How to Pack a Backpack Efficiently & Effectively

If you are a keen hiker, explorer, or adventurer, you will most certainly need to take a backpack with you on your journey.

They are ideal for any type of outdoor activity that you plan to do – they’ll allow you to store all your essential items and other not so essential items, in one place. It’s also a great way to transport these items, as the backpack stays securely on your back once you’ve put your arms through the straps and fastened the belts. Although, not everyone likes the belts fastened!

Backpacks come in a range of sizes to suit various needs, and some may have certain features that are more appealing to one type of outdoor activity than another, although all bags will work well as long as your chosen items can fit in.

If you’re going on an adventure for more than one day, you will require a larger backpack than if you were going for an afternoon hike, and the way to pack the backpack would be different. This is because if you’re not going to be out for long, you probably won’t be taking much with you, apart from maybe some food and drink, a first aid kit, and other necessities.

Utilize Your Backpack by Packing it the Correct Way

You can simply just throw items in as you won’t need to utilize the space, whereas if you’re going for a long time, you will need many items and every inch of space possible. Another factor would be ease of getting certain items from the backpack when needed, so packing it the correct way is paramount.

Purchasing a Backpack

An hiking backpack leaning on a tree

Depending on what activity you’re doing and the duration you will be gone for, you will need to think about the type of items you’re taking before purchasing a suitable backpack. If you’re camping while on your adventure, you will require a sleeping bag, pillow, and a tent, at least. Or no tent if you want to sleep under the stars – weather, nature, and animals permitting!

So, you will need to select a backpack that can accommodate these items and allow more space to pack many other supplies, too.

Some backpacks have additional features that may suit your requirements. Straps can be useful on a backpack and can be used to securely hold a sleeping mat to provide you extra comfort at night. You can also use the straps to attach a pair of boots or other footwear if you’re going to be walking over different terrains.

There are many other important features to consider, like will you require a loop to hold various tools. This is handy for quick access, and it saves some important space inside. There are small pouches that can be brought and threaded through the hip belt strap to provide easy access to small items.

For a long duration trip, a top lid accessory might be ideal as this will give you additional storage space that’s separate from the main backpack, making it easy to access equipment like maps, lights, and anything you need quickly.

If you’re using a backpack to go traveling, you may prefer to purchase a one that also comes with wheels at the bottom so you can always pull it along instead of having to carry all that weight. This type of backpack wouldn’t be a good idea if you are hiking and going over various trails, as pulling it along uneven surfaces isn’t practical.

What the weather conditions likely to be, is another factor to consider. If you’re going to be somewhere with heavy rainfall, it may be worth purchasing a waterproof bag. You can buy water protection covers to put onto your backpack if there’s rain, but it’s advisable that, if you’re going somewhere prone to rainfall, a waterproof backpack is useful.

If you’re taking children or young adults with you on your journey, please bear in mind that they may not be able to carry a backpack the same size as your one comfortably. Plus, depending on their size, you may need to take on extra essential items in yours.

Now you have purchased the perfect backpack; it’s time to learn more.

Planning and Preparing Items for Your Trip

This is vital! You don’t want to take more than you need and give yourself backache or unnecessary weight to carry when there is no need to.

If you plan and prepare correctly, you will feel the benefits of this while on your journey and be thankful that you took the time and patience to do this properly.

You need to make your backpack as light as it possibly can be. To do this effectively, you will need to plan and think about what items you’re going to be crucial for your trip. When you do this, think about your whole trip. Throughout your journey, your crucial items may change slightly – consider different terrains and weather conditions.

Travel items for hiking tourism still life over wooden background

You could make a list of the items needed in the first instance; this is recommended if you’re going on a long adventure, as it gives you time to thoroughly plan what you need. You don’t want to forget any important items! This also allows you to plan at leisure if you do this in advance, as you can just add to the list when you think of something.

This list can also include items that you may think of as bonuses, treats, or as a luxury item. You may want to list these separately, as the preparation stage is when you may have to say goodbye to these types of items.

Once you have planned the items, it’s time to prepare them for packing, although not all items will be packed in the end.

First of all, grab all the items that are on your list. Spread them out in front of you so you can physically see the sizes and feel the weight of each item.

