The good news is that the approximations are the same. You still need to put everything in your bag and you still need a reasonable weight – after all, you’ll be carrying it on your back. But there is a little more. There is a demand to pack your bag and experienced backpackers have a method that seems seamless. Not only will this guide help you learn how to pack your overnight backpack more efficiently, but it will also save you the hassle of camping.
Start with the backpack
Before you can load anything into your backpack, you need to make sure that it fits you and fits properly. Most weekend hikers can get away with a 40-50-liter package, while those on long hikes and hikes may want a 50-70-liter backpack. Remember that everything in your bag should stay on your back, so if you don’t think you can carry a 70 liter bag, aim for something smaller.
Decide if you prefer a backpack with exterior pockets or a single-pocket design – that’s a personal preference. Some hikers like to add side pockets to keep items close at hand and to divide different gear. However, the liters of your backpack are common to all the pockets, so the one-compartment design will likely have a larger main compartment.
Basics vs. luxuries
There are things you can’t take trips without. This includes your sleeping regimen – a camping tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, as well as food and usually a stove. Then you need spare clothes, a waterproof jacket and pants, space for a water bottle and a filtration system. It is helpful to write yourself a checklist of backpacks for your first hiking and adjust it to suit you.
Then there are luxury goods. This could be your current book, some fancy food, or maybe a lightweight camping chair. Sure, it’s great to have these items, but you can pack them around or after essentials. This could mean that you pack your bag, then unpack some items to fit some other luxuries, while keeping the balance comfortable.
You’ll carry your bag for up to ten hours each day, and possibly for up to two weeks. If it is not convenient, you will know about it soon. If your bag is too heavy, you will quickly feel the strain through your shoulders and hips, which can be painful. Also, if your bag is overloaded on one side, or the weight is too far from the back, your bag will awkwardly pull on you and strain your back.
Try packing heavier items near your back and lower in your bag to keep the center of gravity in the right place and reduce undue stress. This can be difficult if you are using a backpack with a low back system. If there is not a lot of padding on your back, you may find that you can feel every lump or sharp edge in your bag. This may not seem like a problem at first, but after a long time it will start to affect you.
It’s important to consider your mental comfort when packing, too. Sure, that mug hanging on the back of your bag might not be annoying at first, but after hours of hopping up and down making a noise, it’ll be all you can focus on. Anything that bounces, makes a noise, hits your legs, or rubs in any way can aggravate hours down the road and it’s best that you sort these issues out as soon as possible.
Package according to when you need the items
If the clouds break and start raining, you don’t have to empty your entire bag just to reach for your waterproof jacket and pants. Packing according to when you’ll need certain items prevents you from having all your gear scattered around when you arrive at the camp as well.
The last thing you’ll need when you arrive at camp is your sleeping bag, so you should go in this bag first followed by your inflatable sleeping pillow – foam pillows should usually be attached to the outside of your bag. Besides, spare clothes and any other camp items – laundry equipment or stove for example – can be at the bottom of your bag. On top of that, you’ll want your tent. This means you can raise your tent before unpacking your sleeping bag, so you can keep essential equipment dry. All of this gear so far should fill your bag almost to your shoulder blades. Anything above your shoulder blades affects the center of gravity negatively and you should try to keep this space for lightweight items.
Since your tent will be the first item of your kit when you arrive at the camp, you should only pack the items you’ll need on the road over it. These include lunch, snacks, first aid kit, headlights, water, a spare jacket or fleece, and a waterproof. It’s worth keeping a waterproof material on top of your bag in case an unexpected shower occurs. Items such as headlights, water bottles, and snacks are often stored in the outer pockets or the top pocket of your bag.
Use compression bags and dry bags
Compacting your equipment won’t make it lighter, but it will save you a lot of space. Small packs sit close to your back and don’t pull you in the same way. Also, the mental strain of lifting a 70-liter bag, even if it’s the same weight as your 50-liter bag, will make it feel 20 pounds heavier at a time. Everyone is jealous of the well-packed 50-liter backpack, and with compression bags, you can be the envy of the road.
Compression bags don’t come cheap, and most people find that the best compromise is to use small dry bags. As long as your dry bags are weatherproof and airtight, you can load them up, compress the air out, and you’ll have your own compression bags. This has the added effect of waterproofing all of your equipment. Let’s face it, anyone who has used a backpack cover knows how frustrating it can be.
Don’t just use one dry bag for all of your gear. If you ask any experienced hikers you meet along the way how they pack their gear, you’ll find that most pack separately. This means packing the equipment into several smaller dry bags and then fitting it into your pack like a Tetris game. Here you get extra points if you use bags of different colors. This way, when you get to camp, you can easily see what dry bag is in your tent, so you don’t accidentally show off your spare underwear.
Pack it the same way every morning
We cannot stress how important this is. It’s really easy to pack your travel bag while you’re sitting at home, excited to hit the road and decide whether to pack two or three extra chocolate bars each day. But once you’re four days deep and soaked to the bone, your patience for packing will start to run out. In these situations, dig deep inside and make sure you pack your bag like you did on day one – unless, of course, you’ve gotten things very wrong.
This way, you’ll always get your items exactly where you expect them. There’s nothing worse than getting into camp late to find that in your morning rush you’ve buried your headlight in the bottom of your bag. Take the time to pack and repack if your bag is incorrect. You will hardly notice a well packed bag on the road, while a poorly packed bag will exhaust you both physically and emotionally.