How to pack a backpack


how to pack a backpack

How to Pack a backpack

OK, you are going backpacking, awesome, please come back and share your adventure with us when it’s over. But for now let’s get down to business, you need to learn how to pack a backpack. You might already know how but it never hurts to review. Who knows, you might just pick up that one unique tip that makes all the difference in the world.

When planning a hiking, backpacking or extended trip, correctly packing your backpack can really make a difference. The best way to pack a backpack for travel, hiking or any other activity really share all the same principles. The first thing you need to do is start with a checklist of the items you plan to bring with you.

You might find it helpful to consider these items in terms of broad categories: emergency gear, first aid supplies, personal toiletry items, cooking utensils, sleeping gear, clothes, food.

You might also include photography or video equipment and entertainment items. Your needs will vary based on the length of your trip.

For example, you don´t need to worry about a tent or other sleeping gear if you’re just planning an afternoon hike. Once you have your checklist, you can start working on packing your backpack.

Below are a few simple tips you can follow to make sure your backpack is comfortable and that you can easily reach the items you need when you need them. This list surely does not cover everything. If you have any additional tips on how to pack a backpack, please share them in the comments.  Also, check out Lonely Planets “How to pack for any trip” for a much deeper discussion.

How to pack a backpack – 7 tips from happy campers

1. Keep heavy items close to your back

This will help stabilize your backpack so that it doesn´t move around as much. For best results, you’ll also want to center heavy items along your spine. Here are some examples of items based on their weight:

lighter: clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, towel
medium: stove, cooking utensils
heavier: food, tent

2. Should you pack heavy items high or low?

Whether you put heavy items relatively lower or higher in your pack will depend on the type of terrain you plan to hike. For trail hiking (even-terrain), you can pack heavy items near the top of the backpack distributing the majority of weight over your hips.

If you plan on hiking rough, uneven terrain pack heavy items toward the bottom portion of the backpack’s main compartment. This will help balance the weight of your load and keep your center of gravity low making it easier to maneuver uneven ground.

Note: Most packs have a lower compartment for your sleeping bag, one of your lightest items and regardless of terrain it serves as a good base to your main compartment. If it all possible, stick your smaller tents in here under the sleeping bag and strap your poles to the outside of your pack.

3. Pack anything you will use often in place that’s easily accessible

Think about what you will use often, like water, sunscreen, bug spray, map, compass, snack food, first aid kit, etc. Make sure you pack these things where you can easily reach them. If you plan to use stuff sacks or containers color code them by category. For example, all food is in green containers, toiletries in blue, etc. I’ve also seen people pack everything divided into clear plastic bags. Whatever your method its important to keep things organized so you don’t have to rummage through your pack scattering everything everywhere and anywhere. Also, consider what you’ll need during the day and what you’ll use at night. Keep items you’ll need during the day near the top of the pack for easy access. Sleeping gear can be packed at the bottom of the backpack.

Whatever your method its important to keep things organized so you don’t have to rummage through your pack scattering everything everywhere and anywhere. Also, consider what you’ll need during the day and what you’ll use at night. Keep items you’ll need during the day near the top of the pack for easy access. Sleeping gear can be packed at the bottom of the backpack.

Whatever your method its important to keep things organized so you don’t have to rummage through your pack scattering everything everywhere and anywhere. Also, consider what you’ll need during the day and what you’ll use at night. Keep items you’ll need during the day near the top of the pack for easy access. Sleeping gear can be packed at the bottom of the backpack.

4. If you bring rain gear attach it to the outside of your pack

You can attach any rain gear you bring along to the outside of your pack since you don´t have to worry about it getting wet. This will open up some room inside the backpack and keep rain gear easily accessible. Also, always have a pack cover, most backpacks are made from waterproof material but are still vulnerable around zippers and seams. The heaviest backpack is one with a bunch of wet items in it. Never ever leave home without stuffing your sleeping bag into a fail safe waterproof stuff sack or you will regret it!

5. Don’t waste space

Make sure you don’t have empty pockets of space. For example, stuff your pots with clothing or similar items. Important: A 75% full backpack is not wasted space as long as you have utilized that 75% to its fullest capacity. I often leave home without a completely full pack realizing I will likely pick up gifts and other things along the way especially if in another country.

Many times I just prefer to buy things local, it’s usually cheaper and you are likely helping an economy that needs it. If you’re just going to be in the outback far from civilization then forget the above mentioned and pack what you need but be sensible. PACK LIGHT is the best advice anyone can give you. If you ask any backpacker after a trip what they would have done different 9 of 10 will say they would have packed lighter.

Really, you only need 2-3 outfits and never ever bring COTTON. Always pack Polyester/Nylon articles of clothing and don’t hesitate to use a stuff/compression sack. I find rolling works best instead of folding, so roll roll roll them stylish polyester hiking pants.

How to Pack for any Trip

How to Pack for any Trip

6. Duct tape anything you can including water bottles

I usually attach some duct tape to my water bottles. You can include fuel canisters, food containers, etc. Just wrap it around a few times and 9 times out of 10 you will find a use for it at some point along your trip. Trust me you will.

7. Find items that double or triple their use

When thinking about how to pack your backpack you want to consider items that double or triple their use. Examples: A Bandanna can be used as a hat, a washcloth, and a napkin. Nivea Active 3 is also great because it combines shampoo, body wash & shaving lotion into one which means more space and less weight. Seriously, you can really come up with some great ideas if you sit down and think about it.

So there are seven tips on How to Pack a Backpack brought to you by the Happy Camper. Once you’ve packed your backpack, you’ll want to adjust it before heading out. Start by adjusting the shoulder and hip straps since they help support most of the weight. You want these straps to fit snugly without being too tight. It’s also important to adjust the load lifters and sternum strap to help distribute the weight of the backpack and make it as comfortable as possible. Most Important, remember to have fun.

Do you have some more tips on how to pack a backpack? Share them below.


Want more packing tips?  Check out Jenny’s Post “DOWN TO A DAYPACK: TIPS FOR PACKING LIGHT


Published in Packing Tips

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I enjoy photography, hiking, traveling, camping, kayaking and a good cup of coffee in the morning. I look forward to meeting some like minded friends. I'm also the owner of Round World Travels. Feel free to drop me a line about anything you wish.

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