Weather Predictions for Summer 2018 - 2019

One of the most talked about topics on the track, what’s the weather going to do? When is it going to rain? When will the rain stop? With the track becoming so busy, which means you have to book months ahead to get a bed. The questions then are what’s the best time of year to walk the Routeburn? Is it a matter of luck if you have good or bad weather? Is there any way to predict what the weather will be in a month or even 6 months from now? Many questions, but not many answers. Certainly, the weather is constantly changing and it seems there is no way to predict what it will do tomorrow let alone next week. However, like many things in life, the weather also has its cycles and patterns.

Please note that the following predictions were based on statistics mixed with weather cycles. There is no guarantee that the weather will follow these patterns.

With the above average temperatures during the summer becoming more frequent, the weather patterns are changing. Usually, when a rain front hits NZ it is at the lower to mid-south island region. With the warmer weather, these similar fronts are now hitting NZ mid to upper south island region. The warmer sea temp also means there is more moisture being sucked up into these fronts. Which means heavier rainfalls. We could see October –January have below average rainfall and February – May above average rainfall.

It seems easier to predict when the weather is wet and wild then fine and sunny.

So the following are probabilities of when there is a high chance of wet weather.
October 2018
Rainy days - 2, 3,    9, 10,    15, 16,    24, 25, 26,    29
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 9, 24
Cold Southerly winds (possible snow to low levels)– 16
Clear Blue Sky days – 17, 18

November 2018
Rainy days - 5,    11, 12,    16, 20,    25, 26
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 5, 20
Cold Southerly winds (possible snow to low levels)– 12
Clear Blue Sky days – 13, 14

December 2018
Rainy days - 3,    9, 10,    16, 17,    24, 25,    29, 30
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 3, 17, 30
Cold Southerly winds (possible snow to low levels)– 10
Clear Blue Sky days – 11, 12

January 2019
Rainy days - 5, 6,    13, 14,    20, 21, 22, 23,    26, 27
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 14, 26
Cold Southerly winds – 6
Clear Blue Sky days – 7, 8

February 2019
Rainy days - 1, 2,  10, 16,    20, 21, 22, 23
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 10, 23
Cold Southerly winds – 2
Clear Blue Sky days – 3, 4

March 2019
Rainy days - 8, 9,    15,    21, 22, 23,    28, 29
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 9, 22
Cold Southerly winds (possible snow to low levels)– 2, 29
Clear Blue Sky days – 3, 4, 30, 31

April 2019
Rainy days - 5, 12,    18, 19, 20, 21,    24, 25
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 5, 19
Cold Southerly winds (possible snow to low levels)– 25
Clear Blue Sky days –26, 27

May 2019
Rainy days - 3, 4,    8,    15, 16,    21, 22, 23,    27, 30
Wild weather days with gale force Westerly Winds and rain – 3, 16, 30
Cold Southerly winds (possible snow to low levels)– 23
Clear Blue Sky days – 24, 25

There are also approx. 2 week cycles where the rain is not as heavy than other 2 week cycles.
Here is a selection of dates where it can still rain but in general it will be less rain than the two weeks either side.
Expect rain at either end of these dates.
October 23 - November 5
November 20 – December 2
December 17 – December 30
January 13 – January 26
February 10 – February 22
March 9 – March 22
April 5 – April 18
May 2 – May 15
May 30 - June 12

So it’s going to rain at sometime. So how about what time of day?
During these periods it is likely that any rain will fall heaviest during the night time.
On rainy nights expect it still to be raining in the morning, but clearing as the day goes on.
October 9 – November 17
December 8 – December 16
January 6 – January 14
February 5 – February 13
March 7 – March 14
April 5 – April 13
May 4 – May 12

For those that love to get out into a good storm with plenty of Lightning and Thunder.
Any rain during these periods have a very high probability of Thunderstorms/Lightning
October 25 – November 1
November 23 – November 30
December 23 - December 29
January 21 – January 28
February 20 – February 27
March 21 – March 28
April 19 – April 27
May 19 – May 27

For Stargazing the best nights if the skies are clear are between:
October 4 – 14
November 3 – 13
December 2 – 12
January 1 – 11
February 1 – 10
March 2 – 12
April 1 – 10
May 1 - 10

Logistics FAQ's to consider.

