My biggest consideration when I started to put the kit list together for this trek was undoubtedly the rucksack. Never before have I undertaken an expedition such as this, where I’d be trekking long distances daily for weeks on end; and also travelling alone, I might add. Previously, I’ve only mountaineered or hiked, at high altitude and in groups, meaning I’ve only ever had to carry a light pack. So Walking Wales is an entirely different beast.
A good quality rucksack is designed to distribute weight evenly, and also in the right places. A decent pack will minimise stress on the back and shoulders.
Being a small woman meant that my choice of appropriate rucksack was cut right down. Yes, there were plenty of female-specific packs about, but were there ones catering for us shorties too? Not really, no. My choice, after looking through scores of reviews by short female backpackers, eventually came down to two 65L packs, both by Osprey: the Aura AG 65 or the Ariel 65.
After reading up on the pros and cons of both, my heart was set on the Ariel – it had top and front access, a hydration chamber which loaded at the rear (thus avoiding my pet hate of having to stuff a bladder in through the main section of the pack), and was basically perfect and the pack for me. Going to fetch it from the shop was merely a formality.
But when I got to Cotswold Outdoor I thought I’d give them both a try.
So the assistant kindly measured me and fitted the Ariel pack specifically to my size (he diplomatically remarked that I was the most petite person he’d fitted). Then he started loading weight into it. 5…10….15….20…25 kilos went into the rucksack. And yes it felt a bit uncomfortable. It just didn’t sit right somehow. So out came the weights and off went the pack.
We then did exactly the same with the Aura AG 65, and oh my! Putting the Aura on was like getting a warm hug and gliding over a cloud at the same time. The weight inside it – half my own body weight – felt like nothing! Suddenly I could see why AG stood for “anti gravity”. All thoughts of getting the Ariel went out of the window immediately and I was sold on the Aura. To hell with carrying a bladder anyway, I’d carry a water bottle instead.
The Aura and I have a few long hikes under our belt already, and I have christened him Buddy because of the very friendly hip hugs he gives me. I can’t wait to hit the trail on June 1st with him on my back.
When Walking Wales is finished, I’ll write a review of how the pack held up after more than a 1000 miles worth of use.