How to Wear a Camping Backpack: A Step-by-Step Guide 

 June 30, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Back in 2021, while hiking the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains, I made an embarrassing yet unforgettable mistake. As a self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, I had confidently embarked on a multi-day backcountry hike, my camping backpack snugly strapped on. But what started as an adventure soon transformed into a painful slog from the weight of my backpack improperly worn.

Properly fitting and adjusting your camping backpack is essential for a comfortable and safe hiking experience. Some tips include investing in a well-fitting backpack, visiting a specialty retailer or taking accurate torso measurements, adjusting the hip strap and torso length, starting from the hips up, achieving an 80/20 weight distribution, and ensuring load lifters are at a 45-degree angle with shoulder straps following the natural angle of the shoulder.

Fast forward two years to 2023, and there's not a mountain high enough or a trail long enough that daunts me or my trusted camping backpack. For all you intrepid explorers out there making the same missteps I did, this article is your life-saver. Let's get straight into saving you from unnecessary agony and helping you fully enjoy the glorious outdoors.

Preparing and Packing Your Camping Pack

Preparing for a camping trip can be exciting, but also daunting. Choosing what to pack and how much to bring requires some careful thought and planning. The first step in packing your camping backpack is to determine what you will need based on the length of your trip and the activities you plan to do. Will you be hiking? Needing cooking supplies? Sleeping gear? Clothing? Make a list of all the items you plan to take with you.

As an avid hiker myself, I always make sure to pack my tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, stove, cookware, water filter, food (including snacks!), extra layers of clothing, map and compass, headlamp or flashlight (with extra batteries), sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, and any necessary personal medication.

Once you have determined what items to bring on your trip, make sure they are organized in a way that makes sense for easy access once you arrive at your destination. Place heavier items at the bottom of the backpack so they are closest to your hips for optimal weight distribution. Keep items that you may need frequently such as water bottles or snacks within reach on the sides of the backpack pockets.

A well-organized pack can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying your camping adventure. By taking the time to carefully plan out what items you are bringing and how they are arranged in your backpack, you will save yourself from unnecessary discomfort during your trip.

Now that we have discussed how to efficiently prepare and organize your camping gear in preparation for the trip ahead let's dive into how we can load our backpacks for optimal balance.

Loading Your Backpack for Optimal Balance

Now that you have packed everything needed for your camping trip, it's time to properly load your backpack. Loading your backpack correctly will help ensure that the weight is distributed evenly and that you don't experience discomfort or pain during your trip. The key to properly loading a backpack is achieving an equal weight distribution between the hips and shoulders.

Think of your backpack as a seesaw, with the hips being one end of the seesaw and the shoulders being the other. For optimal balance, you want to keep most of the weight near the hips. This will ensure that your center of gravity remains low to the ground, which is ideal when hiking on uneven terrain.

By distributing the weight evenly throughout your camping pack, you will decrease strain on your shoulders and help prevent soreness. Additionally, properly loading your backpack will make it easier to navigate through different terrains as you maintain good posture and balance while carrying heavy gear.

Let's say you’ll be taking a five-day trip in which you aim for self-sufficiency without stopping at supply posts. Consider packing items like lightweight dehydrated meals instead of bulkier cans; using collapsible dishes rather than plates and bowls, bring a water filter instead of multiple bottles of water, opt for lighter inflating mattress pads instead of bulky foam options.

Now that we have covered both how to effectively prepare your camping pack and load it correctly for optimal balance under varied conditions. Continue reading about Adjusting Your Camping Pack Straps and Torso Length

Adjusting Your Camping Pack Straps and Torso Length

Investing in a camping backpack is a great way to ensure that you are well-equipped for your next outdoor adventure. However, it's crucial that you take the time to properly adjust the straps and torso length of your backpack to avoid discomfort, pain, and even injury while hiking.

One of the most critical aspects of adjusting your camping pack is finding the right fit. When investing in a backpack, it's essential to visit a specialty retailer for professional measurement and recommendations. If that is not possible, take accurate torso measurements from the iliac crest to the C7 vertebrae for proper size.

My friend Lisa always complained about discomfort on her back during our hiking trips until we realized she was wearing an ill-fitting backpack. She discovered that her iliac crest didn't align with her backpack hip belt. After purchasing a new backpack, she didn't experience any more discomfort.

Once you have bought your backpack and are ready to adjust the straps, start from the hips up. Ensure that the middle of your hip strap is directly on top of your iliac crest and then adjust the shoulder straps for a natural fit without gaps between the strap and your back.

Think of your backpack as a puzzle piece fitting perfectly with your body instead of being something foreign to you. It's crucial to know how each part connects with different areas of your body.

The weight distribution in any backpack should be such that 80% of the weight sits on your hips while only 20% rests on your shoulders; This ratio will help maintain balance throughout your hike.

Most backpacks tend to have rail or Velcro and loop systems that make adjustments easier. These adjustment features make it easy for anyone to shift weight effectively by simply repositioning straps or tightening them up if necessary.

