What packing and organizational tips would you give beginner backpackers or day hikers, that will help them fit all their gear into a backpack?
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What packing and organizational tips would you give beginner backpackers or day hikers, that will help them fit all their gear into a backpack?
Stuff sacks!! let me repeat… stuff sacks. Phil referenced them above! So much better to have your gear organized and readily accessible. And be brutal when deciding what to bring. Did you pack it last trip? Did you use it? Sort it all out and take out 10-20% of what you chose. You won’t miss it.
I have kids, so I use some of the old stuff we used for them when they were younger. I have a vitamin powder drink that I like to have on the trail, so I take my daughters old formula travel container that has 3 pourable compartments (very loghtweight container) Also I put honey and peanut butter into a refillable squeeze container that we used to put applesauce in for her.
Attach flex cord to several points on the outside of your pack. Makes for a quick retrieval of a jacket without having to open your pack and is a handy place to lash wet gear and give it time to try out.
I use various sizes of zip-lock bags to organize stuff. If needed a trash compactor bag is pretty tough for larger items.
Use trash compactor bag as waterproof pack liner.
I find that those large thick red rubber bands you might find on the sidewalk apparently discarded by mail carriers and newspaper deliveries make good ( and thrifty ) ” poor man’s ” bungee cords for tightening up various ditty bagged and zip lock packed items . I’ve doubled them around bagged tents / poles and such to make the items more manageable when arranging the load . Once you start , you’ll think of a number of uses for them .
Don’t use compression sack for your sleeping bag. You’ll just end up with hard ball shaped bag that’s almost impossible to pack efficiently. Instead put your sleeping bag in the bottom of your pack, put your other stuff on top of it and use the backpacks compression system to cinch it tight. And be sure to either use a waterproof liner in your pack or use a raincover.
As a beginner backpacker, i leaned hard way that getting backpack to adjust your torso is MUST!!! It makes gazillion time difference and your shoulders will thank you. Also… Use those compression straps.. Simple adjustments makes huge difference!
Use the space in your smaller containers. Things like pots and pans can hold smaller equipment. Bandannas, rags and other similar items can be used for the same purpose.
Try to put minimal things on the outside of your backpack as it can severely throw off your balance on the trail.
For the younger hikers (15-18), lesser used items to the bottom of pack, next sleeping bag and more frequently used items (daily meals) on top. First aid kit should be your most readily available item in or outside your pack.
take a final look around your kitchen before you leave home. I left all my food and water at home last week
When hiking and backpacking in winter, I do not put any water bottle outside the backpack without sleeve against freezing and I keep always one bottle inside the backpack. In the summer I remove the water bag from inside and put on top to be easy to refill without unpacking.
Pack by need. Snacks, water, maps, camera accessible without removing pack. Rain gear, sitting pad externaly. Jacket, lunch food on top. Tent or shelter next (think setting up camp in the rain). The rest should all be base camp/sleeping gear. If you use stuff sacks that are a little oversized and not taught, they will act as flexible tetris pieces and allow you to fill odd shaped spaces. Try to get heavier things higher and closer to your back.
A couple of tricks i have used over the years, first, i laminated a backpacking list of all my essential items, typically those that i will use each time, this list helps me get started packing each trip and i can tweak it a bit depending on season and temp, etc. One other packing tip for the First aid kit, the small pocket size pain reliever container you find at check out counters, that works great for many things, such as asprin, ibprofen, etc. but also many other uses, small lightweight and easy to pack.
Scrap packaging of small items and repack in travel bottles, plastic bags, etc. to save weight and space.
Things I don’t want to get wet I put in zip lock or plastic trash bags before putting in backpack.
I like to put packages of wet ones inside toilet paper rolls. Saves space and you have some clean up options.
Organisation: things you use last (sleeping bag/mat etc) at the bottom of the pack. Things you use on the trail (waterproofs, light fleece etc) at the top. Snacks in hipbelt pockets if fitted, water in side pocket of pack or use a hydration bladder. Shockcord to outside helps to pack larger items or to dry wet gear.
Packing/weight: use a platypus for your extra in-camp water. When not used, it rolls up very small and has minimal weight. Likewise use plastic cola bottles (or similar) as your main water bottle. Free with the cola, weigh hardly anything, almost unbreakable. Pack things inside each other like Russian dolls e.g. coffee, tea, matches inside mug. Use sample size toiletries and restaurant sachets of sauces, seasoning etc. Dr Bronner’s Liquid Soap is brilliant as a little goes a long way and can be used to wash yourself, shampoo, pot cleaning and toothpaste. Mint flavoured Bronners is good for toothpaste- the Tea Tree Oil one is vile. You have been warned!
Document your load! Once you have a list of what you carry and the weight of each item, the light will shine on your choices and alternatives.
I try to pack things, inside of other things to save space. I put my snacks for the day in my pants pockets or my hip belt pockets. My rain gear goes into the top of the pack, on top of my pack liner for quick and easy access. my spoon goes into my food bag, my stove and fuel are nested inside my cooking container, I carry a cup for coffee and/or hot chocolate and I stuff my toilet paper inside of that when not being used. That is then stored in an easy to retrieve place. First aid kit is in an outside pocket, as well as personal toiletries that I may use while I’m hiking.
Eliminate might need items and only take multipurpose items. You might need an extra pot for cooking but instead take a small pot that can serve as your bowl and cup and water scoop instead. Might does not make lite.
Make a list of what you think you need before you go. Lay out everything before you pack. As you pack ask yourself DO I REALLY NEED THIS? Put stuff you’ll need at the end of the day, like sleeping bag ,in first. Put stuff you might need during the day like water ,snacks, rain gear, in external pockets or on top.Give some thought to weight distribution, so your load is balanced.
After your trip, get your list out and see what you brought and what you actually used. Make adjustments based on your experience.
avoid compression sacks and excessive use of stuff sacks, they add weight and the odd shape of all the sacks uses up a lot more space in your pack. Your sleeping bag and extra clothing can all be stored safely inside of a pack liner, trash compactor bags work well for this. many other items in your pack don’t need to be in a waterproof liner, such as your tent or raingear. Ziplock bags and turkey oven bags work well for organizations and waterproofing other smaller sundry items such as electronics and toiletries.