What are you doing before and after this walk?
Knowing what you plan to do before and after this walk will make deciding which direction to walk easier.

Which end do you want to start vs which end do you need to start?
Some people just book the huts ASAP and then only much later look at how to get there. Book your transport and huts at the same time otherwise, you might get stuck.

What Hut accommodation is still available?
With huts being booked out months in advance, sometimes you then have no choice but to walk in a certain direction and then plan accordingly. Routeburn Falls and Lake MacKenzie are the first to get fully booked which then means that no matter which end you start you will have at least one long day.
If you have to miss one of those huts, then miss out the Routeburn Falls.(Flats hut is only an extra 1.5hr)
For Campers, Lake MacKenzie has only 9 sites. So Book that first.

How are you getting to the start and How are you leaving from the end?
From Trail end to Trail end it is 350km by road.

What Transport Options are still available?
Having your car relocated is becoming more popular each year, as hikers are seeing the true value of this service. As are the Bus services. So coordinate with your transport service provider when booking hut tickets. With the majority of hikers starting from the RTB Roadend means that the transport services are quickly being booked out in this direction. So one of the advantages of starting from the Divide is that it is easier to get transport from Te Anau to the Divide and then from the RTB Roadend to Queenstown, than it is from Queenstown to the RTB Roadend and The Divide to Te Anau.

What time are you planning on starting and finishing?
When starting have you allowed yourself enough time to get to your nights destination and still enjoy the walk. When finishing have you allowed yourself enough time to get there without rushing. If you plan on catching a Bus, then you can finish earlier but never later.

How long do you want to take vs How long do you need to take?
The track times are a guide only, If you are new to hiking and carrying a heavy pack then you may need extra time. The weather can either speed you up or slow you down depending on how you like it.

Do you have the fitness to really do what you have planned?
Most new hikers tend to over estimate their fitness and skill levels. Carrying a heavy pack when you're not used to it will quickly drain any energy you thought you had. Are you used to 4-8hrs of continuous exercise? If you're planning on doing the Routeburn in a day average time is 10-12hrs with only short rests along the way.

Are you Mentally prepared for the journey?
Even more important than physical fitness is your Mental Skills and Attitude. When you are physically pushed to your limit then it will be your mental abilities which will keep you on track.

How Many Days to Walk The Routeburn Track?

Which direction to walk?
Walking from RTB Roadend end to Divide. This is the most popular direction, maybe due to the fact that most of the track guides are written in this direction.

Start at Divide. This is the preferred direction for day walkers and runners. Overall this direction has less height gain than starting at RTB Roadend.

Option 1. 4 Nights 5 Days.
Immerse yourself and stay a night at each hut. This is the preferred option when you have no time constraints. This gives you plenty of time to explore the various side tracks as well.

Option 2. 3 Nights 4 Days. (depending on Hut availability)
Overnight at Routeburn Flats, Routeburn Falls, Lake MacKenzie.
Allows for time to explore the Routeburn North Branch and Viewpoint above Falls Hut.
Overnight at Routeburn Falls, Lake MacKenzie, Lake Howden.
Make the most of all the major viewpoint side trips.
Overnight at Routeburn Flats, Routeburn Falls, Lake Howden.
Have a good rest and a bite to eat at Lake MacKenzie before carrying on. Leave early (8am) if hiking from Lake Howden to Falls.
Overnight at Routeburn Flats, Lake MacKenzie, Lake Howden.
Have an early start (8am) from Flats or MacKenzie to allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy the sights.

