Your child needs to be able to carry everything they bring – at least for a hundred meters or so! For young children, a rucksack bigger than them may not be practical, but for children over 12, a proper rucksack is the best way to go, and will ensure you don’t overpack. If you are sending them away with a little case instead of a rucksack, make sure it has wheels.
Finally, if you had to fold everything neatly to get it all in, there’s little chance of them managing to pack it all back up at the end!
Something with a strong handle and wheels. Together with a day-sack, “carry-on” size should be big enough for most short trips with something larger for longer expeditions. Suitcases that are too big won’t fit in the tents!
A 65 litre bag is large enough for most trips. For growing children, an adjustable back system can help. Almost all rucksacks will come with pockets in the lid, and a couple more at the sides. Anything more than that is unnecessary, and is usually just more zips to break! Try to avoid tying kit to the side as it makes it hard to pack and easy to mislay stuff.
All kids will need a smaller rucksack to carry lunch and waterproofs when we go on day trips. We recommend something between 20-30 litres, and a drawstring is more secure than a zip – although hard to find these days! Two shoulder straps is a must, and a hip belt is desirable.
Keeping it dry
Very few rucksacks are truly waterproof. External rain covers don’t work. The best way to keep the contents dry is by packing all clothes in small plastic bags. Supermarket carrier bags work brilliantly. You can get colourful roll-top dry bags too, but it’s a luxury not a requirement. Try and avoid using black bin bags as these have been confused for rubbish in the past!
The best technique is to pack clothes of a type into separate bags. All underwear in one bag, all gloves and hats in another, all t-shirts in a third and so on. Just twisting the bags round is easier and more effective than tying knots in them.
Pack small items and toiletries in a clear ziplock bag or Tupperware box, they won’t get lost as easily (or at least, not as quickly)
A simple large rucksack
A day sack
An actually waterproof day sack
A better rucksack for overnight hiking