Don’t pack a pillow. Use your sleeping bag’s stuff sack to stuff softer items in to make a multi-purposes adjustable pillow!
Pack your backpack with stuff that will make your trip safe and enjoyable per your needs. Weight everything , try to make it light but don’t make “light” your #1 priority.
Ditch your compression sacks. Throw your sleeping back in a waterproof bag and put it in the bottom of your pack. Use the gear on top of it to compress it and you’ll be able to fit it all in efficiently as the bag will compress where needed instead of being a big, bulky, hard lump.
When we prepare backpacking, what we need is to minimize the weight, but for beginners, they feel there are typically so many things to pack and ended up too much weight to carry. This happens because of inexperience and because of fear of what if. In such a case, ask and seek out around you who has done backpacking in past, get some ideas what are needed. Pack heavier ones toward bottom of the pack, lighter ones toward top. I prefer to put almost everything in the pack if I can, so that tent etc. won’t be ripped up by tree brunches.
Go on shake down camp outs, in local parks or even your backyard in the weather you plan on camping in. Take hikes with a fully loaded pack and don’t forget the water. Carry a pencil and paper and note equipment used and unnecessary stuff.
The funniest part is the planning. Lay out all your gear and weight through each scenerio where a piece of gear is realiasticaly useful. If you are waiting for just the right circumstances, you can probably leave it home. For example, I use to bring a mini lantern and a headlamp. I pictured hanging my head lamp in my tent so I could easily look through things at nigh or read without blowing through my headlamp.
In 3 years I never had a need for it! 2/3rds of the time i didn’t bother to set it up and when it didn’t perform better than my head lamp. This is just one example.
Buy the proper gear the first time. I, and many others, tried too hard to be frugal on initial gear purchases. I found out quickly that “cheap” often means heavy, flimsy, or flat out dangerous. This leads to purchasing replacement gear in a short time frame. I’m not advocating to buy the most expensive gear. Just don’t try to save a few dollars now, but ultimately pay more later.
Pack in a way that you WILL not need to get into the pack during the hike; Pack camp gear in trash compactor bag within your pack. Food for the day should be separated from food cache and placed into convenient, easy to reach spots. First aid should be readily accessible. Rain gear within easy reach. Have shelter placed in easy to reach spot(outside of pack, or on top of compactor bag if possible, poles could be attached to outside of pack if your shelter does not use trekking poles). Pack in a way to maximize your time on the trail. Use stuff sacks for organization, know your equipment, and its operation,…dont try to learn the operation on the trail;) Rummaging through your pack for something during the day is an unwelcomed distraction. Sure, it happens, something abnormal happens and you’ll need to get into the pack. Overall though, one can pack in a way that you should not need to get into main compartment during the hike, which will enhance your time on the trail!
Until your kids have a good understanding of the benefits of a light pack, make sure you know everything that they have in their pack. This will help save you from transferring stuff from their pack to yours mid hike. They won’t have a good understanding until they have a done a few long hikes with a fully loaded pack.
Safety pins, large size, are very useful and can be attached to a hat for easy access or to keep the hat from blowing off your head. Other uses, popping blisters, fixing holes, attaching things for drying, tool for repairs that require small pokey points, etc.
Nothing earth shattering, but since the larger, bulkier items (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, etc.) tend to be shoved to the bottom of my back there is often some space between them. I like to shove small, flexible, loose items like shirts or socks into those small cracks.
Using a hammock and tarp for shelter can allow you to carry less shelter equipment depending on the season and sleep more comfortably. For cold weather camping you may actually carry more space-wise, but it can still weigh less and the comfort factor is still there!
Leave stuff sack at home, sleeping bag and clothes will fill pack better and more efficient.
Pack similar items in small ditty bags. I like for each of my bags to be different colors. That way I know that if I reach for the orange bag, it will contain lighter, matches, fire starter, etc. Or the blue bag will contain clothes. You get the idea. If you stay organized you’ll have less chance of losing items (especially if you always put items back where you took them from).
Heavy items at the bottom and closest to your back. Don’t put your sleeping bag on a stuff sack, stuff it in the crevices!
Trash compactor bag as an inexpensive waterproof pack liner. Keep your bearspray in a heavy duty zip lock when transporting via car/truck in case of valve failure/accidental discharge. (Happened to me!)
The most important things have already been said, especially weigh everything (in grams) and write it down. That one exercise will force you to make better decisions. The only thing I have to add is to focus on double-use items. A headnet can be a stuff sack for clothing; a rain jacket is also a warmth layer; trekking sticks become tent poles.
Don’t pack your inflatable pad on the outside of your pack unless you like repairing them.
For trips to dry climates (without freezing weather) I tend to pack my Sawyer Mini water filter w/ a small pouch near the outside of my pack. This allows me to easily stop and fill a water bottle at any stream or puddle I come across. For trips where water sources are a concern this greatly helps with downtime.
Also, don’t be afraid to leave that heavy rain fly for your tent at home!
Leave behind everything your Mother says you will need on your first backpacking adventure!
Use binder clips to attach things to your pack. Good to dry wet socks!
Hip pockets are GREAT!! If your backpack has them, definitely use them. My Osprey Aether 85 has a pocket on each side of the hip belt. I keep all the things in them that I use frequently and hate having to stop and take my pack off for, or having to ask someone else to get it out of my brain for me. Chapstick and a tiny bottle of sunscreen, a clif bar or gu packet, and sometimes my digital camera or GPS if I’m using one. Game changer!!!!
Split up items like tents between people to share the load. Even split the tent up if you’re going solo as there are nooks and crannies that will fit individual sections such as the fly or poles, but wouldn’t fit the entire tent.
put your sleeping bag and clothes into dry bags to stay safe during rivercrossings and torrential downpours.
Stuff your sleeping bag into your backpack without a stuff sack. This will fill the dead air spaces in a lot of your bag, make it easier to fit your sleeping bag into that sleeping bag compartment, and can even help prevent problems with loft and insulation compression, extending the life and warmth of your sleep system.
Roll up clothing that is being put in pack…takes up less space. Always carry a plastic bag to pick up trash that is left on trails.