Option 3. 2 nights 3 days. (depending on Hut Availability.) This is the most popular time frame.
Overnight at Routeburn Falls and Lake MacKenzie. (Either way)
Most popular choice making for 3 days of hiking with the similar energy required. Good viewpoints on each day, so if the weather is bad one day you still have a chance of seeing views on another day.
Overnight at Routeburn Flats and Lake Mackenzie. (Either way)
Enjoy the peace and quiet at Flats. Most popular choice for Campers.
Overnight at Routeburn Falls and then Lake Howden.
Overnight at Routeburn Flats and then Lake Howden.
Have an early start (8am). Stop at Lake Mackenzie for a good rest and a bite to eat. Most hikers tend to get very tired once they leave Lake Mackenzie and enter the bush with its uphill section.
Overnight at Lake Howden and Routeburn Falls
Overnight at Lake Howden and Routeburn Flats.
Have an early start. Have a good rest, bite to eat and drink at Harris Saddle Shelter. The walk downhill from Harris Saddle can be just as hard then going uphill when you're tired.

Option 4. 1 night 2 days.
Overnight at Routeburn Falls
Overnight at Lake MacKenzie.
Depending on which end you start, both of these options will have 1 normal day and 1 Long day.
Overnight at Routeburn Flats.
Overnight at Lake Howden.
For these possibilities: 1 Short day and 1 Long day (depending on which end you start)
On your long day (10hrs+) have an early start so that you have plenty of time to reach the end before dark. Stop at each hut along the way, have a good rest, a bite to eat and a drink. Walk at a comfortable but continuous pace to maximise your energy use. Ensure you have the fitness to do this before starting.

1 Night 2 Days vs 1 Day Walk
If you can book a night at either Routeburn Falls or Lake MacKenzie then staying overnight and taking 2 days is the preferred option. However, if you can only get a booking at Routeburn Flats or Lake Howden then I would consider walking the track in One Day. When staying at Flats or Howden you will have one short day and one very long day 10hrs-12hrs with a full pack, whereas walking the complete track with a day pack will also take 10-12 hrs. 10hrs with a day pack is easier than 10hrs with a full pack. The day walk gives you more of an option to walk the track when the weather is more suitable.

Option 5. 1 Day Walk
Why start at Divide. Overall there is less height gain this way. The hard part of the track is in the first half. After Harris Saddle it's all down hill and the terrain becomes easier the closer you get to the RTB Roadend.
If you're planning on doing the Routeburn in a day average time is 10-12hrs with only short rests along the way. So start early and ensure that you have the physical fitness to walk the 32km of Alpine terrain.

Option 6. 1 Day Run
Why start at Divide. This is the same direction as the Routeburn Classic running race in mid-April.
(otherwise same reasons as for walking). Most first time RTB runners aim to finish in under 5hr.
How Fast is Fast. On April 22nd, 2017 Jack Beaumont from Queenstown set a new Routeburn Classic record. 2 hrs 37 mins 51 secs.

For an excellent article on running The Routeburn Track written by respected Trail Runner Sarah Lavender Smith.
http://www.therunnerstrip.com/2015/03/routeburn-track-guide/

HIKING WITH CHILDREN --- BUILDING CONFIDENCE AND A LOVE FOR THE OUTDOORS TAKES TIME.

Hiking is one of the few activities which can include the whole family, bridging the generation gap. Children are born explorers and naturally curious but maintaining interest is an ongoing challenge. Be patient and sensitive to your child’s needs. Building confidence and a love for the outdoors takes time. Rediscover the world through the child’s eye. Plan flexible outings and be prepared to modify your goals. Tell them it’s okay to get dirty and give up trying to keep them clean. Usually a dirty face is a happy face!

CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT: Clothes Even though most hiking stores stock appropriate children’s hiking gear, it may be a good idea to look for good second-hand clothing. Dress them in bright, warm clothing. Layering clothing can be time consuming but it is necessary.    
Do not forget sun/woolly hat, mittens or gloves.

