Your long-awaited camping trip is finally here! You have chosen a destination of your liking, bought all the items you need, and now it’s time to put them in a backpack.
Packing a backpack, however, is distinctly different from packing a suitcase. Remember this is something you will be carrying on your back, not dragging behind you, hence you need to make sure its weight is evenly distributed on both shoulders.
A well-packed backpack makes carrying a load seem effortless and helps you to stay more organized. Since you have taken enough time to put each item where it is supposed to be, finding your stuff will be much easier on the trail.
Backpacks are designed to hold things just how you want them held. It’s just a matter of knowing what goes where and adjusting it for a perfect fit.
Here is a guide on how to pack a backpack to make your gear organization more effective. Whether you are going mountain climbing or hiking in the woods, the information shared here will help you get your packing right.
Before You Start
1. Think About Your Trip
Before anything else, think about what you will be doing on this trip. Hunting? Water sporting? Or collecting shells from a beach?
Weather is also another factor to consider while deciding on what to carry on your backpacking camping trip. Is it snowing? Scorching hot? Or somewhere in between?
Whether you are preparing for a winter camping trip or a hiking getaway in summer, how you organize your equipment will highly determine how fun or disastrous the entire trip will be.
2. Get The Right Backpack
The type of backpack you choose for your trip will also play a huge role in determining how good your packing will be. Some backpacks come with wheels such that you can just drag them behind you instead of carrying them on your back all the time. Others can adjust to duffel bags to make it easier for you to reach the packed items.
Depending on the things on your checklist, either of these options could be something to consider when buying a backpack. But whichever pack you go for, make sure it is the most comfortable and can accommodate as much gear as possible.
While trying it on, have some weight put in it to find out how comfortably it sits on your back. Check how easy it is to adjust the straps to the right position.
Speaking of straps, how well are they padded? Do they wobble when you move? Is there an additional waist strap?
The best straps for backpack camping have a pad thick enough to hold the bag in place when you move. An extra strap around the waist will also help you handle the heavy load with ease.
To familiarize yourself with the features of your new backpack and make sure everything works fine, test it at home before bringing it on the trip.
3. Gather Everything
Now you know what you want to take with you and have acquired a backpack, so the next thing will be to make a checklist and put everything in one big room. It would help to put things in piles like “must-haves” i.e. first aid kit, passports, etc., “shelter” i.e. tents, “cookware” i.e. pots, cutlery, etc. to make picking and packing easier.
Look at everything you have collected. Do you feel like there are things you won’t be using on the trail? Your sexy nightgown maybe? Hairdryer? Remove these from the piles and everything else you slipped in with the hope that the load wouldn’t get too huge.
Make sure what is left in the room is what you can stash in your backpack comfortably. You don’t want to burst the seams. Plus leaving a little room won’t hurt. Furthermore, you will still need enough space to put the treasure you will be collecting along the way, won’t you?
Packing Your Backpack: The Sequence
How to pack a backpack can be a little tricky especially when you haven’t done it before. If you stuff everything in hoping that the bag will actually pack itself with a little shaking, you will be sorely disappointed. Here is how you pack your backpack the right way.
1. Start From The Bottom
And as you know, the first item to go in will be the last one to come out so think carefully about what you stash down there to make sure it’s something you won’t be using the most. You really don’t want to be digging your first aid kit under your trekking boots or sleeping pads. So reserve the bottom zone for items you hardly need on the trail.
If you brought a backpacking tent like a hammock, put it down there too. However, if you feel like it will take too much space, just strap it on the outer side of the pack.
Other than helping you to stay organized, putting your camping gear at the bottom will also create some sort of a cushion that acts as an internal shock absorber to protect the rest of the bag’s contents during falls and accidents.
2. Pack The Middle
Now that you have your “false floor” created, it’s time to pack the middle compartment. This is where the heavier gear goes. Think about your cooking stove, pots, pans, food, and extra water. Put these right on top of the camping equipment.
If you will be bringing some cooking oil, pack it below your food to avoid spillage in case of an accident. However, we advise that such items be tucked into the bag’s side pockets if it has some.
The idea here is to create a stable and well-balanced center of gravity to make carrying the pack and moving it around easier. The best way to do that is by keeping the bulky items away from the bottom, top, and outside of your bag.
If your camping spot is near a game pack or bear-infested area, don’t forget to bring your bear canister. Bear canisters are some of the most recommended camping and backpacking food storage gear and should be packed among the heavy items in the middle of the pack.
Once you have put the heavy items in the bag, fill up any spaces with lighter stuff like your tent tarp, clothes, and tent body. Your Y’s and socks can go into those small empty gaps and cracks too.
3. Pack The Top
Put those items you are likely to use frequently here. Do you think there is some cooking gear you may need during your outdoor adventure? Extra clothes? This is where you should pack these and anything else you need to access quickly on the trail.
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Some backpacks come with side pockets or a small zippered pouch on the waist strap. These can be great places to hide your trail food and small gear.
Keeping these items where you can easily reach them will save you plenty of time, as you won’t have to dissect your pack just to reach for a packet of g-nuts.