Don’t follow the old ‘heavy items toward the top of the pack’ rule too closely. Every pack and person is different. If the load feels a little off balance try to redistribute the weight and see if it feels better. This is especially true with the vented back panel packs like the Osprey Exos and similar. I find that packing the weight as low as I can feels a lot better in those types of packs.
Less can be more. Packing for a week long excursion? Than you won’t be needing that month’s worth of gear! This will take trial and error to perfect, but understanding your basic needs is a core understanding for anyone whom wishes to regain their wild self. Take the time, dayhike as much as you can, and NEVER stop learning.
Happy trails to the green and the sun beaten!
I like to use lots of ziplocs to organize my “camp bag” which is a small OR zip sack that fits in my pocket. Keeps all my first aid, fire starting, repair, and toilet kit right in my pocket and easy to access without having to go back to the tent everytime I need something.
Color coded stuff sacks. When you’re looking for something, if everything is in a black bag, you have to open up every single one to see whats inside, or at least give it a feel. I use bright orange for my 10+ essentials, repair kits, etc., green is my ditty bag (trowel, TP, toothbrush, etc.), bright yellow is first aid, grey is food + cooking, etc. Use these each and every time for the same purpose, and you’ll be able to find exactly what you are looking for.
Also, if you have dry bags for important things (sleeping bag, clothes, etc.), and are not using a liner or a rain cover for your bag, keep a garbage bag handy at the top of your pack for swapping layers quickly, so you do not have to dig into your pack.
Fill up all empty spaces. Fill your cooking pots with small articles of clothing. Keep toothpaste/personal items in your food bag/bear canister. Stuff softer lighter items around the heavier stuff to keep things from moving around and keep your bag balanced.
Pack to keep everything easily accessible – if you know wet weather is coming keep your tent near the top for quick set-up. Use Ziploc bags to keep items organized and dry. :) And always keep your pack cover (if you use one) at the ready!!
Use compression sacks and packing cells to keep everything compressed and neat. Also, line your pack with a thick garbage bag to make it waterproof.
Always keep your sleeping clothes totally separated from you other clothes. that includes a pair of socks. I keep mine in a zip lock bag. Your clothes absorb moisture, You will find you sleep quite cozy.
Never bring more clothing than that you can wear all of the items at once!
Pack each day’s food in a gallon Ziploc bag which at the end of the day becomes the next day’s trash bag. Make sure you pack one empty one for your first day’s trash. Hike on!
Make a list and weigh everything. Mark it want verse need. Most likely you will find out you are taking way more then you need or will use. Of course don’t forget the essentials but you don’t need three ways to start a fire. A leathermen isn’t needed, a small pocket knife is fine and lighter. Smart water bottles weigh a lot less then Nalgene bottles.
A lighter pack will help you go farther and have less pain on the knees and shoulders.
Don’t bring more clothes than you need! You’re gonna be stinky anyways, so make sure you’ve got the bare minimum. I prefer ex officio boxers, Smart wool Injinjis, and 2 bottoms and 2 tips for an extended trip. It saves tons of space!
Packing or organizational tip? Don’t pack so much stuff. Leave things behind that you never use. Before you even start packing, use a checklist to go over the things you need v. what you want.
Take advantage of pockets and easy access gear storage locations on the pack by placing things that you might need easy access to in easy to reach places. I always keep things I might need in a hurry (first aid, rain jacket, headlamp, map/guidebook etc) in places I can get to in a hurry. It also helps to always put things in the same spot once you decide what’s ideal that way you always know where to find whatever you’re looking for.
Use a backpack with lots of external storage capacity, such as web pockets or looped attachment points, and use them to store bulky gear that doesn’t stuff or compress well. Storing it on the outside keeps it from crowding into space needed for other gear. Also use them for gear that is accessed often.
Use one light-duty dry bag for your items most important to keep dry (sleeping bag, socks etc). Skip the pack cover or large dry bag to save weight and hassle.
ziplock bags will save your life!!
Love the look. For duct tape.. I re wrap it on 3 sections on my hiking sticks.
Much of my food is precooked and dehydrated grain( rice, barley, buckwheat etc and whole grain pasta) Vacuum packed for space. Also have zip ties and carabiners for hanging laundry
Keep things you need during the day accessible! Water filter, trail guide, etc. should always be last packed and put in outside pockets if possible. Also ziplock bags are your friend! Keeps things dry and are very light weight.
I keep my sleeping bag, air pad, and sleeping clothes near the bottom of the pack, then put my food bag and day clothes on top, and first aid on top of that. I keep snacks and camera in a fanny pack.
others have mentioned how important stuff sacks are, but I caution the inexperienced hiker to avoid cuben fiber stuff sacks. I think well made silnylon sacks are more durable and certainly more trustworthy. And use any exterior pockets to hold often needed items like water filter and guidebook/maps.
Keep your foot care kit easily accessible. You don’t want to have to dig for it to take care of you feet.
Take your tent out of its stuff sack and put the poles on the side of our pack and stuff the body and fly around the inside of the pack to stabilize the rest of your gear.
Keep your water bottle, maps, compass and snacks at easy reach by putting them on yhe side pockets of your backpack.
I’ve found that a pair of camp shoes are unnecessary to bring with you on a trip. Wear some comfortable trail runners. They should be able to take you across wet and dry terrain. This way you won’t have to deal with items dangling off your pack, like a pair of Crocs or extra sneakers.
You probably won’t need/use that extra thing that you’re thinking about packing. If you pack something for a couple of trips and never use it (not first aid, of course) cut it from your pack list the next time.
If you can find any items that have multiple purposes, like a knife that makes a good hammer, etc, that can help too.
If you haven’t used an item on past trips, don’t bring it on future trips unless it is one of the ten essentials. That’s the easiest way to make sure you have room for everything you will use. Don’t let fear guide your decisions on what to pack. Base your packing decisions on sound information from forecasts, trail reports, park offices, and your past experiences.
I keep my stuff in my daypack and my daypack in a large container, like a milk crate. The container also has the seasonal items I might need, along with my sticks and my water bottle. Before leaving, I switch between daypack and milk crate depending on that day’s needs. This way, I bring only what I need and forget much less. Also – invest $20 in a Sawyer Mini Water Filter that just stays in the pack so you always have it.
