and landscape we love. Despite our best intentions, we often affect the environment in a negative way, just by traveling through it or spending time in the backcountry.

Although it’s impossible to fully eliminate our impact on the landscape, there are some principles that we can follow to guide us toward best environmental practices. These seven principles, known as Leave No Trace, can seem complex and difficult at first, so we’ll break them down and discuss them here:


1. Plan ahead and be prepared

This one might seem like a no-brainer to seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, but it’s really a reminder to carefully consider your plans before you head out. This includes having a thorough understanding of where you’re going and any special considerations that you might need to take into account for that area, which might include fire risks, severe weather, and rough terrain. While different conditions require different gear, in general, you should pack food, water, warm clothing, waterproof jacket, a first aid kit, and navigation tools (e.g. map, compass, handheld GPS).

Leaving detailed information of your trip with someone you trust is also important, in the event of an emergency. Ultimately, a rescue, even if necessary and warranted, can have a substantial impact on the landscape. Planning ahead and being prepared can help prevent you from having to unnecessarily impact the environment.


2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

​Some landscapes, such as alpine zones and deserts, are particularly sensitive to human impact and can take centuries to recover from a single human footprint. Regardless of how we travel - be it by foot, bike, horseback, or kayak - we must try to stick to durable surfaces, like worn paths, rock, or snow, whenever possible to reduce this impact.

When we camp, we should also choose durable surfaces, like already impacted sites, whenever possible to reduce our impact on pristine environments.


3. Dispose of waste properly

​Leave No Trace promotes a ‘pack it in, pack it out’ ethic, whereby we carry out all waste we produce. This includes everything from our leftover dinner (yes, even food!) to the plastic packaging on our energy bars. We can save ourselves the trouble in the backcountry when planning our trip by reducing excess packaging on our food before we head out the door.

When it comes to human waste, it needs to be disposed of properly. Although guidelines vary from location to location (and you should always follow local laws and regulations), the general rule of thumb is that solid human waste must be buried in a ‘cathole’ (i.e. hole in the ground) at least 15 cm (6 inches) deep that is also 60 m (200 ft) from any water source.


4. Leave what you find

Bush walking gear

​Although it might be tempting to collect rocks, flowers, antlers, or human artifacts while you camp, doing so can be detrimental for the environment. Especially when it comes to antlers - which provide essential calcium to woodland creatures - and flowers - which often are a food source for animals - leaving them behind is best for the ecosystem's overall health. Plus, if one person picks all the wildflowers, they won't be there for everyone else to enjoy.

Human artifacts (i.e. anything over 25 years old), too, should be left where they are. If you think something is of great importance, contact your local authorities and they can direct you from there.

The one exception to this rule is human garbage - if you see it, pick it up and pack it out!


5. Minimize campfire impacts

For many people, campfires are the thing they look forward to most on a camping trip. Unfortunately, campfires have a huge impact on the environment if not done properly and can cause devastating wildfires if not managed well.

Cooking has less of an impact on the environment if you use a stove, but if local regulations allow campfires, take the proper precautions to minimise your impact. Collect only small pieces of dead and downed wood, keep the fire small, and be sure to put it out completely with water before you go to bed. Dismantle any fire rings you might create and bury the ashes in a cathole.


6. Respect wildlife

Although we all hope to encounter plenty of wildlife in the woods, we must do so in a way that is unobtrusive to them. Take the time to learn about local wildlife and their behavior. Do not approach or feed wildlife and be sure to store your food properly to prevent critters from getting in. Report any animal attacks or habituated wildlife to authorities.


​7. Be considerate of other visitors

​It might be tempting to play music out loud from your phone as you hike or to be extra loud around the campfire at night, but others around you might want a calm wilderness experience. Cleaning up after yourself and leaving a tidy campsite is also a must.

Whether you’re a first-time camper or a seasoned mountaineer, we must all work to minimise our impact on the landscape. Taking the Leave No Trace principles into account on all your trips can make a huge difference.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mountain guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gaby Pilson

Professional Mountain Guide


A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

How to Pack a Hiking Pack

If there’s one thing that can quickly ruin a hiking trip, it’s a poorly packed pack. An improperly packed backpack can put awkward tension on your shoulders or unnecessary and painful strain on your lower back, none of which is conducive to a great adventure out in the hills.

On the other hand, a well-packed pack could reduce the amount of weight on your shoulders and make hiking a breeze. Packing a pack properly can be quite difficult, though, so here are some tips to get you started:


1. Get the right size pack

The pack you need for a 5-day trip will be quite different from what you need for an overnight, so it's important to get the pack that works for the specific needs of your trip.

Although this is all dependant on the amount of gear you bring, as a general rule of thumb, most people can get by with a 60-70L pack for 1-2 night trips, a 70-90L pack for 3-5 night trips, and a 95L+ pack for anything over 5 nights.


2. Weather-proof your gear

​While many modern backpacks have some semblance of weather-resistance built into their fabric, when the rain starts pouring down, you’ll wish you had more than just a thin piece of nylon between the water and your down sleeping bag.

A thick garbage bag/bin liner (we recommend compactor bags used for lawn refuse) or a purpose-built pack liner can help protect your gear in foul weather or during a big river crossing. If it’s something you absolutely can’t get wet, consider putting it in a second dry bag.


3. Think about accessibility

​If you take a look at your gear, you’ll realise that some of the things you have are only necessary when you’re in camp, like your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp shoes, and long underwear, while other items, such as your snacks, rain jacket, water purification, map and compass will likely get used while you hike.

Generally, we recommend packing the soft, squishy, camp gear that you won't need into the bottom of the pack. The stuff you might need during the day should go at the very top of the pack or in the brain/lid of the pack if you have one.


4. Consider weight distribution

​The last thing you want when hiking is for your pack to be lopsided or top-heavy. The heaviest items in your pack are generally your food, cook kit, and stove, so you’ll want to be particular about where you pack them.

The best place to carry these heavier items is right in the middle of the pack, alongside the spine. This reduces the feeling of being ‘pulled backward’ by the pack and makes it overall less awkward to carry.


5. Food above fuel

Spilled fuel can be a complete disaster on a hiking trip, especially if it gets into your food. To prevent this from happening, make sure to pack your fuel below your food so that if it does spill, it's less likely to contaminate your food.

Or, better yet, place your fuel on the outside of the bin liner/pack liner that you’re using to waterproof your gear or even in an outside pocket of the pack.


6. Pack your water wisely

​Water is one of the things we can’t live without, and especially in hot and dry environments, you’ll want to make sure you’re well hydrated. Unfortunately, water is also one of the heaviest things we carry on hiking trips, so we have to pack it with care.

If you use a water hydration system, you may want to put your bladder into the dedicated pouch in your pack, but be aware that it can be difficult to refill with a full pack on. People who use water bottles generally pack them into the water bottle pockets on the side of their pack.


7. Everything on the inside of the pack

​While it might seem cool to have your spork, camp shoes, tent, and mug strapped to the outside of your pack or dangling from a carabiner, doing so throws off the weight balance of your pack and makes it highly likely that you will lose or damage your gear while hiking. Too many people have ripped their expensive tent on a tree branch while hiking - don’t let that be you.

Try to pack absolutely everything into your pack, leaving the outside straps and pockets only for water bottles and big, bulky foam sleeping pads. If half of your gear is strapped onto the outside of your pack, consider getting a bigger pack.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mountain guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gaby Pilson

Professional Mountain Guide


A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.