Essential Skills: How to Pack a Backpack

Dec 13, 2023 | Dom Pautler

A backpacking trip on your own might sound intimidating. If you remember the six Ps (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance) and take a little extra time to thoroughly prepare, you’ll be off on your adventure in no time.

Let’s start with Dave’s packing list! 

  2. Clothing: (As little as possible)
    • 2 full sets of active apparel (1 to wear and 1 as extra)
    • Rain gear and warm gear
    • Hat for sun or cold
    • Hiking shoes and maybe campsite footwear
    • Bandana
  3. Sleeping:
    • Ground pad
    • Ground sheet
    • Sleeping bag
    • Shelter and stakes
  4. Eating:
    • 2 full water bottles
    • Water Filter
    • Utensils
    • Cups/bowl/plate
    • Stove and lighter
    • Food (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks)
  5. Personal:
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • hairbrush
  6. Other:
    • Map and compass
    • Flashlight
    • Cord
    • Pocketknife
    • Bug repellent
    • Sunscreen
  7. Optional:
    • Camera, book, journal, pen

If you followed the packing list above and gathered season appropriate clothing, you’ll be well prepared for your trip. Keep in mind that everything you bring will be carried on your back, so bring what you need to be comfortable, but try not to overpack or pack too many unnecessary items. Don’t forget to water proof! Waterproofing is easily done by using small trash bags to put your clothes, sleeping bag, and other things you want to keep dry in, and compressing them tightly by getting all of the air out. Once all of the air is out, twist the top of the bag or tie the bag with a slip knot. Twisting or using a slip knot allows you to easily get your things out and reuse the bag. If done correctly, you can brave a rainstorm or stomp through a creek, and still have a backpack full of warm, dry gear when you set up camp. Bringing a few extra ziplocks for things like lighters, cell phones or valuables is always helpful too. HERE is a great video that gives a visual on how to waterproof your sleeping bag.

The final step is putting all the gear into your backpack. Packing your bag will largely determine comfort while hiking. If you remember your ABCs, then you’ll be well on your way to an organized and comfortable pack. A is for accessibility. Think about things that you need during the hike. What if it rains? You’ll want to keep items that might be needed quickly like a rain jacket, headlamp, map, some snacks or other necessities near the top of your pack (known as the brain). Things you might only use at a campsite like a sleeping bag or tarp don’t need be as accessible. B stands for balance. Generally your sleeping bag, tarp and extra clothes, which won’t be needed until you reach the campsite, can go in the bottom of your backpack. This gives the part of bag that sits on your hips a bit of cushion and keeps medium to light weight items near the bottom. Next, you’ll place cooking equipment and food about half way up your bag. You’ll want the heaviest items to be closest to your back so that the weight isn’t pulling you backwards and is easiest to hike with. Lastly you’ll have day items and lighter gear on the very top (remember accessibility). Use some of these stray items to fill in gaps in your bag and make sure your heavier items are staying where you want. Finally we have C. C is for compression. Compressing all of the items in your pack is important for several reasons. First, there is limited space in a backpack. Compression maximizes your usable space. Second, by compressing all your gear, you’ll make sure that nothing is moving around as you hike which will ensure the most comfort in your trek.

If you follow Dave’s packing list and remember your ABCs of packing then you’ll be sure to have a great backpacking trip. Go welcome adventure, have fun and be safe!