By Clare Morin
South African competitor Angelique Tostee has been wowing audiences with her impressive move up the ranking of the women field to second place in the middle section of the Atacama Crossing 2011 - but could it be due to her backpack?
When one undertakes a self-supported footrace through an inhospitable desert, it’s important to pack well. And it’s even more important that the pack itself works well – and doesn’t weigh a ton. We decide to poke our way into three competitors backpacks, to see if they judged it right – or are starting to have regrets.
Angelique Tostee has chosen a RaidLight 30L, which weighed in at 11.5kg at the check-in. “It’s very light and strong,” says the 34-year old. “I like it a lot.” The entrepreneur has already customized it, cutting off the side pouches that used to rub her arms. She also prefers to use it as a camel pack. “It’s not ideal, as all the weight is in my back, but I still prefer a camel pack rather than bottles in the front.”
25-year old Seranica Williamson also opted for RaidLight, but she went for the 20L size. “It’s very small,” admits the Australian competitor. “But I manage well when I keep the sleeping mattress on top. The top straps are useful to fix the mat.”
Seranica was the champion at the bag-weighing section of the check-in to the race; her pack weighed the lightest, an impressive 6.5kg. But it does have some drawbacks, she says. “This is not the most durable bag though,” she admits. “I would buy a fairly new backpack before the race to not give it too much mileage. Also, the bottle holders are too high, so I would love to change that. The good thing about this bag is that it’s very comfortable for a smaller person, and doesn’t bounce around.” Seranica then gives us a gem of wisdom: “Train with your gear! Everyone’s different.”
We talk to another Ozzie, this time 27-year old Ben Aldous, who is enjoying his second RacingThePlanet challenge after competing in Australia – and the pack is returning with him. Ben chose the Race Pro 30L, which weighed 7.5kg at the check-in. “It has narrow stretchy straps, but they work for me,” he says. “It was the lightest 30L pack I could find.”
Ben then shows us what makes this pack such a winner for him. “The functionality is good,” he says. “It’s quick to get things out of pockets. I’m keeping bottles in the side pockets, so all the weight is on the back.”
And then, like Seranica, he offers a piece of backpack advice that has a Yoda-like ring to it. “Too much space is better than too little,” he says. “When you run down the sand dunes, things can easily fall off if the bag is too small,” he pauses, then adds: “Bigger is good, if you still have the discipline to pack light.”