consumer tips

How to choose the right backpack

Upon hearing the word “backpack,” people naturally think of back-to-school season, when throngs of children board buses and head to classrooms across the country. However, the backpack need not be pigeonholed into such a narrow stereotype; there are many different uses for backpacks.


Outdoor enthusiasts, particularly hikers and day-trippers, rely extensively on backpacks. Backpacks facilitate the transporting of supplies and other necessities, but not every backpack is the same, and some are more applicable to certain tasks than others. Choosing a backpack requires careful consideration, and the following tips can help consumers make the best choice. 

  • Identify its potential usage. What will the backpack need to do? Will you be hiking the mountains and looking for a lightweight pack to carry small supplies, or are you planning to camp out and need something capable of carrying larger items? Discuss your needs with a store employee when shopping for packs.
  • Choose the right volume. Backpacks are sold by volume, or how much stuff they can carry. This is measured in liters or square inches. The liter size may be included right in the product name. According to Eastern Mountain Sports, between 15 and 30 liters is good for day hikes or school usage. An overnight or weekend trip likely will have to be between 30 and 55 liters in volume.
  • Determine torso size. Whichever backpack you choose, it needs to fit you comfortably. That means measuring your torso length to find one that will sit on the right area of your back. The torso length on the pack will equate to the distance between the shoulder straps and where the pack hits your hips. For packs with hip straps, the right length will ensure the hip straps can fit comfortably in this area. Some packs are sold with an adjustable torso size. Some manufacturers also size packs specifically for women’s frames.
  • Decide if framing is necessary. After you have decided on size, you need to assess other features, including internal and external frames. External frames are original style, classic packs. Internal frame packs tend to be lighter and have a lower profile. If you need to maneuver through some tight areas, an internal frame pack might be best. Frames in packs help you carry more, and you can even strap things to the outside of the pack, says Backcountry, a gear and outdoors resource.
  • Consider additional features. Packs come with various features, including load-lifter straps and sternum straps, that can help balance the load and put less strain on your back. Also, choose shoulder straps that curve anatomically to fit the body closer. A ventilated back panel can help reduce sweating and protect your back from pointy gear.

In addition to these tips, consider if you want your pack to be waterproof and to have internal and external storage pockets or other pouches for carrying smaller items. For more help, speak with an outdoor gear retailer.

Find healthy foods while on the go

Nice weather often equates to an uptick in road trips. During such trips, motorists and their passengers will need to take breaks to refuel both their vehicles and their bodies.
Rest stop and convenience store snack options are often unhealthy, and it can be difficult for nutrition-minded travelers to find acceptable fare. But a little creativity coupled with some smarter choices can ensure road trips don’t derail healthy diets.

  • Bring food along. One of the easiest ways to eat healthy while traveling is to bring meals and snacks with you. Look for portable foods that may not require much refrigeration, such as fruit bars or trail mix. If you have room in the car for a small cooler or insulated lunch packs, fill them with fresh fruits and sandwiches. Opt for lean lunch meats like chicken and turkey. Avoid using cheese or dressings like mayonnaise that can quickly spoil. Some other easily portable foods include applesauce cups, oatmeal packets (all you need is hot water from a rest stop) and low-sodium, low-fat jerky.
  • Pack plenty of water, a healthier choice than soft drinks that will also  keep you hydrated when sitting in the car for extended periods of time. 
  • Find healthy fast food. If packing food is not an option or if you just prefer the convenience of getting something along the way, you can still make informed choices. Opt for foods that are roughly 500 calories or less and boast plenty of protein and whole grains to help you feel full longer. You may not be able to enjoy low-sodium foods, as many fast food options go heavy on the salt. Just steer clear of extra condiments that only increase those already considerable sodium levels.
  • If you must opt for fast food, do not order sides of fries or chips, which will only make meals less healthy. Also, avoid sugary sodas. Many fast food restaurants offer some healthy fare, such as grilled chicken sandwiches. Order such sandwiches plain or with extra lettuce and tomato for a healthy crunch. Order sandwiches on whole-wheat buns when possible.
  • Kids’ meals tend to have healthy portion sizes. If possible, purchase a kid’s meal and opt for a side of sliced apples or another healthy alternative.
  • Make smart choices at sit-down restaurants, too. It’s important to stay focused on healthy fare even when you pull off the highway and patronize more traditional sit-down restaurants. Again, think smaller portions. Consider splitting an entrée with another person in your traveling party. Some chains will offer the nutritional information right on the menu, or put a special symbol next to their healthiest offerings. Substitute steamed vegetables for starchy or fattening side dishes and always ask for sauces to be served on the side.
  • It’s not always easy to eat healthy when traveling. But travelers can often find healthy fare, even if they need to bring it along themselves.

Prevent bugs, sap and other substances from ruining a vehicle

Keep vehicles clean

Keeping vehicles looking pristine requires care and diligent cleaning. So many day-to-day activities and environmental materials have the potential to damage the finish on cars and trucks. While winter weather and chemicals used to keep roadways passable are often blamed for affecting the appearance of cars and trucks, winter is not the only time of year when substances can cause damage to vehicles.
Spring and summer are prime seasons for sap, birds and insects. These times of year tend to see an uptick in road work as well, and such projects can contribute to damage caused by loose asphalt, gravel and tar. Addressing problems resulting from tree sap, insect and bird droppings and tar may not be something to look forward to, but it is necessary to keep cars looking pristine.

Tree sap
According to, an automotive information resource and vehicle sales website, although tree sap won’t cause immediate damage to vehicle paint, it should not be ignored. Over time, sap can become more difficult to remove, etch through the clear coat on the vehicle and cause discoloration. When the temperature is hot, damage from sap can accelerate. 
On windows and windshields, drivers may be able to gently remove dried sap with a razor blade. However, use cleaning products on more delicate paint. Automotive stores sell speciality sap and tar cleaners. Otherwise, you can try rubbing alcohol. It may take a few attempts to remove sap entirely.

Insects and bird droppings
Splattered bugs and avian surprises dropped from above can be a messy, unsightly nuisance. Their acidic composition also may cause them to damage paint over time. Bugs and droppings can be sticky, so you will need to work with something that will remove the splatter without removing the paint in the process. A product like WD-40 may help. This oily product is normally used on rust and hinges. When applied with a cloth and allowed to penetrate the stain, it can loosen difficult-to-remove sticky substances. Always test any product you use in an inconspicuous spot first to make sure it doesn’t damage or discolor your the paint.
Insects or droppings that are fresh may come off relatively easily with a good washing or hosing off of the car. Retailers also sell specialty insect sponges to remove bugs and other debris.

Soap and water will do little to remove tar and other petroleum-based products from vehicles. Commercial tar removal products use a strong solvent or detergent to loosen the tar. This may include kerosene, mineral spirits or another item mixed with lubricants. Go slowly and use caution so that you remove the tar and not the paint.
Drivers who are hesitant to clean their vehicles of common residue can have their cars or trucks professionally detailed, leaving the work in the hands of experts.