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How To Pack Your Bags And Be Ready To Go For A Hike

Don’t let a poorly packed backpack ruin your next back-country adventure. Learn how to pack it so that it works well, is easy, and is comfortable. It is not only important the size or what to pack in a hiking backpack, but it is also essential to know how to organize your things in it, and that’s what we are going to explain you here.

Since the 1970s, when hikers swore by (and at) bulky external frames and side pockets were hard to come by, backpacks have changed a lot. There are a lot of high-tech packs out there now that let you carry more stuff for longer and farther than ever before. But you still need to know the right way to pack a backpack.

There’s nothing wrong with putting your things in a bag and calling it a day if you’re going on a beach trip or to a family reunion. But it’s different when you hit the trail: You’ll be carrying your pack for hours, days, or even weeks at a time, so it’s very important to stay balanced and comfortable. Putting your things in your backpack carefully can even keep you safe: On tricky scrambles or exposed trails, a well-packed backpack will help you keep your balance and avoid nasty falls.

Here, we’ll talk about some of the best ways on how to pack a backpack for hiking.

Why does my backpack have so many pockets?

Even though backpacks can be made by different companies or look different, most modern packs have a few things in common that make it easier to keep track of your stuff. Specialty pockets can help you get the most out of your backpack by making it easier to carry heavy things and keeping important things close at hand.

The Brain of the Backpack

The zippered pocket at the top of most packs, called the “brain,” is your “grab and go” hub when you’re out on the trail. It’s perfect for storing small, often-used things like snacks, navigation tools, and headlamps. If you use it right, you’ll not only save time on your pit stops, but you’ll also avoid having to go to a yard sale every time you need trail mix.

The pocket in front

What’s worse than putting your wet rain jacket in with your dry clothes? Trying to find it when it starts to rain. Use the front pouch of your backpack to solve both of these annoying problems on the trail.

This stretchy front pouch, also called a “kangaroo pouch,” lets you get to anything you put in it right away. Some packs may have a zippered pocket instead, but you should still think of it as your jacket pocket. Don’t put heavy things in the front pouch because they might change your center of gravity.

The pocket on the hip belt

The pocket on the hip belt is another great place to keep things like trail snacks and lip balm that you use a lot. Plus, you don’t have to take off your pack to get to it.

Water Bottle Pockets

The water bottle pockets on the bottom of each side of your backpack are probably the ones that stand out the most. Put your water here so you can get a drink quickly.

water bottle pockets

Why do I have so many straps on my bag?

The straps on your backpack help squeeze your gear closer together, which keeps your center of gravity close and makes it easier to hike. Before you head out on the trail, make sure they are all buckled and tightened.

Many backpacks also have hidden zippers that make it much easier to move around with a full pack. These include side zippers and bottom zippers that let you get to things that are buried.

Some packs have a sleeping bag compartment in the bottom. This compartment has a trap door to keep dirty clothes, food, and wet gear away from your sleeping bag. If you need more room, take that flap off.

How to Not Pack Too Much

People who always bring too much should know that once you’re on the trail, your backpack and all the things in it become an extension of you. Even if you’re not an ultralighter or are overweight, remember that less is more.

  • Set out everything you want to take on your hike, from the sleeping bag, clothes, food, and shelter you need to the books and extra sweater you probably don’t.
  • Move the important things to another pile. “Essential” means “very important”; don’t try to trick people by putting luxury items in that pile.
  • Now, get rid of (at least) half of the gear left in the “luxury” pile. Even so, we all know that you don’t really need that stuff.
  • Here’s what I brought on my first press trip, which had both daytime and nighttime activities in the city and outside.
  • Do you have to bring those three paperbacks? (Answer: no.)
  • If you still have a lot of space in your pack after packing, you might want to buy yourself a few extra treats. But if you cut down your gear and your pack is still too heavy, keep getting rid of extras until everything fits. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get there.

How do I pack my backpack?

It’s more of an art than a science to figure out how to pack your gear. Having said that, if you follow a few rules, you’ll be 90% of the way there.

Comfort and ease of use are the two Cs to remember. Your gear needs to fit comfortably in your pack so that it doesn’t throw off your center of gravity. It should be packed in a way that makes it easy to find what you need without having to take everything out. Nobody likes a trailside junk show.

How do I comfortably pack my backpack?

Keep your balance and comfort by packing your heaviest, densest stuff as close to your back as possible. Food, water, and cooking gear should go near or between your shoulder blades, where they won’t swing around and throw you off your stride. Use lighter things, like clothing, to keep them in place.

How do I pack my backpack so that it’s easy to carry?

Layer your gear with how often you use it in mind to avoid the awful “junk show.” You won’t need your sleeping bag until you set up camp, so put it at the bottom of your pack where it won’t get in the way. But if it’s cold in the afternoon, you might want to wear your puffy jacket. Keep things like that near the top of your bag or right at the top.

Should I use compression sacks to pack?

Smart packing isn’t always enough to keep your gear in the right place: sometimes you need a little extra help keeping things in order. Compression sacks are a great addition in situations like that:

They get rid of the extra air in your load. More room means more things.

They help you put your gear in order by what it is.

Many are waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about your clothes getting wet at the end of the day.

Still, compression sacks have some bad points. If you try to make your gear fit into an oblong shape, you will always leave some empty space in your pack. You could fill that empty space with a loose puffy or some clothes to keep your load from moving around.

One hard and fast rule: Never store your sleeping bag in compression sacks off the trail. Long-term compression breaks down the natural loft of your bag, which can affect how well it keeps you warm.

how to pack a backpack for hiking

How do I get my backpack ready for a rainy day?

Don’t get wet, cold, and shivering because you were caught off guard by a rainstorm that soaked your layers. Think about bad weather when you pack your backpack. You can do a few things here:

Pack Cover for Rain

As a first line of defense against stray raindrops, buy a rain cover for your pack. This cheap layer will keep water from getting into the outside of your pack, protecting everything inside. Put it in your front pouch so you can get to it quickly.

Compression Sacks

If it starts to rain really hard, your sensitive gear will be protected from the inside by compression sacks, especially those that are rated as water resistant.

Trash Bags

A cheap and easy way to deal with water problems is to use heavy plastic bags. Before you pack, put your clothes and other gear that can’t get wet into a trash compactor bag. Then, push out as much air as you can and tie a loose knot at the top. (If your backpack has a separate compartment for your sleeping bag, you can line that with a smaller trash bag instead.

When packed well, a backpack can hold an amazing amount of stuff. Set out all of your gear at home and try out different ways to pack until you find what works best for you. Use a backpacking checklist to make sure you have everything, and add notes to the list after each trip about what worked well and what didn’t.

We hope this article helps you figure out how to pack and how to pack your pack conveniently and effectively. A well-loaded pack will feel balanced on your hips and won’t move or sway as you hike. Enjoy hiking!

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