Before addressing organization, I strongly recommend visiting an Outfitter to get properly sized, or at least try on, the backpack you are thinking about buying. A poor fit will lead to your unhappiness. After confirming the right size you can then shop around online if prices are better elsewhere.
Pack organization recommendations (at the expense of repeating what others have said):
1. Stuff sacks and zip-lock bags! Squash out air and flatten as much as you can since space is a premium. Plus the slick surface of sacks and zip-lock bags make it easier to reach in and slide things in and out. Zip-lock bags also help keep things dry and double as trash bags when they are empty.
2. Use clips, hooks, etc. to attach things outside of your pack. Air-drying socks, drying a pee rag, etc. are best done outside your pack. Also easily accessible things like a mug on the outside saves you from digging through the interior (and if you’re with someone who can unhook it, you don’t need to take off your pack).
3. Binding material. Duct tape, a small roll of velcro, or a bit of paracord is versatile and has tons of uses.
4. Practice, practice, practice. Both for day-packing and distance hiking, learn what you need and don’t need. There’s a reason all those hiker boxes are full of things cast off by a previous hiker. In the end you’ll save money and backache by refining what you actually need. Speaking from experience, my early day-hiking trips often ended with unloading extra water bottles, food, and a first aid kit equipped for the Zombie Apocalypse.
Keep track of what you use on your outings. If it never comes out of your pack you may not need it on your next trip. If you’re a beginner you should be hiking with a partner, work together, share the load. Don’t take two of the same item. Treat backpacking as a “team” sport.
Don’t buy a pack cover. User a trash compactor bag to line the inside of your pack. And if you use an alcohol stove, keep your alcohol receptacle outside of the liner…. just in case.
Match your trip gear and clothing to the temperature, wind, and precip conditions expected so you don’t pack and carry more than you need. Also, research water resupply sources along the trip route to eliminate the need to pack and carry more water than needed. Consider that carrying an unnecessary extra quart of water weighs the same as carrying an extra sleeping bag, tent, or backpack!
Pre-plan, get ready for the trip a week or two before, everything you need, then go back several time before the trip or have someone who backpacks come over and go through your stuff and discard anything not needed or two heavy. I sometimes give people list of my gear I may take on a trip and this also gives them an idea.
Separate all your food out into individual meals so they are easy to grab and quick to identify.
Pay attention to the weight of your gear relative to its position. Some people prefer having heavier items like waterbottles higher in the pack while some prefer it lower. I myself have a different preference depending on the pack and how it fits.
Living room triage. Lay out everything and reject anything that you might be taking ‘just in case.’ If you are hiking with other people, only one person needs to take a first aid kit (and how much of that do you really need) or a multi-tool (will a very small knife with tiny scissors do?). Can you replace old and heavy with small and light? It is time to retire the dear old Petzl headlamp with its 4.5v flat battery.
After a trip unpack items into two piles – things I used vs things that never left the pack. Reassess what you will take next time.
Use lots of stuff sacks to organize your pack, preferably in a few different sizes and colors. I use orange for my “potty kit” (trowel, etc.) and green for gear I only use for certain portions of the trip (e.g., summit day). When I was younger I relied on pack pockets, but everything else was a big mess in the main compartment.
do a practice run on packing, well before your trip., Don’t leave it to the last minute when you are hurrying to get out the door. Try your pack on once you’ve packed it to make sure you are balanced.
Backpacks are like computer memory, the larger it is the more you will put in it. Smaller pack means less gear.
Skills are greater than gear. Learn how to do more with less.
With that said, I typically put the least likely used items in the bottom of the pack and work my way up. I always keep a small survival kit in my pocket. I use a small bag with whistle, firestarter, LED light, compass, knife and any critical meds. I clip this to my belt and slide it in my pocket.
Lay everything out on the table (or ground) before putting it into the backpack. Put camping items (sleeping pad, quilt, etc) at the bottom and put heavy items (water, fuel) close to your back. Make sure items that you may need while hiking are easily accessible: food, maps, gloves, hats, rain gear, etc.
use small Ziploc or silnylon bags to keep similar items together. Clothes, food, first aid, toiletries, cooking. That way you will always know where your spoon or bandaids or extra socks are. At camp, as you pack and unpack, rather than a pile of junk or having to rummage around in the bottom of the pack to look for stuff, lay the bags out next to each other on a ground cloth (I use my pack cover) so you can see everything and won’t have a nagging doubt of “where did I put my headlamp? It is right in its designated bab right where it belongs. Develop a system that you know where the various sub-bags are in your pack.
“Leave at home what you don’t need”
put together a good ditty bag. military term of toiletry,personal items. mine is about the size of a grapefruit. with (repair kit-gear aid sewing kit,super glue in 1oz bottle so it doesn’t crush, duct tape around a small piece of pen, (patches for inflatable, sleeping bag,tent), first aid kit- to much smalls to list, some of the ten essentials- book of matches leatherman squirt, water purification tablets, tiny light,whistle,chap-stick,q-tip, mini bic with zip tie around red depressor so fuel doesn’t leak out,razor blade personals-1 oz purell,gold bond,body glide, toilet tissue, cat trowel tooth brush dr. bronners soap. save small packaging and refill as used from larger volume packaging at home or on long distance trail leave large packaging in hiker box so others can use to refill there small packaging. I’ve been using the same purell,gold bond cut off piece of pen, soap bottle for years now. learn to repackage and a good ditty bag full of tiny goodies to save your butt when you need it goes along way. i’ve fixed my self and my equipment as well as others on the trail. by having the right items in my ditty bag and keep it at the top of my pack my ditty is organized first aid in small orange zip pouch, repair kit in small red pouch, essentials in green pouch.loose toiletries and pouches go into larger grapefruit size ditty pouch.putting together a ditty was one of the first useful things i learned and got better at what i kept in it. i think every backpacker should have one what you put in it is up to you and is very space and time saving piece of gear
Take 2 trash bags…pack cover, keep clothes dry in pack, emergency poncho, regular trash bag, etc.
Read the Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher. Only carry essentials. Less weight = better hike.
If you have a vacuum food sealer you can make little individual-use packets of a lot of things such as sunblock and toothpaste.
