How to Pack a Pack

Boreas PacksThere’s a lot of planning and preparation that you have to do when you’re getting ready for a backpacking trip. You have to decide where you’re going and how many days you will be on the trail. You have to figure out how much food to bring, or how to coordinate food drops. You also need to have the right gear. You need a proper tent, a backpacking stove, and a sleeping bag, just to name a few essential items.

Having all the right gear is a start, but you also have to think about how you are going to carry everything. A well-packed pack can make the difference between a fun and enjoyable trip and a miserable strugglefest. Knowing how to pack a pack is important. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

“Leave unnecessary items at home” is one of the golden rules for backpacking, and it’s generally good advice. Every ounce counts when you’re on the trail for extended periods of time. However, some people are willing to bear the extra load if it means extra comfort or security. For some people extra weight means extra batteries, or a chair for camp. Just know that while your pack doesn’t feel heavy now, it will. Consider whether that extra weight is really worth the extra discomfort. It’s recommended that a backpacking pack be a maximum of 20-25% of your body weight.

Before you pack your backpack, make sure you have everything that you want to bring with you laid out and easy to see. This will help make sure you don’t forget to pack anything. It’s easy to overlook items if you start randomly grabbing gear and tossing it into your pack. Once you know what you’re going to bring, it’s time to start packing. Start by dividing items into weight categories.

Big lightweight items like your sleeping bag and down jacket should be place in the bottom compartment of your pack. You really only need to access these items at the end of the day, so at the bottom of your pack shouldn’t be inconvenient.

Medium weight items like clothing, and big jackets can be placed in the middle part of your pack, away from you back. These are the items that take up quite a bit of space, but they are still lighter than the rest of your gear.

Heavy items include things like a water reservoir, your food, backpacking stove, and your tent. These items should be placed in the middle section of your pack, close to your back. This is important. Your pack should most heavily weighted along your spine.

You want the pack weight to work with your center of gravity rather than against it. Constant fighting with a top-heavy (or bottom-heavy) pack can zap your energy and lead to sore muscles or injury. Also, avoid over-packing one side of your backpack. Weight should be distributed evenly to avoid unnecessary strain.

The very top of your pack should be reserved for smaller, frequently used items that need to be accessed easily. This can include things like your knife, headlamp, sunglasses, first aid kit, etc.

It’s also good to organize as much as possible. Have designated spaces for all of your gear. and make use of the pockets and compartments that come with your pack. For maximum organization, you can but packing systems that can group together larger items like your clothing and cooking equipment.

Make the most of all the space that you have. Avoid dead space. That cooking pot is like a little cubby in your pack. Instead of filling it with air, you can fill it with utensils, matches, fuel canisters, or whatever else will fit in there.

Don’t forget the dry bags. Moisture can give your stove fits and render your sleeping bag useless. Keep your gear protected and in working condition with a dry bag barrier!


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