How To Pack Your Backpack For Hiking 

 April 11, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Hiking is one of the most beloved activities in the world and a lot of the passion for it has to do with its versatility. There are millions of different hiking trails to try in every continent of the world, different styles of hiking to experience, and varying lengths of hiking trips you can take, which means packing for a hiking trip will be different every time.

One of the biggest challenges when hiking is not the activity itself but making sure you have the right gear to take along for you. There are different needs depending on where you’re hiking and what the weather conditions are, but for the most part, there are some essentials you shouldn’t be without.

Packing your backpack for hiking.

This simple guide can show you how to pack a hiking backpack efficiently so that you can fit the essential gear in there without weighing yourself down. We’ll show you the tips you need to back it like a pro and exactly what you should take along on your next hiking trip.

The Must-Haves For Hiking

Regardless of the length of your hiking trip or where you plan on going, there are some essentials that you shouldn’t be without. These cover off the must-haves you need for safety, comfort, and survival, so you should never be without them in your backpack.

  • First aid: A basic first aid kit with the essentials can be easily packed away into your backpack, including items like bandages, antiseptic cream, and tweezers.
  • Navigation: Depending on where you’re going, you might want more than one preference for navigation including GPS system, map, and compass.
  • Insulation: Even if it’s not cool during the day, insulation can keep you protected from dropping temperatures at night. You might want a jacket, vest, emergency heat blanket, and gloves.
  • Sun protection: Sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat are essential for sun protection and should always be reapplied through the day.
  • Fire: Bring along lighter, matches or firestarter even if you don’t intend on being there overnight.
  • Illumination: Choose one form of illumination such as a headlamp or torch but bring extra batteries for it just in case.
  • Food and water: Pack enough for the hike but also extra rations for another day in case of an emergency.
  • Shelter: There are a few options for shelter including a tent or tarp, and you should pack a small one even if you don’t plan on staying overnight.

How To Pack Your Backpack Correctly

Now that you know exactly what you need to take, it’s time to learn how to pack it efficiently. While some hikers are happy to just throw everything in their bag and get on their way, you’ll have more energy and a more enjoyable hike when you pack effectively.

Every backpack is made differently so it’s hard to say exactly how they all should go, but the main goal is leave it balanced and not too full. Start by laying out all of your backpacking gear so you have it all in one place, and start with the lightweight stuff at the bottom. This might be your sleeping gear or shelter, along with any other nighttime supplies that are also light.

Next, you’ll want to put all of the medium weight gear in the middle and pack the heavier of these items toward the back. Finish with the heavier items so that it creates the ideal balance. Anything you’ll be using throughout the day should be placed in a pocket or side compartment that’s within easy reach.

Tips For Packing Backpack For Hiking

There are a few ways you can make the packing experience easier for yourself when getting ready to go on a hiking trip. Learning how to pack a backpack for hiking is all a matter of understanding these simple tips and tricks.

  • To give yourself extra stability, pack the heavier items in your backpack towards the back and in the center.
  • Keep an eye on the weight of your backpack and ensure that the load is no more than 30 percent of your body weight otherwise it will be too much to handle.
  • Use any straps that come with your backpack after it’s been fully packed and tighten it as much as possible to keep it close to your body.
  • Try to keep small items clustered together which will make them easier to find and less likely to be lost among the bigger stuff.
  • Avoid hanging things externally unless absolutely necessary as it has the potential to cause an imbalance when you’re hiking.
  • If there are any spaces left in your bag you can use soft items to stuff them, like socks or rolled up items of clothing. This will prevent anything being damaged and help to keep the weight distributed.
  • Check that the backpack you’re using has enough capacity to fit everything inside and practice packing and unpacking it a few times to be sure it will contain it.

The Most Important Hiking Accessory Of All

We always talk about what the essential hiking gear is and what you should never leave behind, but the most important piece of all is your backpack. Without a quality backpack that’s been made to work with the outdoors, it won’t matter what’s inside it, so choosing the right one should be your priority.

Three people on a hike.

Hiking is one of the most enjoyed pastimes around the world and there’s no limit to where you can do it or how you can do it, but having the right gear isn’t something you want to mess with. Therefore, choosing the right backpack and learning the basics about how to pack it efficiently and practically should be the first thing you learn about this popular activity.

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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