4. External Attachments
Modern backpacks are designed with lash-on points and loops where you can attach oddly-shaped camping gear like ropes, hiking poles, tent poles, and surfboards for water sports lovers, just to mention a few.
But if your pack still got more space, you can stash some of these items in there so that you don’t have any dangling gear slowing down your pace or affecting your overall performance during the adventure.
So far, we haven’t come across a backpack that can accommodate tent poles and trekking poles though, so the only place they can go is under the compression straps. Just make sure not to overload your pack especially if you will be undertaking intense activities.
Once everything is properly packed, adjust the straps of your pack such that the entire weight falls under your hips and not the butt. This will make your walking more comfortable.
Important Tip: Always pack in those hard to reach areas and deep corners and you will be surprised how much space you will save.
Additional Tips On Backpack Packing
1. Keep Things Together
Nothing is frustrating than getting to your camping spot and finding everything mixed up. This mostly happens on those smaller items that most backpack campers rarely take time to pack properly.
To see to it that these smaller camping essentials are where you need them, invest in zippered bags so that things will stay wrangled together. Don’t be tempted to go for plastic bags because first, they are not environmentally friendly, and second, they are wasteful.
Put snacks in one bag, hand wipes and other toiletries in another, and silverware in another. That way, you will know where every item is so it will be easy for you to reach each whenever you need it.
Storing things in a zippered bag will also minimize the number of containers and bottles you would need to bring on the trip. Besides, baggies occupy less space than containers as they can easily be squeezed to fit perfectly into place.
2. Compress Your Load
If you compress your pack properly, it will be easier to carry. Therefore, allow your staff to take up only the space it needs to.
For instance, put your food inside the cooking pots. Your hiking socks can go inside your boots.
Try both folding and rolling and see which one leaves you more space or allows you to put more clothes in the pack. Use external straps to squeeze the bag but take care not to break some of your stuff in the process.
Some people give their bags a shake to help create more space but even though this works, sometimes you may end up disarranging the items and leaving things in a mess. So unless you have done this before and worked for you, just stick to the recommended way of compressing a backpack. If you can’t seem to create more space and still got more items to stuff in your pack, maybe it’s time to get rid of some.
3. Keep Rain Off Your Backpack
Backpacking in rain is not something any camper looks forward to as there is nothing fun in getting wet and having all your gear soaked. There is nothing worse than sleeping in a wet sleeping bag or not having any dry clothes to change into after a heavy downfall.
It is therefore important to keep things dry by making your pack waterproof. Some backpacks come with a built-in rain cover but if yours is not one of these, just make sure to buy a separate cover before you leave for the trip.
4. Pack Early
Unfortunately, most people leave packing to the last minute. Some even do it a few hours before they leave, only to end up packing in a hurry and forgetting some important items.
Now, if you forget an essential item like a sunscreen or fire starter, you will end up buying one or if you are lucky, have someone send it to you. But think about it for a second – how long will it take the item to arrive? It is even worth it, being stuck in someplace waiting for something to get to you?
Look, in addition to wasting your time (and probably that of your crewmembers) any of these two scenarios will cost you money, something that could have been prevented if you had taken enough time to pack.
Extra costs aside, if you don’t pack your backpack right, your trip could turn into a nightmare. As we mentioned earlier, backpack packing follows a certain sequence. Just imagine how annoying it having a spoon piercing your back in the middle of mountain climbing because you didn’t put it where it should be, or ending up with a wet sleeping bag just because you didn’t tighten the lid of your water bottle!
So do proper planning. Obtain everything you need in good time so you don’t have to rush things at the last minute.
How To Hoist A Loaded Backpack
Now that you know how to pack a backpack and the dos and don’ts of the same, let’s look at how you should lift the already stacked pack. But even before we do, a word of caution; never hoist your backpack with a shoulder strap. This can damage and wear out your shoulder tendons and even make it difficult for you to control the bag once you have put it on your back.
To lift a loaded backpack from the ground smoothly to your back, follow the following steps:
- Make the straps loose so that the pack is easier to slip on.
- Put the pack in an upright position on level ground.
- Move close to the back panel and stand with your legs apart and both knees bent.
- Grab the webbing loop and lift the backpack to your knees sliding it toward your thighs. Let it rest for a while with your right hand holding the webbing loop.
- Slide your left arm and shoulder slowly through the strap of one shoulder until the padding cradles the shoulder completely.
- Lean toward the front and sway the backpack to your back.
- Release the webbing loop and slip that hand through the remaining shoulder strap.
- Fasten all the buckles of your pack and adjust your straps to what makes you more comfortable and…
- You are good to go!
It is important to practice hoisting your backpack before you start your trekking so it gets easier for you on the trail. Doing this will also help you figure out if the load is too heavy for you to handle and make the right adjustments.
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A properly packed backpack provides numerous benefits to backpackers. For starters, it saves up space, ensures that no item is forgotten, and makes the trail more comfortable.
Organizing items in your backpack is pretty easy when you have the knowledge to do so. Referring to our guide on how to pack a backpack will equip you with all the information you need to stuff things in your pack and hoist it the right way.
Just make sure you have a checklist handy, get a bag big enough to fit all your gear, and pack only the items you will need on your adventure.
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