The best way forward is to place all the necessary and most needed items together and in one place. For overnight and long duration journeys, items such as sleeping bags, camping equipment (including a container for food), cutlery, and a cooker, a water bottle, and others can be put together.

Some things to think about here are, how many clothes do you need for your journey, have you got the right clothing for the weather type, and are they any planned stops where you can wash your clothes. This will help you to minimalize the clothing you will need.

Try to choose clothing that’s suitable for a range of weather types if possible, as this will help you reduce further.

If you’re packing a towel, is it a thin and small quick-drying one? This will save you space and time. It’s a win-win really, as you don’t need a bulky towel weighing you down or taking up space where a bonus item could go.

A lantern could be swapped for a headlight instead, which doesn’t take up as much room. If additional light is needed, what about having a small torch with a hook? This way, you can use it as a torch and also hook it inside your tent like a lantern when needed.

When it comes to food, have you brought food with the least amount of packaging to prevent it from being bulky? Strong and flexible packaging (such as freeze-dried meal packets) is good as it allows you to pack them tightly together, and it doesn’t matter if other items push into them slightly.

Dehydrated food is key, as it allows you to take as much as possible, and there is no added weight from liquids.

The main aspect to think about here is if anything classed in this category can be minimalized in any way. Can a smaller product do the same job, or will a lighter product to reduce the overall weight?

Now comes the hardest part: parting with bonus luxury items.

Roughly size up how much space you think you may have left once the main items are in the backpack. You can physically put the items in quickly to see, but then this means you would need to unpack again to re-pack the backpack correctly.

Look through your items and go with your gut instinct. Do you need that item? What is the benefit of having it? If you feel like there is a benefit, put it to one side. Continue to do this with all the items that remain, putting beneficial ones together.

You should still keep the items that are not beneficial to hand, as you never know – you may have some extra space at the end. You might be able to take them, making your adventure even more enjoyable.

It’s time to get packing.

How to Pack Your Backpack Correctly

There are two main aspects to incorporate when packing your backpack correctly.

You need to pack in a way that gives you access to items that you need more frequently than others. The accessibility of these items needs to be considered.

Backpacking gears

For example, an item like a lightweight waterproof jacket needs to be easy to get to, as soon as it starts to rain, or when you feel the clouds are coming over. The last thing you’ll want to do is rummage around, trying to find what you need in the rain and risk other items in your backpack getting soaked.

Other items, such as maps, food, hygiene products, and first aid kits are essential to have quick accessibility to; even torches are handy to have, especially if you’re following a trail that takes you past sunset.

If you have purchased a backpack that has a top lid, this is great as you can store items that you need quick access to without having even to open the backpack. Also, if you have a pouch on your hip belt, you can put small items in like lip balm, candies, and any other small item that will fit in, possibly your phone. This saves you from even having to take the backpack off, as it’s on the front.

The other aspect to consider when packing is the weight of items, and you need to know what items are the heaviest.

Heavy items need to be packed closest to your back when you put the backpack on. This will include items like cooking equipment, tents, and any other heavy item. The main reason for this is because, if they are anywhere else, they will unbalance you as you walk along, making your journey harder.

When you have decided on the items that fall into the accessibility category and heavy-weighted category, you can now start packing.

The bottom of the bag should always contain your sleeping bag and items that you don’t need access to during the day, as well as any other light items.

Then the heaviest items need to be packed. Make sure they are vertical, centered, and ensure they will be the items closest to your back.

Filling the space between the heavy items and the backpack should be light items, like quick-drying towels and lightweight clothing.

Finally, we come to the top of the backpack. This is where you should put the items that you need to access quickly. This can go up to medium weight items.

Some other useful accessories can be packed in your bag, such as compression bags – they will ensure you can get more into your bag. Plus, these are waterproof, so you can help protect clothes with another layer. Packing cubes are also good if you like to be organized, as you can keep waterproofs in one, and lightweight clothes in another, and you can even put your cooking utensils or toiletries together.

One last tip: you never know when the rain is coming. So, if you haven’t brought a waterproof backpack or would like extra protection, you should purchase and pack a waterproof cover. If you’re concerned your items may get wet, you can always pack them into plastic bags before packing them in.

Now it’s time to go and enjoy your adventure – happy exploring!

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