So you have decided what to bring with you during your trek. Great! Now you just need to decide where to place and how to carry your equipment. Even though there are no rules on how pack a backpack – most people pack their backpacks slightly differently - there are however some general guidelines that will make it easier for you to find the equipment you need, when you need it. Just as important, the way you pack your backpack will also determine how easy it will be to carry over a long day. In this blog post you will find some good tips that will make your time in the wilderness more pleasant.
Place items that you will use frequently, or require quick access to, in the outside pockets or in the lid of your backpack. There are a some things that, although they may never be used, you do not want to dump out the entire backpack to find. Examples of these items are; map, compass, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, flashlight, first aid kit, rainwear, water bottles, camera and snacks. After you have used any of these items, always return them to the same place in your backpack.
What goes where?
- Sleeping bag
Many backpacks have a separate compartment for a sleeping bag in the bottom. If your backpack does not, pack the sleeping bag in the bottom of the pack. This will keep it out of the way during the day.
The sleeping bag will take up quite a lot of space in the backpack, hence it deserves some special attention. Most of the larger packs we stock have a separate compartment for sleeping bag storage. These are an excellent choice as the separate compartment holds the weight of your other equipment off of your sleeping bag. Thanks to this, you will get better performance from your sleeping bag, particularly in cold weather. Just like any other insulating gear sleeping bags will keep you warm by trapping air inside the fill. When the fill becomes compressed, the sleeping bag can't insulate as well.
However, this should not keep you from using a compression bag. The key function of a compression bag is to reduce the bulk of your sleeping bag, saving some space in your backpack. Because the bag compress the sleeping bag evenly on all sides it will not cause the same problems that packing heavy items on top of a sleeping bag will. However, remember to compress the bag evenly and do not tighten the straps too aggressively.
The tent is often a heavy part of your equipment so if you can, try to split the tent into parts; tent body and poles. Then spread the weight across people in the group. Even if you will carry the tent by yourself, you could separate the tent, strapping the poles outside the backpack and stuff the body in the top of the bag. Since the first thing most people do when they get into camp is to put up the tent, it could deserve a place in the top of the backpack.
With the tent being at the top of your pack, you save time from having to unload the rest of your pack just to get to the tent. This may not seem like much of a time saver, but if it is raining, you will enjoy having it close at hand. Trust us.
- Sleeping pad
The sleeping pad could be attached firmly to the outside, along the back. If you do so, make sure that you pack it in a plastic bag so that it does not get wet if it starts to rain. Some people also fold the pad and pack it on the side closest to their backs. Packed against the back, the sleeping pad provides some protection against sharp cookware or other items that may poke you as you hike. However, the backpacks we sell are created ergonomically and the latter version of packing your sleeping pad will remove some functional features. Avoid attaching the sleeping pad on the sides, it is more likely to become tangled or snagged when you pass trees and bushes.
Pack your changes of clothes towards the bottom of your backpack. Just as your sleeping bag, you will not need them until you stop for the night. The ammount of clothes you pack will of course depend on how long you'll be out in nature.
Let´s say you will be out for five days. Then a good rule of thumb is to bring at least a complete change of clothes and something to sleep in. Also add a fleece for early mornings and some raingear. You will also need at least one, and maybe two, extra sets of underwear. Three pair of socks, one to wash, one to wear and one pair that's dry, should be enough. Pack all this inside and in the bottom of your backpack. If you are trekking in changeable weather, place your raingear, gloves and hats in the top of your backpack or in an outside pocket where you can reach them quickly and easy. Plan to get colder, hotter and wetter than you imagined, weather is not always easy to predict. Although a good deal of variety is not necessary, clothes that offer flexibility are. A pair of zip-off trousers is a great example of a flexible piece of clothing.
- Food and cooking equipment
These are two concerns for many trekkers. These are both rather heavy pieces of equipment so you do not want to carry too much. On the other hand, walking hungry or running out of gas or fuel will not give you the quality time you are looking for.
If you are carrying fuel, the last thing you want to happen is that it spills over your food. In order to avoid this, try to pack fuel containers upright and preferably in an outside pocket. The food you place inside the pack, except some snacks that you like to have easy access to. In order to further protect the food, pack it in pack-bags or plastic bags. Exped's dry-bags are brightly colored, so you can tell at a glance what bag you need to grab. Some people sort their food into bags depending on when they will eat it; breakfast, lunch and dinner, other separate it by day. Regardless on how you pack your meal, make sure you have it in separate bags so it will be easier to pack and grab.
Also pack your cooking equipment inside the bag. Even though you can place them outside using straps, any gear that hangs from your backpack is likely to bet stuck in branches or something else. And, no matter how good you think you have strapped it, it can be lost.
Finally, a few quick pointers;
- Regardless if you are walking on or off trail, it is important that you keep the heaviest items close to your back, centered between your shoulder blades.
- If you know that you will trek on a trail all day, then you should consider having the center of the weight over your hips. So, pack heavy items near the top of your pack.
- If you know that you will trek on a very uneven route you should aim for keeping the center of gravity low in order to get a better balance. So, pack heavy items near the bottom of your pack.
- Place the sleeping bag in the bottom compartment. Split the tent, strap the poles outside and place the body in the top. Place your change clothes in the bottom of the bag and then your food and cooking equipment. Place items that you will use frequently or require quick access in the outside pockets or in the lid of your backpack.