BOOTS/SHOES: Children’s boots are hard to come by. Comfortable sturdy running shoes with high tops for ankle support, and well worn in, are the best alternative. Take along a pair of water shoes as well.

BACKPACKS: To choose a backpack. Children less than three years old should not carry anything. Be prepared to carry their gear and, possibly, the child as well! Children as young as 5 or 6, can carry a whistle, book or water bottle in a well-fitting backpack. Always be prepared to take the load or, if necessary, turn back. Older children should carry clothing, whistle, light snacks and drink bottles in a light backpack. Don’t forget to pack a favourite book or stuffed animal.

FOOD AND DRINKS: Young children frequently need to top-up energy levels. If a child is hungry before a scheduled break, stop and give them a snack. Keep muesli bars and chocolate readily available and always carry food your children to enjoy. Take a few surprise treats along as well and do not be disappointed if they are more interested in the goodies than exploring their environment. Encourage children to drink enough fluids.

HOW FAR OR FAST CAN WE GO ?: First hikes should be short to avoid boredom and also build up stamina. Pushing a child too hard will put them off forever. Always walk at the pace of the slowest child unless bad weather is on the way and you need to get out of the bush or to a shelter. Give the older or faster children tasks to slow them down.

SAFETY: Children are unaware of hazards and must be closely supervised at all times. Have one adult up front and one at the back and teach children not to run ahead and to always keep an adult in sight. All adults in your group must be responsible, flexible and prepared to turn back. The other thing to remember is that the wind whistling through the trees or a branch cracking can frighten young children who are out of their comfort zones. Children cool down quickly so do not forget to check their heads, hands and feet to ensure they remain warm.

ACTIVITIES AND RESPONSIBILITY: Activities Keep children busy. Give them responsibilities, like reading a map or compass, leading the group, timing each step or even planning the meals beforehand.

HAZARDS: Teach them to look out for overhanging branches, tracks that may slip away or protruding roots, staying away from rivers and streams; how to identify landmarks and how close to the edge is too close (two large adult steps back).

LOST: Teach them to stop and make a lot of noise and how to use their whistles properly.

Remember - it’s free for children (5-17 years) to stay in huts and campsites on Great Walk tracks. Children under 15 years must be with an adult.

Although the alpine sections of the Routeburn Track are not recommended for children a great overnight alternative is to walk in and stay at either Lake Howden or Routeburn Flats Hut.  
Stay overnight then return same way.

 

WALKING TECHNIQUES --- TAKE SMALL CAREFUL STEPS AND STAY FOCUSSED.

WALKING: ‘How fast must I walk?’ is the most frequently asked question. Annoying as this sounds, it will depend on how fit you are and whether you are adequately equipped for your hike. The slowest member of your group determines your speed. Having said that, below are some guidelines to assist you:

Easy, relatively flat terrain – 3km/hr,    varied terrain – 2km/hr,    steep terrain – 1km/hr

When hiking: Stay focussed. Often beginners, anticipating a stumble, look only at the track. Do not power walk, Five hours on uneven terrain is a long time. Learn to pace yourself and build up endurance levels. Never place a foot under a root. Wet, slimy logs, rocks and roots are slippery. 

Walking uphill: Take small steps.Concentrate on relaxing your body and keeping your shoulders down. Swing your arms in a relaxed natural motion.A small rocking motion, not  
unlike a goat, is useful too.

Walking downhill: It’s easier to fall walking downhill than uphill. Take small, careful steps keeping your weight above your feet. Land on the ball of your foot, (hip over foot), knee bent. Swing your arms across your body, this will help with balance.

If you do slip, go with it and wait for the foot to stop before stepping forward.

Hiking Poles: Even though you are carrying extra gear, hiking poles, when used effectively, do spread the load from your legs to your arms. There are arguments against using poles, the holes damage the environment, so do take care. If you decide to use poles because you suffer from sore knees or legs, also look at different exercises to strengthen joints. For people struggling with balance, it’s like having a third arm or leg and the poles can help to prevent a fall. They are excellent when crossing rivers or streams, walking on narrow tracks or through mud. If cost is a factor, a sturdy stick will suffice.

