How Do I Pack A Hiking Backpack For A Comfortable Trip?

So you're planning a backpacking trip. You're going to spend a weekend – or a week – carrying everything you'll need for survival and entertainment.

Consider all of the things you'll be leaving behind - coworker demands, continuous text messages, and annoying things like "adulting" and "responsibility" can all fall by the wayside for a while.

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what are two types of backpacks used for hiking

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On the other hand, consider what you'll be bringing with you. A sleeping bag, a mat or air mattress, a tent, water, a water filter or purifying tablets, cooking utensils, food, a first aid kit, and a few changes of clothes are all required. And that's before you bring anything entertaining, such as a camera, binoculars, or a deck of cards.

So, how do you transport everything from your car to your campsite?

How? With a backpack. So keep reading because we're about to show you how to pack a hiking backpack.

how do i pack a hiking backpack for a more comfortable trip

Selecting the Best Backpack

You'll need a backpack before you start loading up. In general, there are two types of backpacks used for hiking: internal frame backpacks and exterior frame backpacks.

Internal frame backpacks contain a thickly padded structure that is encased in the shell material. Because there are no protruding frame elements to scrape into your skin, these backpacks are often more comfortable than external frame backpacks.

They usually have a higher capacity as well. They are, however, more expensive and can be more difficult to pack. 

External frame backpacks have a huge steel or aluminum frame that rests on your back with the backpack shell dangling from it. Because the frame often extends past the shell offering a convenient place for tying down your bag, these backpacks can be easier to pack.

However, they often have less capacity than internal frame packs, and many types are difficult to carry. 

Pack the Bulkiest Items First

Whether you're studying how to pack a hiking backpack or how to load a moving truck, one basic packing guideline holds true and that's to pack the heaviest items first.

Set aside your sleeping bag and if you have a roll-up mat, set it aside as well. They are large, however, they will not fit inside your backpack. We'll take care of them in a moment.

Consider what you might need to access in an emergency. This category includes items such as your first-aid kit, flashlight, knife, and water bottle. Put those in a separate pile.

What you're left with is a jumble of items that you won't need right now. Place heavy, dense goods in the bottom of your pack, such as your tent, air mattress, and campfire fuel.

Mid-weight, long-lasting things such as your camp stove, clothes, freeze-dried food, rope, and other supplies can be included next.

Place your first aid kit on top, along with your water bottle, knife, and other emergency supplies. Alternatively, if your bag includes additional compartments, these are great for storing emergency supplies. Most backpacks contain a pouch or pocket for a water bottle, and many have one or two pockets for a first aid kit.

In any case, you have a backpack with the largest, heaviest items on the bottom and your emergency gear close at hand when you need it.

You won't have to rummage through your luggage for antibiotic ointment and bandages while your buddy is bleeding.

Bringing It All Together

How you go here will be determined by the design of your backpack and the type of sleeping gear you use. First, let's look at how to transport your sleeping bag.

Your sleeping bag is a small, weighty piece of equipment when correctly wrapped up. You'll want that big lump of cloth on the bottom to make your bag as easy to carry as possible.

Use bungees or rope to secure your backpack to the bottom of an external frame pack. If you've knotted it properly, it should be firmly anchored in the gap between the bottom of the backpack shell and the bottom of the frame.

You'll need to find D-rings or other suitable connect points on an internal frame pack to tie your sleeping bag in place.

Make sure your sleeping bag is protected with a waterproof cover, regardless of the type of backpack you choose. Even the warmest bag won't keep you warm if it's damp.

Finally, if you have a sleeping pad, strap it to the top of your backpack. It's light, so it won't be an issue up there. If you have an exterior frame pack, tie it to the frame. If you have an interior frame pack, strap it down under the backpack cover.

And there you have it. You're all set to tackle the trail!


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