SHERIDAN — Adventure awaits backpackers of all ages right in Sheridan’s backyard. For those experienced in the backpacking realm, plans are already being made for a possible weeklong trip through the Cloud Peak Wilderness. For others, though, some casual backpacking lingo brings a puzzled look to their faces.
As a beginning backpacker, starting the process can be overwhelming. Choosing a backpack creates a world of its own, but Sheridan has several people and locations ready to provide a proper fitting for your first excursion.
Jake Vernon is an experienced backpacker and employee of The Sports Stop in Sheridan. She fits folks for packs often, using both her expertise and available tools through backpacking companies to properly fit each person.
When purchasing a pack, one must first choose between internal or external frames. Vernon said she often sees Boy Scouts and hunters choosing external frames and most everyone else going with the internal structure.
Next, companies designate design for male or female. Packs do not have to be gender-specific, though, as women can very easily wear a male-specific pack, depending on body type.
After choosing type and gender, Vernon suggests considering size. For those looking at taking extended trips, a larger pack might be most fitting. REI recommends 35- to 50-liter packs for weekend trips, 50- to 80-liter packs for multi-day trips and 70-plus-liter packs for extended trips.
Size matters in capacity for backpacking, but also in fit and comfortability. Most companies sell packs from extra-small to large, and the sizing depends entirely on the length of the spine. Vernon uses a backpacking-specific measuring device to determine size of pack for her customers. The measuring device measures the distance from the C-7 spinal segment — the bone that sticks out on the back of the neck when you touch your chin to your chest — to the iliac crest, or the top of the hip bone.
The bottom straps of the pack should fit comfortably around the hips, and the strap clip should rest directly over the navel. The design of the pack is to put most of the weight on the hips rather than all on the back and shoulders.
Finding properly-fitting equipment is just the first step in starting a backpacking adventure, but it remains the most integral element for long-term success and comfortability along the way.