On longer trips, keep a second, smaller stuff sack for food. Your food bag will probably be a pain in the butt to dig out of your pack when you stop because it’s so full. So when you’re packing up at the start of each day, put some snacks and your lunch in the smaller bag and stash somewhere easily accessible. Leads to much less packing/unpacking during prime walking hours.
You always pack for your fears. Fear of being hungry : add more food; fear of being cold: more clothes. Be aware of your fears, but pack sensibly, not to your fears. Zig Ziglar used to say that 97% of the things you worry about never happen. A favorite garment or food can do a lot to calm your fears. Of course, the 10 essentials are, well, essentials!
When in doubt, leave it out.
1. Keep track of what you don’t use after trips by using a written list or highlight your packing list. If it is something that you have never used and feel comfortable ditching it leave it at home (as long as it is not one of the ten essentials of course).
2. Keep a few bins in your vehicle to keep a change of clothes and footwear in. Frequently we change to go into town or at least want something dry to put on. At the very least the muddy shoes and socks go into the bins and the spare socks and sandals come on.
Pack heavier items close to your back. Also don’t have things flapping around in the outside of your pack they will take energy out of your strides.
Use a separate compression sack for clean and dirty laundry. All fabric materials, including sleeping bag, should be in a compression sack.
If its a just in case or comfort item you might not really need it.
Instead of worrying about a rain fly on your backpack, put a large trash bag (lawn size) inside the backpack, pack as normal, and seal the bag.
I like to use my sleeping bag to fill in extra space in my backpack when I’m on a 1 nighter where not much gear is needed. Shove the bag in like you would a stuff sack then pack your heavy things around it. It does a great job at keeping things in their place while on the move. I’m assuming, of course, that the beginner doesn’t have multiple backpacks or featherweight down sleeping bags.
Put the items that you are least likely to use during the day in the bottom of your pack and the things you will need, or need quickly (such as rain gear) on top or in easy access spaces.
everything doesnt have to be in a stuff sack. for example if you have a tent that comes in something to pack it in, take it out for the trip and just cram it into the bottom of your backpack. it will pack better and fill in the voids that would be created if you were to keep it in its stuff sack.
then on top of that use a trash compactor bag for a bag liner, and you can do the same with your cloths and other soft items that will fill voids around the hard items in your bag. keep anything you want to keep dry in the garbage bag. you can use small lightweight stuff sacks for other small items first aid kit etc for organization if youd like here. then seal it off and put your food pots etc on the top!
If you have a dog hiking companion, be sure to pack it out! Gear ties can be used to secure the bags ( double bagged, of course!) to outside of your pack, so that you do not have to expose the contents of your pack interior, or pack pockets.
If you don’t have waist belt pockets, you can use a compact camera bag or buy special pockets from places like Z-packs. Use these to store necessities you need during the day, such as snacks, camera , tampons, bag for used tampons, and also use these for things you need to keep track of and have quick access such as your headlamp and spoon.
Leave the kitchen sink home. Take what you need not something for every conceivable contingency
Think weight, bulk & utility.
Unfortunately due to allergies, etc., I MUST bring appropriate med supplies (epi pen, many allergy meds). The list can account for a whole lotta bottles; for backpacking I pack only enough for the trip in little zip-plastic bags (my hubby bough a bunch for his coin collection) writing contents in magic marker on outside and putting packing tape over the writing to keep it from wearing off. To keep the pills from get crushed/ruined in pack, and ensure they don’t get wet I put the little zip-bags into a yellow-prescription pill bottle. Yes, that all adds weight, but I can’t go w/o this med-medical kit.
When I am super organized, I take the time to package each day’s meal into one seal-a-meal bag (and suck the air out) taking up less space in pack. Meaning multiple of bags for the day, in one day’s worth bag. Write contents in magic marker on outside of bag. Helps me organize for the trip (I always want to bring more food than I really need), and keep me organized on the trail.
Keep stuff you’ll want quick access to readily accessible. I keep a snack or two in my hip pockets and use a hydration bladder so I can sip on the go. I also keep my rain jacket and other layers tucked in the large front pocket of my pack or in the lid so I can pull them out as needed without disrupting the rest of the contents.
Use a garbage bag for a pack liner and skip individual stuff sacks. You can decrease pack size by filling dead air spaces with loose articles of clothing.
If you use a dry bag for your sleeping bag, you can “compress” into a flatter shape, which packs better than a bowling shape of a normal compression sack. Just kneel on it as you’re letting air out, and the dry bag will keep the air out and hold the flatter shape.
Layout all your items on the floor before you start packing. Pack your bag with a focus on the essentials and then the rest. Do this several times before your trip, practice will help you use space wisely and eliminate items you may not need.
Always carry water purification tablets just in case you lose or break your filter. They are lightweight, and could save your life.
Packing your day pack or backpack with gear that is multifunctional so you have to carry less gear. Organize your personal gear based off when you will have to use it. Pack the gear that is necessary for the time of the year not just in case.
Keep you GPS waypoints to a minimum. Delete the old stuff. Put in fresh batteries and carry one spare set.
Keep your water purifier ON top. Digging through your bag can ruin a good pack job or even a bad back job.
As a beginner you often (always) find yourself over-packing because of the “just in case” mindset. The problem here is weight. So what I do, as a beginner myself, is to lay out on the floor everything I think I’m going to need. Split everything into categories (Food, First-aid/survival, clothing, navigation etc… . I then go through each category of items with a goal of shaving down the weight. This forces you to actually consider what it is that you really truly need. Once I feel I’ve trimmed down the weight sufficiently, I pack and try it on. If I feel it’s still too heavy, I go through the same process and try to trim down some more weight. It’s amazing to realize the difference between what we think we need and what is actually required.
Keep stuff stacks to a minimum. Having to many stuff sacks creates negative space and wastes valuable room…. Happy Trails
follow the guidance from the section hiker blog
The lightest and best gear you can pack is Knowledge! Plan ahead and and be prepared. Be aware of ounces and the piunds will take care pf themselves.
Keep a carabiner or two, so that you can clip any extra layers or equipment to the outside of the pack.