A Rough Guide to Useing Hiking Poles: Many hikers in New Zealand use one pole for support and keep one hand free to grab onto roots and trees. It’s also important to be aware of where you place the poles as you can easily trip. Find a style that you are comfortable with. Most techniques will take a while to master and it’s important to develop a relaxed rhythm. 
Technique: Try the following technique and see if it works for you: Extend the pole so that the tip touches the ground when your forearm is parallel to the ground. Bring your hand up through the strap (do not go down through the top) and lightly hold the handle. When the left foot touches the ground, the pole in the right hand should touch the ground at the same time on the opposite side. On steep downhill sections, you may want to lengthen the poles for added confidence.

When to Give Way: Technically, hikers walking uphill appreciate being able to maintain their rhythm. However, if someone is hurtling down the track, you may want to step to one side – you do not want anybody falling on top of you.  

Food and Beverages --- Appreciate the small pleasures in life.

Food food glorious food: The first principle in planning a compact food supply is to have enough calories to permit muscles to work in the body to keep warm. Fat has twice the calorific value of carbohydrate eg: sugar or protein eg: cheese, and fat delays the gnawing sensation of hunger. Carbohydrate quickly assimilated provides ready fuel for the muscles. Protein not only has a special power of promoting warmth, but also is the most interesting component of a meal, and important ingredient for health, and the chief constituent of muscle. Fat, Protein and carbohydrate in sufficient proportions, together with minerals and vitamins, make up a balanced diet for keeping the body in a good physical shape.

Food is everyones favourite subject and the hardest to agree on. Always carry extra, high energy and quickly digestible food, eg: glucose tablets, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, instant soup and energy bars. In general hiking food should be nutritious, lightweight, low in bulk and prepared with a minimum of fuss. I divide food into five categories: fresh, tinned, dried, dehydrated and freeze dried.  
Fresh food: such as fruit, cold meat, tomatoes, eggs, bread are heavy and bulky, but the enjoyment of eating fresh food is sometimes worth the extra muscle strain.  
Tinned food: and the opener add extra mass, and once the contents have been  eaten you must put the smelly tin with its rough edges back in the pack - no you cannot bury the tin. Dried foods: (figs, raisins, crispbreads, nuts, energy bars) make great hiking snacks and are usually packed with energy giving kilojoules.  
Dehydrated food: such as dried soup mixes, isotonic drinks or milk powder require little storage space and have a long storage life. Their only disadvantage is that preparation takes a little longer. Dehydrating removes 98 percent of moisture making the food shrink in size. Dehydrated foods are usually less costly than dried foods or off season fresh food and definitely cheaper than freeze dried food.  
Freeze dried food: The extremely lightweight nature of Freeze dried foods make them suitable for taking along as an emergency back up. Drinks - Plenty of liquids is a must, especially on a hot summers day.  
Energy drinks: There are plenty of high energy drinks which taste great, eg: Loaded, E2, Powerade or Isotonic drink powders. A drinking tube with a bottle screw attached to a 2 litre cool drink bottle makes for a cheap water carrier.

 

 

Boots --- Choose footwear that is comfortable and durable – they have to take you in and take you out.

Choosing the right footwear is very important. Your feet have to take you in and take you out so look after them. Buy boots that are comfortable, durable and meet your hiking requirements. Look for leather uppers that are well-cushioned around the ankles. The toe and heel should be hard and the tongue sewn into the upper to keep out dirt and water. The sole should be rubber with a good tread.

Different types of boots: Lightweight boots are suitable for day hiking and short overnight trips. Midweight boots are suitable for light to moderate loads over an easy to moderate terrain. Extended backpacking or mountaineering boots offer the best in durability and support. They are suitable for moderate to heavy backpacking loads over a rough terrain. Some are stiff enough to attach crampons.

