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How to pick, pack and carry the perfect trail bag

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Kajka 55 W

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Which Technical Pack is Right for You?

There are countless sizes, models and brands of backpacks in the stores, and choosing one is not always a simple task. Some come equipped with special functions (for example ski attachments and rope pockets) and are intended for a specific use. Others are more all-purpose and can be used for a number of different outdoor activities.

When choosing a backpack, its intended use and the things you will need to pack are the most important factors. Ask yourself what you intend to use the backpack for: day trips, long treks, inter-railing, climbing, everyday activities, etc. You also might want to use the backpack for different activities. If this is the case, it might be a good idea, for example, to choose a backpack with compression straps, so you can adjust the size and pull the sides taut if the pack is not full.

Choosing the right size

How much you want - and physically are able - to carry varies depends on how tall you are, your body type, the equipment you will need, etc.

In the winter you will probably need a backpack at the larger end of the scale, since safety equipment, warm garments, etc., often take up more space.

Finding a support system that is right for you

Every body is unique and when you are testing a backpack in a store, it is important to make sure it sits perfectly against your back. Preferably, add some weight to the backpack, so you can get a better idea of how it will feel in practice. Our larger backpacks for trekking, travelling, etc., are equipped with an adjustable support system that can be adapted to the length of your back, and several models also come in men’s and women’s versions to take into consideration differences in anatomy. On the page about important details we explain in more detail how the support system makes it easier for your body to carry the weight of the backpack.

Softpack or frame backpack?

Today, backpacks without a frame, often called softpack backpacks, are most common. They are suitable for most activities and are often lighter and more flexible than traditional backpacks that have an external frame. They sit snugly against your back, which can be advantageous, for example when skiing. For trekking in difficult terrain with very large packs, however, frame backpacks are still the most stable option. They also provide a certain degree of ventilation at the back, and it is possible to add large pack bags to the frame, both above and below the backpack itself.

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Carrying a backpack

The feeling of freedom that comes from being able to carry your basic survival needs with you wherever you are is unbeatable and absolutely essential when spending time outdoors. A backpack with an insufficient support system or improperly packed contents can take away from the experience of being out in nature and increases the risk for injury. It is therefore important to understand how the body can carry heavy loads and the implications this has on how to pack and carry a backpack.

It is best for our bodies if the upper body’s and the load’s common centre of gravity is above both the spine’s axis of motion and the pelvis. This is why people in many cultures can carry very heavy loads on their heads.

If the weight is placed too far away from the spinal column, it will twist and pull the spine backwards. In order not to fall backwards, we have to re-situate the upper body’s and the pack’s centre of gravity back to being above the pelvis. We do this by bending forward. Not only does this re-adjustment mean that we are looking down at the ground and missing the splendour around us, this position can also place unnecessary strain on the body.

A construction that carries weight

To make carrying easier, Fjällräven’s backpacks have a comfortable back panel, padded shoulder straps and often also a hip belt. These features distribute the weight of the pack across the body, and the hip belt also removes weight from the shoulders and back and places a greater portion of the burden on the stronger leg muscles. This means you will be able to carry heavier loads further.

The shoulder straps and hip belt also allow you to alternate the load between these two points. For example, on our Kajka backpack it is possible to adjust the width of the attachments for the shoulder straps. This allows you not only to adjust the backpack to better fit your specific body type, but also to redistribute the weight on the shoulders. Side straps on the hip belt and top straps on the shoulder straps offer additional opportunities to redistribute the pressure and load to different parts of your body.

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Important Details

The requirements for a backpack that can withstand several days of trekking with a heavy pack, for example Fjällräven Classic, are higher than those for a backpack used for day trips. The most important feature of a trekking backpack is its fit, i.e. how snugly it fits against your back. After finding the right fit, it is then important to consider special functions that you will need.

A Good Support System is Fundamental

The key to a successful trek or trip with a backpack is that the backpack must be comfortable to carry when fully packed. This means that a proper support system is a backpack’s most important function and distinguishes a quality backpack from cheaper alternatives. The purpose of the support system is to redistribute the weight so you are able to carry heavier loads further.

For maximum carrying comfort, you should look for a backpack with an adjustable support system. Our “Perfect Fit Adjustment System” makes it possible to adjust both the length of the back and the distance between the shoulder straps to fit your body. This system provides stability, flexibility and an even distribution of weight. Several of our large backpack models also come in men’s and women’s versions to take into consideration anatomical differences. The women’s Kajka and Abisko models, for example, have shoulder straps that sit more snugly and have been designed not to press down on the chest area.

A large backpack should also have a padded hip belt to redistribute weight away from the shoulders and transfer a greater part of the burden to the stronger muscle groups in the legs. Additional details that make it easier to carry a backpack and which you should look for during your search include:

• Anatomically shaped shoulder straps

• A chest strap that connects the shoulder straps in the front and moves the centre of gravity forward

• A top strap that adjusts the backpack’s angle to the shoulder straps

• A side strap that stabilises the hip belt and pulls the backpack closer to the body

• Compression straps to stabilise the backpack a

• Ventilating back panel

Make sure you go to a store to test how the backpack fits, and preferably add some weight to the backpack so you can get an idea of how it will feel during a trek.


