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How To Pack A Backpack – Tips For Hiking

A Visual Checklist - How To Pack A Backpack - Tips For Hiking And Backpacking

Need advice on how to pack a backpack? Before packing your backpack use a hiking checklist to make sure you have everything you need and put everything out in heavy and light groups so you can see what you have to load. This way you are less likely to forget something or avoid having to repack when you suddenly remember you need to pack something else.

When packing a backpack you should aim to create a stable load by keeping as much load as possible close to the middle of your spine. You should also minimise any load shifting by tightening any compression straps provided on the backpack.

You can pack items in main compartments, inside outer pockets or attach to the exterior of the backpack using attachments like daisy chains, loops, straps and special pockets.

However, it is a good idea to minimise items attached to the outside of the backpack as these have the potential to become snagged on a journey.

With communal items like a tent or food, distribute the load between members of the group. You can use stuff sacks to organise your gear if you want but that may lead to empty gaps between sacks.

However, if you have the room then by all means use them if you want to. Also, keep electronic and wet items in separate Ziploc or waterproof containers.

Tips On Packing A Backpack

Here are some general backpack packing tips that will apply to many circumstances:

How To Pack A Backpack - I Need a Bigger Backpack

Pack a backpack, I Need a Bigger Backpack—AlphaTangoBravo Adam Baker (Flickr.com)

Packing Routine

Locate each of your items in a specific place and return them to the same place every time.

Often Used Items

Store items that are used often in the top pocket, outer pockets, or hip belt (e.g. map, compass, GPS, sunglasses, etc) or inside the top of the backpack.

Emergency Items

Always put emergency items such as torch and first aid kit in a place where it is readily accessible.

Backpack Bottom

The first items in the backpack go to the bottom and should be those that you will not need until the evening such as sleeping bag and evening clothing.

Heavy Items

Place your heaviest gear such as food and water supply near to your spine in the middle of your backpack to help stabilize the backpack.

Light Items

Pack lighter items around the heavier items to prevent them shifting around.

Pack a backpack, Winter pack

Pack a backpack, Winter pack—simonov (Flickr.com)

Empty Spaces

Try to fill empty spaces like the inside of a cup with other items such as small clothing items.

Stove Gas

Store stove gas upright on outside of the backpack if possible in case of leakage or below food.

Wet Gear

Store items that may get wet on the outside of the backpack, such as rain jacket and backpack cover.

Tent Poles

Use any special side pockets or attachments if provided on the backpack side or pack inside the main compartment if you have room.

Sleeping Pad

Strap to lash points on the outside of the backpack on the top or near the waist. Alternatively pack beneath the lid of the top pocket or pack inside main compartment if you have room.

Hiking Poles

As with tent poles, use any special side pockets or attachments if provided on the backpack side with the tip pointing up. Alternatively, pack down inside of the main compartment if you have room with the tip pointing up and the basket/grip removed.
Ice Axe Attach upside down to external tool loops until needed.

Crampons

Pack in a protective case inside backpack until needed or attach to the exterior of the backpack.

Summary On How To Pack A Backpack

How to pack a backpack, Preparing To Pack

How to pack a backpack, Packing—Dvortygirl (Flickr.com)

How you pack your backpack will depend to a large extent on the type of journey you will be doing and the amount of gear or equipment you will be taking with you.

There is no right or wrong way on how to pack a backpack properly.

If you are happy with how the backpack feels and can access the items you want when you want them then you are good to go.

However, if you generally stick to the above tips you should have a comfortable, stable backpack and a stress free time when it comes to accessing the gear you want when you want it.

If you are looking to get a new backpack and want more information on brands of backpacks then take a look at our post on the best hiking backpack brands here.

More On How To Pack A Backpack

1. Here is a little snippet from REI about how to pack a backpack for hiking:

If possible, it’s best to first load 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.

2. More on how to pack a backpack from “How Stuff Works.

3. Here is a great video by Jimmy Chan of The North Face on how to pack a backpack:

North Face – How to Pack a Backpack

A great video from The North Face® by Jimmy Chin on How to Pack a Backpack.

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