With the long weekend fast approaching, we’re sure (if you’re not interested in the races) that you have many walks planned. If this is the case, we’ve got some handy advice for you regarding packing your backpack!
Packed efficiently, a backpack can swallow an amazing array of gear. But what goes where? There’s no one right way to pack. Lay out all your gear at home and try out different loading routines until you’ve found what works best for you. Use a backpacking checklist to ensure you have everything and make notes on your list about what worked well (or poorly) after each trip.
Packing can be broken down into four zones, plus peripheral storage:
- Bottom Zone: Good for bulky gear and items not needed until camp e.g. Sleeping bags, coats.
- Lighter Gear: Perfect for storing towels and lightweight clothing.
- Heaviest Gear: This is where you store the heaviest items e.g. Tent, camping supplies and electronics. It’s safer for these items to be against your back to help with support.
- Medium Gear: Good for essentials you’ll need urgently or often.
Fill nooks and crannies until you have a solid, stable load—and be sure weight is equally balanced on each side. Tighten compression straps to streamline your load and prevent it from shifting as you hike.
Bottom of Pack items
Bulky items you won’t need before making camp include:
- Sleeping bag (many packs have a bottom compartment sized for one)
- Sleeping pad (especially if it rolls into a tiny shape)
- Any layers, like long underwear, that you plan to sleep in
- Camp shoes
Packing this kind of soft, squishy gear at the bottom also creates a kind of internal shock-absorption system for your back and your pack.
Core pack items
Heavy, dense gear you won't need to access during your hike includes:
- Food stash (entrees, not snacks)
- Cooking kit
- Water reservoir (unless you prefer bottles for hydration)
Packing heavy items here helps create a stable center of gravity and directs the load downward rather than backward. Placed too low, heavy gear causes a pack to sag; placed too high, it makes a pack feel tippy.
Carrying liquid fuel? Make sure your fuel-bottle cap is tight. Pack the bottle upright and place it below (separated from) your food in case of a spill.
Consider wrapping soft items around bulky gear to prevent shifting. Use these soft items to fill in gaps and create a buffer between bulky items and a water reservoir:
- Tent body
- Tent footprint
- Extra clothing
Tip: Trying to slip a full reservoir into a full pack won’t be easy. Even if it has a separate compartment, it’s best to fill the reservoir and put it in your pack first.
Bulky trail essentials work well here:
- Insulated jacket
- Fleece jacket and pants
- Rain jacket
- First-aid kit
- Water filter or purifier
- Toilet supplies
Some people also like to stash their tent at the top of the pack for fast access if stormy weather moves in before they've set up camp.
Packs differ in what they provide—lid pockets, front pockets, side pockets and hipbelt pockets. Some pockets even have a lot of smaller pockets inside. These options help you organize smaller essentials:
- Lip balm
- Mortein fly spray
- Water bottles
- Car keys (look for a clip inside one of the pockets)
- ID and cash stash
We hope these tips gave you an insight into efficiently packing your backpack for your next walk. We will leave you with one last suggestion, our most recommended bushwalking backpack Brands, Macpac and Osprey. These brands come in a range of sizes and styles to suit everyone’s preferences.
Lastly, It's important to note that the general rule of thumb is to carry no more than a third of your body weight. That should be your max, so the answer is to carry less than that. Make your bag as light as you can and please be sure to speak with a hiking specialist to ensure your backpack is fitted perfectly to your body.