How to Pack a Backpack for a Hike

Have you ever wondered how you can pack your hiking backpack like a pro? Everyone can stuff their gear into a bag but learning how to pack comes with some big rewards. 

One advantage of a well-packed backpack is that you will be much organized on the trails. Since you have made an effort to put each item in its place, it becomes easy for you to find what you need and when you need it. The other advantage is that it becomes comfortable to carry since the load is well distributed. 

If you are not sure if you are packing your backpack correctly, don’t worry. Here, we dedicate ourselves towards ensuring that we provide you with the resources you require to enjoy yourself while on the hike.

In this particular article, we will cover some important tips for getting your backpack ready for the hike.

Understanding the different pockets on your backpack

Person hiking with a close up image of their backpack

Backpacks differ slightly by design and company, but most modern packs have a few standard features that increase gear organization. From effectively distributing the weight to ensuring the accessibility of essential items, specialty pockets can be a huge help in making the most out of your backpack. 

The Brain

The brain is the uppermost zippered pocket that straddles the top of most backpacks. This is your grab-and-go center once you are on the trail. This pocket is ideal for stowing compact, often used items like navigation tools, snacks, and headlamps. If you use it correctly, you will save time and also avoid stalling every time you need to get hold of the trail mix.  

The Front Pouch

There is nothing worse than stuffing your wet rain jacket with your dry clothes. Also, it can be a difficult matter to reach around for your jacket when there is a downpour. You can solve both problems by making use of your backpack’s front pouch. 

This pocket is also referred to as the kangaroo pouch and is stretchy offering you quick access to whatever you store in it. Some backpacks may replace this pouch with a zippered pocket, but whichever way it comes, you should take it as your chosen jacket pocket. You should avoid using this pocket for heavy items as they may influence your center of gravity. 

The Hip Belt Pocket

This is another excellent pocket for high-use items like lip balm and trail snacks. The good thing about this pocket is that you will not need to put down the pack to access this pocket.

Water Bottle Pockets

This is probably the most obvious compartment on your backpack. These pockets are found towards the base of each side of the bag. You can store water here for a quick drink. 

Why are there so many straps on your backpack?

You may be wondering why your backpack comes with many straps. These are quite useful in that they assist in compressing the gear inwards, retaining a taut center of gravity and boosting your hiking ability. Make sure that you buckle and tighten up all of them before heading out on the trail.

Most packs also come with semi-secret zippers that make it much easier to navigate your loaded backpack. These include bottom and side zippers for retrieving hidden gear. 

Some bags also come with a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom, complete with a trap door to safeguard your bag from dirty clothes, wet gear, and food. If you are running short of space, you can unzip this flap.

How to pack your backpack

Arranging gear in a backpack is more of an art. With that said, there are few guidelines to be followed to get you there. 

Always you should remember the two C’s—Comfort and Convenience. You must pack your stuff comfortably to prevent it from interfering with your center of gravity. It should be conveniently packed to get you the gear that you need without emptying everything. 

How to pack for comfort

By packing comfortably, you will be ensuring that you maintain your center of gravity. You pack the heaviest, dense gear as close to the back as possible. Water, food, and cooking gear should be near or between your shoulder blades, where they will not swing around and knock you off your stride. You can then use items such as clothing to keep them in place. 

How to pack for convenience

Be sure to avoid the feared junk show by layering your gear with the frequency of use in mind. Start by packing the sleeping bag at the bottom where it will not get in the way since you will not need it until you make camp. However, you might need to wear your puffy jacket in a frosty afternoon break. High-use items like these should be kept at or near the top of your bag. 

Use compression sacks

Smart packing is not always enough to maintain your gear where it is supposed to be. Sometimes, you require a little extra organizational help. In such a situation, the compression sacks are a great add-on. They remove excess air from your load, thus creating more space for packing, they help arrange your gear by type, and most of them are waterproof. 

However, compression sacks have some drawbacks. When you force your gear into oblong shapes, you will be creating some dead spaces in your pack. You might want to use some clothing to pad out the empty space and prevent your stuff from shifting around. 

Packing for the rain

Don’t end up wet and shivery because a storm caught up with you. When packing, have extreme weather in mind. You have a few options here:

  • Compression Sacks: Compression sacks labeled water-resistant will protect your sensitive gear if the rain starts falling.
  • Backpack Rain Cover: Put on a rain cover for your backpack for defense against rogue raindrops. The rain covers prevent water from dampening the outside of your backpack, thus shielding the gear within.
  • Trash Bags: Heavy plastic bags are cheap and simple option to avoid water problems. Load your clothes and other gear that is susceptible to water damage into a trash compactor bag before you can pack, then push out as much air as you can and tie the bag off with a loose knot. 

How to avoid over packing

You should not overpack else your backpack, and all the things inside it become an extension of you when you get on the trail. Here is how you can avoid overpacking:

  1. Lay out everything you want to bring on your hike, from clothes, food, sleeping bags and shelter to the reading materials and the extra sweater.
  2. Move the essential items to another pile. “Essential” here means Essential: do not include the luxury items here.
  3. Now you can eliminate at least half of the gear left in the luxury pile. We can agree that you do not need all that stuff anyway.

If there is still extra space left in the pack after this, you can treat yourself to a few luxury items. But if your pack is still overloaded after paring your gear, keep removing the luxuries until everything fits. Eventually, you will get there. 

So there you go, guys! Packing can be easy if you know a few basics here and there. Follow these backpack packing ideas and your next hike will be seamless. Nice hiking!

Max Peters

Hi! I'm Max and I am passionate about off-grid solar technology and adventure! I'm using my knowledge of solar generators, solar panels, and everything in between to provide you with the best tools to keep you powered while off the grid. Read more about me here: About Max Peters."

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