Use a pack that fits everything inside and is perhaps a bit bigger. You need to make sure you do not fill your pack with things you don’t need but you will have several benefits. I don’t like anything other than technical gear on the outside of my pack because it is unwieldy, can catch on brush or fall off, and is aesthetically displeasing to me. I can often fit my gear for a given trip into a smaller pack under ideal circumstance at home but when in the field cold and wet and wanting to hit the trail quickly it is nice to have a little room to spare making packing so much easier.
Plan, read, prepack, consider the lengt6h of the trip. Seoarate like items into stuff sacks.
Roll your extra clothes instead of folding them. Then put them in a stuff sack.
Review other peoples “ultralight” lists to see what they left at home. Then try to imitate them.
Knowledge is more powerful than bringing stuff you might need but in reality don’t.
It’s okay to be stinky and dirty when out in the woods! Get used to it and leave the spare clothes at home.
Repackage food items into meal packets and stuff as much as you can into cooking pots and cups. Keep frequently used items like map, compass, lamp, snacks, etc. in the lid pocket. Put white gas fuel in a lower external pocket.
If your backpack has a sleeping bag compartment, don’t bother using it. Line the pack with a trash compactor bag and throw the loose sleeping bag on the bottom.The bag will compress and expand where needed around your other gear, so the bottom of your pack will be shaped like it should be instead of having lumps.
Make sure some of your gear does double-duty (can be used for more than one thing). Cuts out a lot of unnecessary stuff.
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Remember, the longer your planned hike, the more critical conservation of weight becomes. Be sure to pack the essentials, but if you think you won’t need it, you probably don’t.
On the cheap utilize 2Gal ziplock bags for compressing and storing clothes.
Make sure your clothing can be worn as a “system”. Being able to wear all your clothes if it gets extremely cold rather than having to choose between one item or another can greatly reduce the number of extra items you have. You’d be surprised how little clothing it takes to stay warm and dry if it’s all working together. Fewer clothes in the pack or on you means less weight and perhaps a smaller pack. The same goes for other items. Multiple use is almost always better. If you have an item that can only do one thing, you may want to re-examine your gear (10 essentials excluded perhaps).
Keep snacks for the day in a waist pocket. Eat as you hike. You’ll be able to munch as you get hungry, you don’t have to wolf snacks down and get any tummy aches, and you don’t have to stop. All good things. Just make sure you can reach your water bottle as you hike so you can stay hydrated as well.
Combine gear into stuff sacks. Try to use as few stuff sacks as possible.
If you’re into photography, you can save space/weight by leaving the tripod behind. Rest the camera on a rock, then use the self-timer feature to trigger the shutter. You’ll get rock steady shots without any camera shake that comes from hand-holding the camera.
Practice using all your equipment before heading out. For example set the tent up a few times at home, you want to be comfortable enough with the equipment that you can use it in poor conditions.
Test load your pack, fully load it and go for a hike or walk with it, change around how you packed it you may find it more comfortable one way vs. the other.
Be methodical in what you load first, if you have a top loader don’t bury something you may need on the trail (like snacks). Keep emergency kits near the top or outside.
Don’t be afraid to separate equipment, if your using a tent with poles not everything needs to be wrapped up like how it came originally packaged, try strapping the poles to the outside of your pack. Also if you camping with a friend and sharing a tent, spread the weight around. One person takes poles the other canvas and fly.
On the note of going with friends, share camp equipment, for example not everyone needs their own stove.
Learn by doing. Merino wool base layers don’t get funky and are ready to wear day after day. This allows you to bring led clothing thus reducing bulk in you pack. Did I mention learning by doing?
When purchasing/replacing gear, get as light/compressible as you can afford. This will go a long way to help reduce your pack volume and overall weight. Also, various sizes of ziplock bags are your friends!
Ziploc bags, enough said.
When solo hiking, I always carry the essentials for survival in a small pouch strapped to me independently from my pack. Included are a lightweight knife, compass, map, flashlight with a moon mode, whistle, sunglasses, rope, sheet of reflective mylar, and a reliable fire starter that I know I can get to work in all weather conditions.
Pack less, you don’t need it… If you are not able to fit into 50l pack for the week in the wild (3 season) includin all your food you took too much…
Do away with a pack cover. If you need to keep certain things dry, pack them in roll top dry bags and organise them inside your pack. Life will be so much easier and those pieces of kit will actually stay dry!
Leave the “changes of clothing” at home…. except your socks. You can have two pairs of those. One to wear, and one to wash and dry.
And remember that just because your bag holds x-litres, doesn’t mean you have to carry that many.
Use a thick trash compactor trash bag to keep all your gear dry. They’re thick so they won’t tear easy and are the perfect size for inside your pack.
Take extra packets of things like hot sauce, salt and pepper, soy sauce, etc. from restaurants to take backpacking to keep your trail meals interesting.
Pop everything into different compression bags or carrier bags of different colours. For example, clothes in one and food in another. That way when you need something you can just pull out the relevant bag. It also keeps everything more waterproof if you’re caught in a storm.
I used to over pack. Now I reassess what I carry and refine my gear for the specific outing. I’m a list maker and keep lists with my gear storage totes. Essential items (FA, survival, etc) are pre-packaged up in zip lock bags which lets me grab-n-go. In the field I prefer zip lock bags or mess ditty bags over the colored nylon bags. I like being able to see contents at a glance.
Fill all empty spaces. Ziploc baggies with small items (such as snacks or toiletries) fit into nooks such as in the cookpot… which will also protect them from being crushed. Focus on the things needed for 1. Life (eg food, water), 2. Safety (eg 10 essentials, warmth- shelter, rain gear), and then Enjoyment (eg camera, treats, toys).
Put your sleeping bag in your pack 1st. Leave it loose. The rest of your gear will compress the bag and it won’t leave any of the weird air spaces you have if you pack it tightly in a stuff sack. Your sleeping bag also won’t feel like a bowling ball pressed against your back for the rest of the day.
This was very helpful!
Pack your bag the in the order you would be taking everything out. I.E. Sleeping bag on the bottom and my shelter towards the top of my bag. This way when I set up camp, my shelter will be set-up first (if its raining this will help keep everything else dry). Any extra clothing/food is stashed in between. While my rain gear, first aid and food im eating for that day either stays at the top or on a extension pocket.
