Backpacking can be an amazing adventure, but if you don’t know how to pack your backpack properly, it can quickly turn into a battle of weight and balance!
Knowing what to bring and how to pack a backpacking pack will help maximize comfort and enjoyment when out on the trail.
Why do you need to learn the right way to pack a backpack?
Organizing your pack correctly will ensure the weight distribution is even, so you don’t put too much pressure on your shoulders and back.
It also helps to keep items secure and easily reached should you need them while on the move. And when it comes to multi-day hikes, having a well-packed backpack can make a huge difference in how enjoyable the trip is.
Here are some quick tips for packing your backpack:
1. Start by grouping items together into “zones” of similar uses, such as cooking supplies, sleeping gear, and clothing.
2. Place the heavy gear close to your back and keep the weight balanced on both sides.
3. Use external attachment points for gear like trekking poles, sleeping pads, and wet items, so you can access them easily without opening the main compartment.
4. Pack items that will be needed frequently at the top or in easy-access pockets.
5. Consider using a dry bag for extra gear protection in case of rain.
6. If you’re planning on camping overnight, make sure to bring a lightweight shelter and sleeping bag so that you can stay warm and dry.
Table of Contents
How to avoid overpacking
Layout everything before packing it. As you do so, ask yourself if the items you’re bringing are truly essential or can be left behind.
If possible, try to use multi-purpose items that can serve multiple functions. For example, a multitool pocket knife or a bandana can replace several single-use items. In the end, only pack what you need and make sure that it all fits comfortably in your backpack.
That way, you can enjoy an awesome adventure without carrying more weight than necessary!
Keep essential items first
When packing for a backpacking trip, it’s important to prioritize the items that you will need first. This includes anything from shelter and food to rain gear and sunscreen.
Having these essentials accessible at the top of your pack or in easy-access pockets will ensure that you can get to them quickly, without having to dig through your entire pack for them.
It can also help to lighten the load in your main compartment, making it easier to carry throughout your trip. So be sure to place all essential items first when packing your backpacking pack!
Here are some essential backpacking items:
- Sleeping bag
- cooking gear & utensils
- rain cover
- gear repair
- Foods (Check out my 17 Crazy Easy Backpacking lunch ideas)
Eliminate luxury items
When you’re out in the wilderness, it pays to pack light and eliminate any unnecessary items. This means that luxury items like books, extra clothing, or even a pillow should be left behind – as they can easily add up and make your load much heavier than necessary.
Instead of bringing along luxury items, focus on packing items that are essential for your safety and comfort. This includes items like a first aid kit, food supplies, shelter, and clothing appropriate for the elements.
By packing only essential items in your backpacking pack, you can ensure that you enjoy a safe and comfortable journey while still keeping the load light!
Examples of luxury items:
- camping chair
Packing order (From bottom to top)
When you’re packing your backpack, it pays to start from the bottom and work your way up. This will help you keep the weight evenly distributed throughout the pack while also making sure that items that you need frequently are easily accessible.
Here is a general packing order for backpacking trips, from bottom to top:
Bottom (heavy items for camping)
- sleeping bag
- air pad
- extra layers
- hiking boots or booties
Middle (heavier items)
- camping stove
- Liquid fuel
- cook set
- extra gears like harnesses, ropes, etc.
- water reservoir
Top (essentials when on the trail)
- Soft items
- Rain jacket/wet gear
- water filter
Accessory pockets (essentials and urgent items)
Accessory pockets are pockets located on the sides or front of a backpack that can be used to store small items such as maps, trail snacks, and sunblock. They offer quick access to these items without having to open the main compartment of the pack.
Many backpacking packs have multiple accessory pockets for added convenience. Accessory pockets are great for keeping items organized and easily accessible while on the trail.
Thanks to these pockets, you can quickly grab things like snacks and lip balm without having to stop and unpack your entire pack! They are also great for storing important items such as maps, compasses, and a headlamp so that they’re always within easy reach.
So make sure to take advantage of the accessory pockets on your pack when organizing for your next backpacking trip!
- first aid kit
- hygiene kit (toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.)
- water bottles
- bear spray
- rain cover
Tool loops (oversized or long items)
Tool loops are loops located on the outside of a backpacking pack that can be used to store items such as trekking poles, ice axes, and tent poles. They offer quick access to these items without having to open the main compartment of the pack.
This makes them great for keeping long or bulky items easily accessible while still keeping your pack lightweight.
Tool loops are also great for keeping items such as carabiners, slings, and prusik cords organized and secure during your trip. With a few of these loops on your pack, you can keep your essential gear within easy reach without having to search through the depths of your bag.
- camp shoes
- trekking poles
- ice axe
- tent poles
When packing your backpacking pack, it’s important to ensure that the weight is distributed evenly throughout the bag. This can help keep you comfortable and balanced while on the trail, as well as prevent injury from having too much weight in one area of the body.
To do this, start by filling up all pockets of your backpack. This will ensure that the weight is evenly distributed throughout the bag.
Next, pack larger and heavier items low in your pack, as close to your back as possible. This will help keep the center of gravity closer to your body and make it easier for you to remain balanced while trekking.
Finally, add lighter items and items you will need throughout the day to the top of your pack, as this will make them easily accessible.
Why & Where to store the bear canister?
The Bear canister is essential for keeping your food safe while in bear country. These cans are designed to be virtually indestructible and will keep any curious wildlife from getting access to your food.
When packing your backpack, make sure to store the bear can at the bottom of your pack, as close to your back as possible. This ensures that the weight is evenly distributed throughout your pack and makes it easier for you to carry.
Additionally, if you need to quickly access your bear can in case of an emergency, it will be easy to find and grab. Finally, make sure that all food items are stored inside the bear can and sealed shut before putting them in your backpack.
This will help ensure that no food scents or crumbs escape and attract animals to your camp.
When backpacking, it is important to make sure that your gear is waterproofed. Gearing up with the right equipment and items can help protect you from the elements and keep your belongings dry in wet weather.
Before heading out on a backpacking trip, you should consider investing in a good-quality rain cover or waterproof stuff sacks for all of your belongings. These covers will help protect your items from rain and snow, keeping them dry and secure.
Additionally, you can use a waterproof spray or coating to protect fabrics such as tents, backpacks, and other items from moisture.
Finally, make sure that all of your electronics are stored in waterproof cases or bags before heading into wet weather. This will help keep them dry and safe from the elements.
Consider using compression straps for backpacking
Compression straps are a great way to keep your backpack light and organized while backpacking. These straps can be used to secure bulky items or compress the contents of your pack, making them less likely to shift during your trek.
By using compression straps, you can reduce the total volume of your pack and make it easier to carry long distances.
Additionally, these straps can be used to secure items such as trekking poles, ice axes, and tent poles. This will help keep them from clanging against your pack or potentially causing injury while on the trail.
Finally, compression straps also allow you to attach extra items outside of your bag for easy reach. This is great for storing items such as a sleeping pad or shoes that you want to keep within reach.
The bottom line
Backpacking requires proper preparation and packing in order to ensure that you have a successful and safe trek.
From waterproofing your gear to packing a bear can and using compression straps, there are many considerations to make before heading out on the trail.
By understanding the basics of backpacking safety and utilizing these strategies, you can ensure that you are ready for whatever the trail brings! And don’t stop here, here is another article about how to start a campfire.
Do you have any backpacking tips or backpacking stories? Share with everyone in the comments below 😁