23 Tips For How To Pack A Backpack The Right Way


Don't Learn How to Pack a Backpack the Hard Way!

Knowing how to pack a backpack the right way is a skill that many survivalists, campers and hikers find out the hard way. That’s often after suffering through a variety of aches and pains developed during the hike or camping adventure itself.

One of the first things to consider is how long you’ll be out on the trail and how much weight you’ll be carrying. Instead of trying to stuff everything you can think of in your pack, your best bet is to make your backpack as light as possible while packing the essentials you’ll need.

Packing a backpack is pretty simple, but there are some tips to make the process easier and to get you better results.

Ideally, a well-loaded pack will feel balanced when resting on your hips and nothing should be shifting or swaying inside. As you walk, the pack should feel stable and predictable, one with your upper body.

If possible, first pack your backpack at home. You can spread out your gear on a clean floor, visually confirm you've got everything, and feel less rushed as you load up.

Use a checklist to ensure you've got everything you need.

Backpack Access

Most backpacks feature a top-loading opening to reach the main compartment. Some packs also offer a zippered front panel that folds open, exposing the full interior of the pack, or a side zipper, which also makes it easier to reach items deeper in your pack.

Your pack might also feature a sleeping bag compartment, a zippered stash spot near the bottom of the bag. It’s a useful feature if you don’t want to use a stuff sack for your sleeping bag. Alternately, this space can hold other gear that you’d like to reach easily.

Packing the Bottom of Your Backpack

1. The bottom of the pack is where you should stash items you won't need until you make camp at night. Most backpackers shove their sleeping bag into the bottom of the pack. This is also where you might keep long underwear being used as sleepwear, a pillowcase and a sleeping pad (if it rolls up into a tiny shape).

2. Any other needed-only-at-night items can go down low except a headlamp or flashlight. Always have your light source in a readily accessible space.

3. In bear country? Try to keep your sleeping bag separated from anything that can transmit a fragrance. Bears can't distinguish between food and non-food aromas, so toothpaste or sunscreen can attract their interest as well as tea bags or jerky.

Packing the Core of Your Backpack

4. Heavier items should be centered in your pack—not too high, not too low. The goal is to create a predictable, comfortable center of gravity. Heavy items too low cause a pack to feel saggy. Too high and the load might feel tippy.

5. Your heaviest items should be placed on top of your sleeping bag and close to your spine. Usually these items will be your food stash, water supply and cook kit and stove. If carrying liquid fuel, make sure your fuel bottle cap is on tightly. Pack the bottle upright and place it below your food in case of a spill.

6. Wrap softer, lower-weight items around the weightier items to prevent heavier pieces from shifting. Your tent body, rainfly, insulation layer and a rain jacket can help stabilize the core and fill empty spaces.

7. Hydration reservoir: Most newer packs include a hydration reservoir sleeve. This is a slot that holds a reservoir close to your back and parallel to your spine. It's easier to insert the reservoir while the pack is still mostly empty, so that leaves you 2 choices:

8. If you prefer efficiency, insert the reservoir at home. You'll have a loaded pack ready to go as soon as you reach the trailhead. If you want the coldest water possible, carry the reservoir in a cooler and load it and your other middle- and upper-pack contents at the trailhead.

9. Bear canisters: Put your canister in the pack's main compartment, closest to your back. Always fill a bear canister to its maximum capacity. Any room not occupied by food should be used for other scented items. If short on space, lash the canister under your top lid.

Packing the Top and Periphery of your Backpack

10. Top lid: Many packs offer a zippered top lid. You can stash frequently used items and keep them within easy reach. This might include your map, compass, GPS, sunscreen, sunglasses, headlamp, bug spray, first-aid kit, snacks, rain gear, packcover, toilet paper and sanitation trowel. You can also place these in external pockets, if you have them. Some packs even offer small pockets on the hipbelt.

11. Sleeping pad: You may need an extra set of straps to attach it to a lash point on the top of the pack or near your waistline on the outside of the pack. Another option: put it beneath your top pocket (lid) and the top opening of the pack, then tighten the lid to the pack. The pad may be vulnerable to slipping out either side, so secure the pad to the pack with an extra strap or two. (Note: It's fine to carry tent poles and a sleeping pad inside a pack if you have the space.)

12. Tent poles: If your pack offers elasticized side pockets, place the poles down one side of the pack, behind one or more compression straps, with one end of the poles in the pocket.

13. Trekking poles: Same deal; just put the grips in the pocket and the tips pointing upward.

14. Ice axe: External tool loops make it possible to carry an inverted axe on your back until it's needed.

15. Crampons: Carry them inside your pack in a protective case. Or, lash them to the outside of the pack as long as you use protective point covers.

16. Other tools: Some packs offer a series of external stitched loops called a daisy chain. Use it to clip or tie small items on your pack.

17. Note: Minimize the amount of gear you attach to your pack's exterior. External items can potentially get snagged on brush in areas of dense vegetation. Too much external gear could also jeopardize your stability.

how-to-pack-a-backpackOther Tips for Packing a Backpack

18. Fill up all empty spaces. For example, put utensils, a cup or a small item of clothing inside your cooking pots. Fill up your bear canister.

19. Stuff sacks: Some may prefer the low-chaos/easy-organization of stuff sacks, while others simply prefer to pack soft items loosely in the pack to use up all available room. Experiment with your own gear and decide which method most appeals to you.

20. Share the weight of large communal items (e.g., tent) with others in your group. You carry the main body, for example, and your friend can carry the poles and rainfly.

21. Compression straps: Tighten all compression straps to limit load-shifting.

22. Rain cover: Carry a pack rain cover and keep it easily accessible. Though some backpacks are made with waterproof fabric, they have seams and zippers that are vulnerable to seepage during a downpour. A pack cover is worth its weight when rain becomes persistent.

23. Repair items: Wrap strips of duct tape around your water bottles or trekking poles just in case; if a strap pops or some other disaster occurs, a quick duct tape fix could keep you going. Take along a few safety pins in case a zipper fails.

Via: REI

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