Backpacks can have different types of openings for accessing the contents. Top-loading backpacks are the most common, i.e. you pack from the top, kind of like filling a potato sack. Whatever is packed first is placed at the bottom of the bag. The problem with this type of backpack is that it is difficult to get an overview of your pack. The solution to this problem is to find a backpack with both top and front openings, and perhaps even an opening in the bottom.

A front opening allows you to open the backpack like a suitcase. It is easy to get an overview of the contents and find what you are looking for. It is also easier to pack the backpack.

Top Lid

The design of the top lid is important. The pockets of the top lid will hold the items you want to have easy access to throughout the day. Some backpack models, including Kajka , have a detachable top lid that can be worn across the chest or around the waist, in effect providing an extra bag for shorter excursions.


It is practical to be able to sort your packing, and in addition to pockets in the top lid, a backpack should also have front and side pockets for items you want to be able to reach often. A hidden inner pocket that is more difficult to access is also practical for storing valuables. On some models, for example Abisko and Friluft , the hip belt also has pockets, which is perfect for storing energy bars, raisins or sunscreen.

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How to Pack Your Backpack

How you pack your backpack will affect how it will feel when you are carrying it. The basic principle for trekking is simple: heavy items should be placed close to the back and higher up, centred on the shoulder blades. You should also pack in such a way that the items you will need most often are easily accessible and the items you will not need during the day are stored farther down.

Avoid packing items on the outside of the backpack, but if you must, use straps so the items do not hang off the bag and swing. Pack smart - do not leave any empty holes in the middle. Tighten the compression straps and the straps for the top lid to hold everything in place.

Quick Tips

It can take a while before you get to know your backpack well enough to pack it in a way that best suits your needs.Here is a check list to follow:

• Store your sleeping bag in the bottom compartment, if your backpack has one, and preferably in a waterproof bag.

• Your bedclothes, flashlight and tent – things you only will unpack when setting up camp for the night – can be stored with your sleeping bag. Separate your tent so that you pack the tent pegs in an upright position along the sides of the backpack.

• Changes of clothing are also packed far down on the sides of the bag. Dirty clothes can be stored at the very bottom under everything else.

• Avoid attaching the ground pad to the side of the backpack. Not only could it catch on branches and tear, but it also creates a wind trap that will cause the load on your back to be uneven. Store it inside the backpack, like a standing tube, with other packing inside. This will keep it dry while and simultaneously protect the other contents in the bag.

• At the top of the pack should be the stove and wind sack so they are easily accessible during breaks.

• Store food in pack bags or plastic bags. Some people sort their food after mealtimes: breakfast, lunch or dinner. Others sort their food by day and place the majority of the food far down in the pack. No matter which system you choose, you should keep your food in separate bags so it is easier to unpack/put away.

• The side/front pockets should hold the items you want to have access to during the day: warm layers, hats and gloves, rain garments and a thermos.

• If you are carrying liquid fuel, you should not pack it where it could spill onto the food. To avoid this, pack the fuel containers upright and preferably in an outer pocket.

• The top lid can also store items you need want easily access: the backpack’s rain cover, equipment for repairs, first aid kits, stove accessories, mosquito repellent, etc. You can also keep your map and compass here if you are not carrying them in a leg or breast pocket.

Johan Skullman offers his best advice on how to pack a backpack.

Lower center of gravity when skiing

In some situations it may be necessary to deviate from the main rule of maintaining a high centre of gravity in the pack. One example is if you know that you will be crossing extremely uneven terrain. In this case it is better to have a low centre of gravity and pack your heavy items at the bottom of your backpack. These items should also be further down in the pack and close to your back when skiing to improve your balance.

Multi-colored pack bags make it easier to keep track of what is in your pack.

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Lighter pack

If you want to trek faster, or if you quite simply prefer not to carry a heavy pack, there are quite a few tricks you can use to lower the weight of your pack. The first step, of course, is only taking with you items you really need. A common mistake is to pack to many changes of clothing. Another unnecessary burden that many people carry is water! Since you can drink the water from Swedish mountain streams, you only need to carry a small cup to satisfy your thirst as needed.

The greatest weight savings are made on the heavier pieces of equipment. By choosing a lighter tent, sleeping bag and stove, you can shave off several kilos. This means that the few grams you will save by cutting off the handle of your toothbrush are not so important. With less, and lighter, equipment, you can also choose a smaller backpack, which will weigh less.

Here is a check list for lighter trekking

• Choose a lightweight down sleeping bag instead of a synthetic sleeping bag. It should still insulate down to -5° C.

• Bring a closed-cell plastic ground pad instead of an inflatable pad. It takes up more space but weighs less. Find a lightweight tent. If there are several of you, share a three- or four-man tent so the weight per person is less.

• Distribute the tent, poles, etc., among the group. Choose a thin, lightweight rain suit instead of a sturdy three-layer suit.

• If you are completely sure that your feet can spend long days in your boots without any problem, you can leave the sandals and athletic shoes at home.

• Choose a small propane gas burner that can be screwed directly onto the gas tube and an extremely light pot. But do not eliminate the lid - it cuts the cooking time almost in half.

• Only bring freeze-dried food.

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