Test for fit: Fit is critical. Take your own hiking socks along. The boots should feel snug around the ball and instep of your foot with lots of room to wiggle around. Your toes should never touch the end of the boot. Boots do stretch, however, this will not turn a poor fit into a good one!

Breaking in: Break your boots in slowly. Wear your boots for short periods of time inside the house. If you notice significant pinching, rubbing or pain, take them back to the store and exchange them for a different style. Slowly increase the amount of time you wear your boots until the leather has moulded to your feet.

Basic boot care: Keep your boots clean by brushing off dirt and mud between hikes. Most boots can be washed on the outside with mild soap and water. If your boots get drenched, stuff loosely with news paper and dry in a warm place (never dry next to a fire or in direct sunlight). Leather boots should be conditioned periodically.

Waterproofing: There is a selection of waterproofing products. Different types of fabrics will require different solutions so check to make sure you purchase the correct one. Before waterproofing, make sure your boots are clean and concentrate on seams which, over time, will leak.

CLOTHING --- CHOOSING SUITABLE PROTECTION FROM THE SUN, RAIN, WIND OR SNOW CAN BE QUITE A CHALLENGE.

Choosing clothing is an important decision for any hiker. Your clothes must be comfortable and protect you from the sun, rain, wind or snow. For day hikes it is not too hard to choose adequate clothing but for multiple day hikes it can be quite a challenge. Most hikers use a layering system as it is versatile, takes up less room in your backpack, and is lighter to carry. It is important to stay comfortable and a number of thin layers will be warmer than two thicker layers.The advantages are quite simple: take off layers as you warm up; add layers as you cool down. Whether or not you actually need them depends on your hiking plans. Layers are broken down into four basic groups, each performing a specific task:.Inner layers will transport perspiration away from the skin. Mid layers are clothing generally worn on a warm day. Insulating layers absorb moisture and keep you warm. Outer layers will protect you from the elements.In cold or wet weather, three layers are ideal – inner, insulating and outer.

THE FOUR BASIC LAYERS: Inner layers Keep you comfortable in summer as they transport perspiration away from your skin (known as wicking). They also keep you warm in cold weather. Inner layers are available in different fabrics and thicknesses to suit most weather conditions. Polypropylene is an excellent wicking material. It is easy to wash and dries quickly. Silk, extremely comfortable and lightweight, is an effective wicking and insulating material but is not as durable as Polypropylene. Cotton is not recommended as it absorbs moisture and takes a long time to dry which can cause discomfort.

Mid layers: Provide basic insulation and protection in warmer weather. Mid layer clothing, consisting of shorts, T-shirts and pants, should be comfortable and lightweight. Polypropylene and silk are excellent choices. Cotton is popular, as it is comfortable and will keep you cool. However, it takes a long time to dry and is an ineffective insulator. Nylon is lightweight and durable. Wool, although a great insulator, can be scratchy or bulky.

Insulation layers: Provide additional warmth. Insulation layers should be warm and lightweight.They should also breathe well to allow perspiration and body heat to escape. Fleece, a popular choice and available in a wide variety of styles and thicknesses, is comfortable, warm, fast drying and lightweight. Many are available with wind stopping liners built in. Wool as mentioned before, insulates well but takes a long time to dry and is bulky.

Outer layers: Will protect you from the wind, rain or snow and should always be in your backpack. They need to be breathable to allow perspiration and body heat to escape. Outer layers come in a variety of designs and features and should be roomy enough to fit over your other layers.

What to look for: Jackets should have a hood. Full-zip jackets and pants are easier to get in and out of, however, there is a higher chance of leaks. Sealed seams are a must for any waterproof layer although not necessary for water-resistant items. Vents enhance breathability. Pockets should be easy to reach, open and close and should be protected against leaks. The more pockets you have, the more essential items you will be able to store, but they do increase the weight of the layer. Different types of fabrics: Water-resistant/breathable fabrics repel wind and light showers and are great for short trips in good weather. However, they will not protect you against extended periods of rain. Waterproof/non-breathable fabrics are completely waterproof. Because of the lack of breathability,many hikers tend to stay away from this type of fabric. PVC is a good example. Waterproof/breathable fabrics are waterproof and somewhat breathable.Although they can heat up and trap perspiration, they are popular with hikers as they are comfortable and effective in a wide range of situations and conditions.Gortex is a good example.