Additionally, there are other vital aspects of adjusting your camping pack that should be taken into account. Load lifters should be at a 45-degree angle and the shoulder straps should follow the angle of the shoulder without rising up.

Ensuring Your Backpack is Secure

Once you have made adjustments to ensure proper alignment and weight distribution in your backpack, it's time to verify that it's secure before embarking on your hike. A pack that isn't secure can cause fatigue, discomfort, instability, imbalance, and even injury.

A primary point of securing your backpack is paying attention to the frame of your backpack. The frame should stand away from your back with a slight arch-it shouldn't bulge into your back or hunch away from it too much. If this is not the case, you need to check if any items inside are shifting around, causing misalignment or discomfort.

During my last hike, I noticed my backpack felt wobbly and uncomfortable. On further inspection, I realized it was because my jacket was tied around my waist rather than being packed away; This caused some elements within my bag to shift out of place.

Another aspect to consider when ensuring your backpack is secure is compression straps. These help tighten the load as close to the body as possible while also helping reduce the load shift within the pack while hiking significantly.

While it's essential to ensure a tight fit for security purposes protect contents from sliding around in case you end up tripping on a rock or accidentally drop the backpack on its side. However, over-compressing a backpack could make it more challenging for you to find something that you need quickly, which could make a difference during an emergency.

It's good practice always to check periodically throughout your hike for loose/fastened buckles, worn stitching and repairs needed; double-check strap fittings have stayed in place to mitigate any potential risk that could arise from being caught off guard by unstrapping. It will help if you always keep tiny equipment to repair your backpack or even your camping tent.

Maximizing Comfort through Padded Shoulders and Straps

The anatomy of our shoulders makes them one of the most vulnerable areas to discomfort when wearing a backpack. That is why investing in a backpack with proper padding at the straps can make all the difference in maximizing comfort while carrying your camping equipment. The padding will not only protect your shoulder blades from rubbing and chaffing but also help provide more breathable air circulation between your skin and the pack.

A friend of mine hiked with a cheap backpack that cut into his skin causing bruising that lasted for weeks after his trip. Unfortunately, he was stubborn and preferred to save some money instead of buying a well-padded backpack. He soon regretted this decision as the bruises made it difficult for him to lift his arms for days afterward.

Well-padded shoulder straps distribute weight more evenly across your shoulders, providing better support for your neck muscles as well. It reduces the amount of pressure on your clavicle bones, making it easier to wear because it does not pinch or rub against them. Manufacturers understand this need, which is why many companies now offer multi-density foam pads that conform to different body types, reducing friction and providing insulation.

Think about wearing a pair of shoes without inserts or insoles versus one with high-quality memory foam insoles. Your feet will be much happier in the latter pair due to the additional cushioning provided by the inserts. This principle applies similarly to how padded backpack straps help distribute weight throughout your shoulders.

Now that we’ve covered how padded straps can maximize comfort, let's move on to another fundamental aspect that provides equal importance when preparing for camping trips: Utilizing Easy Access Points in Your Backpack.

Utilizing Easy Access Points in Your Backpack

It's no secret that carrying a camping backpack stuffed with equipment could lead to a frustrating process if you're looking for something specific inside your pack. That's why utilizing easy to access points can help streamline the searching process, making it much easier to find what you need quickly.

Imagine going on a camping trip with a friend and getting ready for dinner. You could spend minutes rummaging through your backpack, trying to find your cooking utensils while holding onto your stomach as it grumbles from hunger. It would be frustrating and time-consuming which is why utilizing easy access points helps reduce the likelihood of this happening.

Manufacturers often include various pockets or compartments that are designed explicitly for ease-of-access items such as hydration packs, rain covers, and map holders. Utilizing these easy-to-reach areas will keep important items accessible and secure, enabling you to get to them when they're necessary.

On the other hand, some people prefer a more organized approach that eliminates the need for convenient pockets or compartments. Instead, these people use packing cubes to sort their equipment items by category, creating additional space in their main compartment and providing quick access while increasing overall organization.

Utilizing easy access points in your backpack is similar to having everything stored neatly on shelves in your kitchen pantry; it saves time and energy compared to stacking everything haphazardly on top of each other.

Understanding how padded straps and utilizing easy access points improves comfort and convenience for carrying your camping gear. By taking steps such as fitting your backpack correctly and using the available pockets efficiently, you can vastly improve the muscles' load distribution. So next time you're preparing for the great outdoors, remember that small improvements such as these could help ensure a seamless and enjoyable trip!

Key Takeaway

Utilizing easy access points and organizing your camping backpack can make finding items much easier and less frustrating, ultimately improving your overall experience on your trip. Whether you prefer convenient pockets or packing cubes, taking the time to optimize your backpack will save you time and energy while distributing the load more efficiently on your muscles. Remember that small improvements like these can make a significant difference during your outdoor adventures.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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