Rucksacks 101 - Imagine your carp fishing without bespoke angling luggage. Wouldn’t it be really hard work?
When you think about it, good quality luggage with all the pockets, pouches and specific fishing design touches is the backbone of our kit. At the centre of that for many of us is a rucksack. An invaluable piece of kit that houses and transports all our essentials – the piece of the kit we’d be lost without.
There are loads of rucksacks designed specifically for carp fishing on the market. Some are incredible, some others not so much. We’ve picked four of the best to take a closer look at in terms of functionality and – what’s often the most vital piece of the equation when you start using these bags – comfort.
For a fully functioning storage and transportation system that will see you being able to find your baiting needle one instance and your spare socks the next, a decent inner modulated approach is a must. For this your pouches come into play. Buy ’em, fill ’em, get ’em in the main compartment and everything else should be a doddle…
Strap it up
Not so much an accessory but a basic piece of kit that you see on many rucksacks but not everyone uses. The sternum strap (the strap across your chest) is designed to stop the main straps from moving apart and keeps the weight of the pack on your shoulders, where it needs to be. If you use it, your strap should ideally be in line with your armpits.
A couple of these quick-clip carabinas on the outside of your rucksack can add another handy carrying option to your luggage. Boots, a mug, another pouchful of hook baits or whatever; clip them on quickly and easily to make life getting to and from your swim that little bit easier.
Although storage and capacity are huge things when it comes to the right rucksack, for most of us in a live fishing situation, it’s the comfort factor of a bag that really makes a difference. A 20kg load can feel twice that when your rucksack’s slopping all over your back and your spine feels like a herd of buffalo are playing a game of bulldogs on it.
A good rucksack makes lugging loads on your back and shoulders as easy as possible and that’s what we’re looking for in the ones we’re getting to grips with.
To be fair, there are no specific, calculable measurements of comfort that you can record, so this bit is less scientific than usual. The test was to load each of the four rucksacks with 20kg of weight, strap them on and walk for half a mile – a bit more than many anglers would travel by foot to a swim, but we’re all about putting the leg work in here at ACF.
The comfort ratings we gave the bags are then based on how we felt after the walk.
JRC Contact Rucksack
JRC is producing some great pieces of kit these days, and after spending some time with the Contact we’ve come to see it as one of them.
Looking at it loaded up, the sack doesn’t look all that ‘standout’ from the crowd, but start to have a look around and it has some good, solid touches.
To start with it feels very robust. Good stitching, 500D polyester fabric construction and a waterproof bottom covering tick a lot of boxes when you’re dealing with the rigours of life out on the bank.
Then there’s the storage. The central compartment offers 40 litres of space, along with six external pockets.
One of the best touches is the access to the main compartment. The overhead flap zips into place either side of the opening so that all your bits and bobs will stay in place. However, the front of the flap doesn’t zip up, it just fastens via two clipped straps that run top to bottom. If you don’t bother with the straps you can still get your hand in for quick-access stuff without unzipping everything, with your gear still safe from spilling out – it makes things very quick and easy
Comfort-wise, the padding on the back of the sack and on the main straps is immense. With the straps adjusted and tightened properly it felt very good in all the right places and the waist strap helps to distribute the weight a bit better too. The inclusion of two bars down the back of the bag in line with the main straps – like a proper hiking rucksack – mean that the whole thing also keeps its shape well. We really like this rucksack.
Pros: Robust and simple, this is an old-school angler’s bag with loads of comfort.
Cons: Not sure how long the padding on the back will take to compress.
Test Result: Loaded with weight the bag sat well on the back and over the walk felt well positioned and very comfortable.
Sonik SKS Foldout Rucksack
This is a clever piece of luggage. At a glance it looks like a fairly standard rucksack. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find a design that sees the whole back open out flat, offering four different storage compartments.
Essentially, it works by having a main section separated into two areas. At the top and bottom edges of the bag there are then two more compartments that hinge, closing over the main compartment and attaching to each other when folded up via two clip straps. What this means is that you have a rucksack you can carry on your back as normal to your swim, and when you get there you unclip the secondary compartments and it all opens up into a holdall-style arrangement.