HEADWEAR, GLOVES, SOCKS: A wide-brimmed hat will protect your head and face from the sun. A cap is suitable for summer and rainy days. A jacket hood can be pulled over a cap to increase visibility. Pack along a thermal wool cap and gloves as well. It is important to try and keep your feet cool and dry. Socks should be made of wickable material and snug-fitting with padding around the heels and cushioning around the toes. Wool is a great insulator and over time, retains good cushioning.

 

BackPacks --- BACKPACKING BRINGS ONE CLOSER TO NATURE

There is a multitude of backpacks to choose from. Consider the most demanding situation you may expect to encounter and the places you intend to explore. Fit is crucial so enlist the help of a professional or experienced hiker/tramper. Backpacks range in price (NZ$100 to NZ$500) so it is important to get it right the first time. More than likely a daypack has been designed to suit your needs. If intending to do overnight trips, consider purchasing an internal frame pack which will allow you to carry a heavier load.

PURCHASING A BACKPACK: The backpack should be large enough to contain all your gear and equipment – preferably with a waterproof cover. Some backpacks place a thin sheet of plastic along the spine of the pack which prevents objects poking into your back. Fit your backpack in the store before purchasing it.

Features: A padded hipbelt that wraps around your hips not your waist; a good suspension system which adjusts and draws the load tight in all directions (the more fine tuning you can do the better); a cushioning lumber pad; padded and contoured shoulder straps which adjust the shoulder harness in small increments; easily accessible side pockets with one large enough for a water bottle enabling you to have a drink without stopping.

Fitting: Fill up the backpack. Adjust the suspension system ensuring it is comfortable and the hip belt has taken the load from your shoulders (the only contact is against the front of your upper chest preventing sore and bruised muscles or bones).Ensure the hip belt wraps around your hips and can be cinched securely.The height of the backpack should not be more than 5cm above your head.The backpack should not pinch or restrict your movements unnecessarily and you should be able to look up or squat comfortably.

Weight: A general guide (after taking into consideration your level of fitness, strength and any medical problems) would be: Adults: Under 10kg for day hikes and never more than a third of your body weight. Children: As light as possible! The more you carry the more energy you will expend.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF BACKPACKS: 
Daypacks: Most daypacks are comfortable and will also serve well as a general purpose pack (such as kids carrying books to school or hand luggage on an aeroplane). Most offer padded backing, hipbelts and lumber pads.

Internal Frame Backpacks: Internal frame backpacks are stable, firm and flexible enough to allow freedom of movement. Great suspension systems which are adjustable to fit your body shape. Low centre of gravity which will assist with balance.

Women’s Backpacks: Women's backpacks take into consideration wider hips, narrower shoulders and a lower centre of gravity.

Children’s Backpacks: A good fitting daypack will suffice. Children tire easily so make sure they do not carry a heavy load. If intending overnight trips, the pack should be big enough to carry a sleeping bag, clothing and water bottle.

Child Carrypacks: Look for good suspension, padded waist belt, padded shoulder straps,adjustment straps,sun/rain guard.An infant can be carried in the front for extra warmth.

PACKING YOUR BACKPACK: Pack the heaviest items on top and to the back of your pack (this is the closest to the centre of gravity). Pack small equipment in side pockets. Women generally do not have the upper body strength of men and often suffer with a heavy pack, so a good hipbelt and suspension system is essential.

BREAKING IN YOUR BACKPACK: Make your first hike a short one which will enable you to stop often and make adjustments. Your backpack will, over time, conform to your body and become more and more comfortable.