I pack in order of the rule of threes. First I put in everything I may need for shelter. That includes everything I may need to protect myself from the environment. These items get the highest priority, so they go in first. That usually takes up the bottom third of the pack. Then I cram in a few other essentials like my fire, first aid, and repairs kits. The next priority item is water, so I pack my filter and water bottles. Food is the lowest priority. so I pack my food, stove, and bear bag last.
I always tell people to put easily compressible items (sleeping bag, clothes) at the bottom. Then heavier stuff on top to press it down. Use stuff sacks to separate everything else and leave a final back on top with things you need to grab quickly. Such as a camera or rain jacket.
stove fuel or canisters outside the pack. line pack with trashbag for cheap water protection.
Although some things are nice to keep organized in a stuff sack, others are best kept loose so they can be compressed to fit the available space. It’s been noted several times that many put their sleeping bag in the bottom to fill the space. I also put my down puffy and rain shell loose in the top and stuff them into the open spaces.
Putting things in stuff sacks usually approximates a sphere or cylinder. Packing a bunch of spheres and cylinders together results in 20% to 45% void space. That’s why loose things are so important. Of course, you need to line the pack or do something to waterproof gear that shouldn’t get wet.
Leave your worries (about packing) at home
If you are a beginner backpacker, you are probably young, fit and strong, trying to taste the outdoors on a shoestring. So, just buy the cheaper, usually heavier things and let your muscles work. If you still like backpacking after 5 years (and doubled your income in the meantime), start replacing the heavy stuff (that you still take with you) with lighter, high-tech materials. You will then also appreaciate the investment much more.
Load and put on your pack at home for a trial run. Move items you need to access on the trail like cameras, water, binoculars to easy to access external pockets. Nothing worse than having to take a heavy pack off on the trail just to get a simple item. On hot days loop a bandana through your waistbelt or tie it around one hand to mop away sweat.
Do not bring anything that you don’t truly think you will NEED. Less is better. And pack and unpack at home several times to get familiar with where everything is.
Creativity is our best tool so only bring basic survival gear. Exterior attachment points are extremely useful for your large bulky gear. Always have a garbage ready and ziploc bags for food. Bear canisters suck organizing around them is tough.
1) Fuel bottles on the outside, depressurized
2) Line the pack with a trash compactor bag
I always bring a tube of vitamin tablets on multiday trips, to compensate for taking no fresh fruit and vegetables, which saves a lot of weight obviously. It’s also a nice, lightweight variation on drinking pure water all day long.
Instead of using the single stuffbag provided with my tent, I put the inner tent, the outer tent and the footprint in separate bags, which makes it easier to fit in the backback. The poles go on the outside of the pack.
Don’t over organize and keep things grouped by frequency of use, not by category. If you’re using leukotape at every stop, don’t keep it with your other first aid equipment. Keep it with your pocket knife and sunscreen.
Practice fully packing/unpacking the interior and securing items to the exterior of your backpack at home before heading out on the trails. Think of different things you may need quick access to while hiking. See how easy or hard it is to get at them. Imagine it is pouring rain or 0 degrees and you have to do it with gloves on. It’s better to setup your pack in the comfort of your own home instead of on the trail in adverse conditions.
Tightly fold clothing and squeeze air out of all items. pack foldable and squeezable items inside ones that do not.
If there is only a remote chance you’ll need an item and it is not used for safety or emergency, do not pack it. You will find that you don’t need all that much stuff on the trails, jus
Brightly coloured stuff sacks are your friend. The more, the merrier. You’ll find on the trail that your rain gear is easy to find in the red stuff sack, and that the garbage you inevitably accumulate fits nicely in that spare you brought along.
Make sure your sleeping bag is smaller than the bottom compartment in your pack. Stuff extra clothes around it.
Store the water bladder closer to your spine to level your load
The longer the trip, the fewer clothes you should take. Getting down to minimal clothing will free up more space than almost any other thing that you can do.
Pack your sleeping clothes (socks and long johns) inside your sleeping bag. That way you know that they will be clean and dry when you get into camp.
Don’t pack too many redundancies. Don’t take more clothes than you can wear, just bring a few extra layers that you can wear all at the same time. Organization is important, but don’t bother spending money on lightweight, expensive stuff sacks when you are first starting out. Just use some cheap zip lock bags for your hygiene bag, first aid kit, and other essentials. And on the note about first aid, put your own kit together, don’t buy one. Save the money and the space and only pack what is necessary for what you plan on encountering.
Rip out any existing built-in hydration pack and just stick to the trusty easy-to-fill Nalgene 500mL bottle in a harness. The hydration bags are hard to fill, get warm from your back, leak when under pressure and carry way more water weight than what you need. Nalgene bottles are multipurpose (tea, sleeping bag heaters, freezable, can make a lantern, etc)…
Separate gear into stuff sacks. Food, Clothing, kitchen, 1st aid, tent ,sleeping back etc. It is easy to load in pack and unload and find gear easy.
I pack things in the order they will be needed through out the day. Put extra clothing or any thing that can be compressed into ziplocks and press the air out. I put things that I use continually in external pockets or lashed to the outside.
Pack packing for beginners: The ABCs! A=accessibility B=balance C=compressed D=dry E=everything inside F=food above fuel (And as a bonus…S=style)
Evaluate. After every long hike, I try to keep a log of what I needed and what I didn’t. This helps me from overpacking for my next trip.
Use stuff dry stuff sackes for everything
Keep your toilet paper and trowel handy and not at the bottom of your pack…
Always bring a book. And just keep your map in your pants pocket so you don’t have to search for it whenever you need a quick check. It’s ok to fold maps not on their original fold lines.
Packing a backpack is like milk on cereal- a highly personal thing. There are a few general rule of thumbs:
1) don’t put more in it than it will hold
2) heavier stuff closer to your back
3) that said – keep things with hard edges or pokie parts away from your back
4) small loose things last longer in plastic bags
5) keep your rain gear close to the top
6) use a plastic bag as a liner for your pack
7) anything you don’t want wet needs to be in a plastic bag – maybe it own
8) keep things like water filter and snack foods near the top too
9) hoist up the pack – do a little walking – does it feel centered? If not start again
10) as your consumables go down – food, water, fuel – you will need to compensate; also wet tents are a bit of a surprise for the newbie
Heaviest gear near your back
Light gear away from back
Frequently used items on top or in outside/convenience pockets
Less used items on bottom.