The other clever bit we like is that when it’s all opened up, the tops of each of the four compartments are clear plastic so you can see exactly what you’re looking for straightaway. Not only that, but to save you getting your bag dirty when you lay it down it comes with a free groundsheet (stored in a side pocket), sized perfectly to the bag.
It’s all put together very well. Solid seams, heavy-duty canvas, quality fittings in terms of the clips and zips – it should last a fair number of seasons and plenty of abuse by all accounts.
On the comfort front, the padding on the back of the bag is more than ample, although the main straps could do with being a bit wider to spread the load on your shoulders. All in all a clever bag with lots of practical use out on the bank.
Pros: Very clever and functional with a free groundsheet and a free large tackle box to fit one of the compartments too.
Cons: Pricey, but it is a very good bag.
Test Result: On the walk the rucksack was nice and comfy on the back thanks to the masses of padding included, but the straps could do with a bit of width on them to spread the load where it’s heaviest on the shoulders.
Capacity: Around 30 litres
Dimensions: 57 x 44 x 21cm (113 centimetres long when laid out opened up)
This is old-school luggage at its basic best. No bells, no whistles, none of that namby-pamby padding, just a massive main storage compartment to hold all your gear and a couple of other pockets.
The ESP bag is a focused bit of luggage. But it’s tough as well.
Created from 900d nylon material, backed on the inside of the bag with PVC to make it relatively waterproof, at the heart of the rucksack is a large central compartment that will swallow pretty much everything your need it to. If it doesn’t, there’s also a generous rear pocket, plus two more either side.
The bottom of the back is covered in a reinforced, waterproof ‘foot’, so when you put it down the nylon material doesn’t suck up the moisture. Elsewhere there are also two straps across the rear pocket that clip up and are adjustable to carry an unhooking mat or suchlike.
Rugged and simple, focused and more than up to the task of lugging kit where you need it to be, the ESP rucksack is really a thing of simplistic beauty. But… then you have to carry it.
The back of the bag has a very small amount of padding in it, and the same goes for the main straps – although they are nice and wide to spread the pressure. The inclusion of a sternum strap helps keep things tight and in place, but you do have to watch what you pack at the back of the bag or get niggles with knobbly items digging in when you’re on the move.
Pros: Good, honest, solid bag that will hold loads at a very good price.
Cons: Not the comfiest when on the move.
Test Result: As we’d loaded the bag up with disc weights they didn’t feel too good through the back of the bag, but the actual weight distribution on the shoulders was very good.
Wychwood System Select Rover Rucksack
Part of its new System Select range of luggage, the Rover from Wychwood is a great looking bit of kit from the off. Designed specifically for the mobile angler, it has four easily accessible pockets at the top, the back and either side of the main compartment for you to strategically position the bit of gear you need to get quick and easy access to when you’re hopping through multiple swims.
The main compartment offers enough space for the basic kit the roving carper’s going to need, with the access hole positioned over two planes of the bags construction, giving you a much bigger aperture to get your hands in and on to the kit you’re looking for.
As with the other rucksacks here, the Rover is well put together – solid canvas material, bulky zips, quality stitching on the seams and so on. Plus, you’re looking at a piece of luggage that should last several seasons if you look after it – a point emphasised by Wychwood’s lifetime warranty on the product.
There are some nice little touches as well, such as the separate mesh section in the top compartment and the two space dividers and another mesh section in the rear pocket, and especially the pull-out rain cover that sits in a zip pocket under the bag itself – very handy to keep your bag dry.
This is also a comfy bag on your back and on the move. The rear section where your back makes contact has plenty of padding, but what really makes the difference is the addition of a stiff board that fits into a zipped section in the rear wall. This stiffens the shape of the main compartment to stop things flopping around and protects your back from any lumps and bumps from the gear in the main compartment. As rucksacks go, this one is well thought out and well delivered, and at a pretty good price too.
Pros: Some very nice touches and high-quality finish.
Cons: With a lifetime warranty, we can’t think of any.
Test Result: The back board combined with the rear padding made all the difference to the comfort here, and the sternum strap also helped to create a nice, snug fit when walking.
Capacity: Around 30 litres
Dimensions: 45 x 45 x 28cm