How to Pack a Backpack for Hiking

You don’t want to just shove all of your outdoor gear into your hiking backpack and hit the trail. Being purposeful with how you pack a backpack for hiking makes it easier to carry your gear, lowers the risk of injury, and makes it more convenient to access all of your gear. Here’s how to pack a backpack for a hiking trip.

Lay everything out

One of the easiest ways to forget something is to start packing things at random. What happens is that you assume that you’ve already packed something, and then you realize you left it at home when you stop to set up camp.

Check to make sure that you have everything that you need before you even start to pack a backpack for a backpacking trip. Lay all of your belongings out on the floor and check items off your packing list as you pack.

What should you pack for a backpacking trip?

How to pack a backpack

You want to consider weight and access whenever you start packing. Basically, the heaviest, least used items will go on the bottom and the lighter, more frequently used items go on the top. The idea is to create a low center of gravity near your hips.

  • Place heavy gear close to the back panel, and towards the middle or bottom of the pack.
  • Lighter gear will be placed further from your back, and higher up in the pack.

Your sleeping bag is almost always going to be placed at the bottom of your pack. Many hiking backpacks actually have a designated sleeping bag compartment.

Cooking gear, food, and water should be placed low in the pack and near the back because they are your heaviest items.

Lighter items – such as clothing and parts of your tent – can be placed on top and away from the back panel.

Pack items based on convenience

Weight isn’t the only thing to consider when you pack a backpack. Think about accessing gear throughout your hike. A good way of doing this is packing your hiking pack from top to bottom in order of how often you will need certain items.

For example, you only need your sleeping bag when setting up camp at the end of the day, which is why it should be at the bottom of your pack. Items that you need to access frequently throughout the day – such as lip balm, maps, snacks, bandana, pocket knife, headlamp, etc. – should be in the pack brain, or head compartment – and external pockets.

Additional packing tips

Cinch down compression straps. This helps reduce the amount that your load shifts while you’re hiking.

Practice packing. This improves packing efficiency, and it helps you get familiar with where you place your gear.

How much should a hiking pack weigh? Generally speaking a pack should weigh no more than 20% of your body weight. This helps reduce the risk of injury and keeps you from wasting energy. Of course, pack weight also depends on the volume of your pack. Overloading packs can cause injury, or cause the pack to fail.

Always try on your pack. Getting fitted for a pack is absolutely crucial. Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters and let us help you find the hiking pack that’s right for you!

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