Consider weight of all gear, see if there is any way to strip weight, make those changes as you go. Hopefully working your way down in weight, which will make your jokes more enjoyable.
Also used down insulation for sleeping bags and insulation if it is not humid or wet and also to cut weight, as well as toIf it is humid and wet, use synthetic to make sure you get maximum warmth from your gear.
Hikes* not jokes.
Take a couple of extra zip lock bags, you will need them for something – trash, leftovers, or wet clothes. A large trash bag can be used as a liner for your pack, an emergency shelter, a tablecloth, or a seat. Separate your food into zip lock bags by meals, then put them all together in your food bag. Count your calories, don’t overpack food.
Stuff sacks are NOT the same as compression sacks. All the comments about loose items filling voids are spot on, but when you can compress your cloths and sleeping bag to half their stuffed space it makes packing much easier.
Best way to learn how and what to pack is trial and error. Different packs, body frames, strengths, walking styles make it impossible for one way to work for everyone. Do a few overnighters and start tweaking.
I stash infrequently used but necessary items (first aid gear) in pockets of rain gear or extra coat I’m bringing. My sleeping bag also has small pocket I’ll stash things in. It might be a hassle to get to on trail but I know where it is and these are usually small just in case items.
If your phone has a camera don’t pack a camera also, just bring your phone. If you keep it in a front pocket it will be easy to grab when you need it, you probably won’t want to take your backpack off every time you want to take a picture. I also keep a ziploc bag of snacks (like beef jerky) in a front pocket so that I can eat while on the move. It’s important to keep your body well-fueled!
Use a pocket that attaches to a shoulder strap to carry small items you want to get at without taking of your pack-map, compass, GPS, glasses, energy bar. Don’t overload it, but you’ll figure out soon what works.
If you can spare the weight, pack your littles in large stuff sacks to maximize space use inside your pack.
Always pack your gear the same way. This will save you time packing, setting/breaking camp, and not loosing things.
Don’t over pack. It may be tough to know what you need, but if you end up over packing it’s going to get too heavy.
Overall, you want to pack heavier items close to the small of your back and then work your way out with lighter items. Of course this is an overall guide and you want to pack items you use a lot where you can get to them easily. I use small colored dry sacks to group similar use smaller items such as toiletries, first aid bag, food prep, and so on. For hikes over 2 days, a large bag for stinky used clothing really helps.
About a week before I go on a trip or hike, I like to set out items and go over in my head the events of each day and identify what I will need or not need.
Lastly I would recommend switching to tea when you can as coffee is a diuretic. Useful if you drink as much coffee as I normal do :)
I find it very helpful to organize my backpacking stuff in my pack by use. For example, I put all of my cooking supplies together in a small dry sack, I put all my clothes together in a small dry sack, etc. This allows easy access to all my things and water proofs my pack at the same time.
Make sure your first aid kit is packed in an outside pocket or in the top of the main compartment. This will prevent having to dig deep into your pack while blood is dripping from a scalp wound (don’t ask me how I know this).
Um, how do you know this? ;)
If you have any extra room in your pack then tuck in a few extra plastic garbage bags. Either large or small ones will work.
Keep stuff sacks (or, in my case, ziploc bags) pre-packed so you can just grab them and go. This is particularly handy for hefty day hikes, when the opportunity presents itself at the last minute.
Make sure you put the heaviest items in your pack against your back! Also, if you go on a few hikes and find you don’t use a piece of gear, think about leaving it home!
If hiking with a friend, collaborate on what you are bringing so that you don’t duplicate important items. Make sure you are wearing your pack correctly – the hipbelt should rest on your hipbones. Tighten your shoulder straps so the pack fits closely to your back – you don’t want your shoulders carrying the weight.
Pack your sleeping bag at the bottom of the pack, medium weight items on top of the sleeping bag, heavy items close to your spine, lighter items on the top and at the perimeters.
Take things out of their original packing! Do the same for prepackaged food.
Share the load if travelling with a partner, take a water purifier to reduce the amount of water needed to be carried in you pack.
Bring a smaller pack. This will force you to choose only the things you really need.
1. Pack from a list, don’t just grab stuff because it “might” be handy.
(Form your intentions about items prior to seeing the available space in your pack.)
2. Others have covered organization (weight distribution, access) well.
3. I would add extra pockets as necessary for the “office” (map/compass/GPS) and camera/snacks.
4. Also, make sure water is accessible without having to take off your pack. I have been on trips where others have not been able to reach their own water, and it really slows the trip down.
A “luxery” item or two, such as a book, journal, ipod/headphones, small binoculars, or flask filled w/espresso might very well increase your enjoyment of your trip during downtime, and help you better enjoy the nature around you. If prepared correctly, espresso can last several days in a flask, and all it takes is a bit of hot water added and you have an excellent Americano in the backcountry. You just have to make sure to prevent any grounds from passing through into the espresso during the brewing process over time (I use an Aeropress with two filters to make my backcountry espresso).
I have packed through many terrains, Use you head don’t take toys like video games, books unless being used for survival and anything not needed on the trails. You are here for nature. Use zip lock bags, you can get them in most sizes that will fit your needs. They are fast and dry all you have to do is put your clothes in lay it flat and roll tight to get air out and zip. Second don’t put your sleeping bag and tent in your sack, get them in waterproof bags and strap them on the outside. Remember shelter and fire first if you are on a long trip.
When I first started I simply dumped everything in a large rucksack. Could never find anything when I needed it. Then I went super organized and had stuff sacks and ditty bags for everything. Now I am somewhere in the middle. I try to plan ahead and have the stuff I need during the day in exterior pockets and the rest placed in the pack so that what I’ll need first at the end of the day is on top.
1. Try to fit all of your food it a gallon size Ziploc bag. Use a few of them to organize snacks. Then they can be used as trash bags to pack things out.
2. Get a few caribiners to clip to your bag. Use them to clip hold your hat when you’re not using it or other items.