How to pack your backpack for hiking

How to Pack Your Backpack for Hiking: 6 Expert Tips

By the end of this article, you will be an expert on packing your backpack for hiking!

Hiking is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. But before you hit the trail, you must ensure you have the right gear for a safe and enjoyable trip. That includes an adequately packed backpack.

And while there are different ways to pack a backpack, you should always include certain items. This article will guide you on properly packing your backpack for hiking!

How Should You Pack Your Backpack for Hiking?

Weight distribution is critical when packing a backpack. You can divide the bag into different zones to help you organize your gear. You want easy access to any items you need while actively hiking. For balanced gravity, place the heaviest items close to your mid-back.

how to pack a hiking backpack
packing a hiking backpack

Let’s look at the different ways to pack your backpack according to zones for maintaining stability.

NB: Ensure that your backpack’s compression straps are loose before packing.

The bottom zone

The best place for bulky midweight items in your pack is at the bottom. Start with your sleeping bag, which sits inside your pack for the rest of your gear. Most campers prefer carrying their sleeping bags in waterproof stuff sacks, but some cram loose sleeping bags in the bottom zone to fill the space. 

You can tuck that next to your sleeping bag, depending on the size of your sleeping pad. To fill in any gaps, use your camp clothing and a pillow (if you have one).

Some backpacks have a designated sleeping bag compartment at the bottom with a detachable sling and zipper access to hold gear above. Avoid using the sling if you need more space.

The middle zone

You should place all your heaviest items in the middle back of your pack, as the area is near the center of your back. This will be the center of gravity for your pack, helping to prevent it from swinging around and throwing you off balance while you walk. 

The tent body (and poles, if applicable), cookware, stove, fuel, and any food you won’t need until camp should all be placed here.

Make sure you utilize every inch of space, including the interior of your cookware. You can accommodate a fuel canister and even a small stove inside a larger pot.

Water is one of the heaviest necessities, so you can pack a hydration reservoir on your middle back.

NB: Fill your hydration reservoir and pack it before your other gear; this will be hard once your pack is full. 

The front zone

The front of your backpack should carry your lightest gear because it is the area that is the furthest from your body. 

Small toiletries and lightweight clothing can all be used to fill extra space around heavy objects against your back. Additionally, clothing can provide insulation for complex objects or potentially unstable gear.

The top zone

The lid and the interior top of the main pack are both on the top of your backpack. Everything in this area should be light to prevent your pack from being heavy on top. 

Place items that you need quick access to, such as first aid supplies,  snacks, a compass, sunscreen, and a rain jacket, to avoid unpacking all items all the time.

Additional packing zones

Hip belt pockets

Hip belt pockets help carry small items that you need quick access to. They include lip balm, tissues, trail mix, and your phone.

Side pockets

Your bag may have more side pockets, and you can usually reach items placed here without taking off your pack. You can use them to carry water bottles or tent poles. Remember to secure the top of the poles with some compression straps on the bag.

Front pouch

Most backpacks have a front pouch that stretches and expands to hold small, quick-access necessities. Some items you can store here include a bandana, a water filter (if small), a rain cover, a bathroom kit (small rowel, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. 

Loops and cinch cords

To manage extra gear, some packs have loops and elastic cords. While some are there for you to use creatively, others hold items like trekking poles when they are not in use.

Consider the following factors when deciding how to pack your hiking backpack;

How Much Should Your Hiking Backpack Weigh?

When it comes to hiking, one of the most important factors to consider is the weight of your backpack. A heavy backpack can make for a very strenuous hike, whereas a light backpack will be much easier to carry.

how to pack your hiking backpack
hiking essentials

There are a few factors to consider when deciding how much your backpack should weigh. First, think about the difficulty of the hike you’re planning. A longer or more difficult hike will require more supplies, so your backpack will be heavier. 

Additionally, consider the weather conditions you’ll be hiking in. If you’re hiking in hot weather, you’ll need to carry more water, adding weight to your backpack.

Once you’ve considered all of these factors, you can start to estimate how much your backpack should weigh. A good rule of thumb is that your backpack weighs less than 10% of your body weight. 

So, for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your backpack should weigh no more than 15 pounds. This rule will help you ensure that your backpack is not too heavy and will help you enjoy your hike.

Related: How to Attach Trekking Poles to Your Backpack in 5 Simple Ways

Backpack Weight Distribution

When distributing the weight in your backpack while hiking, consider the type of terrain you’ll be hiking on. You can distribute the weight evenly if you’re hiking on flat ground. 

how to pack a backpack for hiking
a packed hiking bag

However, if you’re hiking on uneven or steep terrain, you’ll want to adjust the weight distribution so that most of it is in the front of your pack. This will help you maintain balance and prevent you from tipping over.

Some long and heavy items, such as trekking poles, tent poles, rope, and camp stools, can be fastened to a backpack because they are too large to fit inside.

Another thing to consider is the type of hike you’re doing. If you’re hiking for a long time, you’ll want to distribute the weight evenly throughout your pack. 

This will help you avoid fatigue and injuries. However, suppose you’re only hiking for a short period. In that case, you can put more weight on the front or back of your pack without worrying about fatigue or injury.

Finally, consider your personal preferences when distributing the weight in your backpack. Some people prefer to have most of the weight in the front, while others prefer to have it more evenly distributed. 

Experiment until you find what works best for your backpacking trip.

Backpacking for Hiking Tips

If you’re planning on going hiking, there are a few things you’ll need to know before hitting the trail. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Make Sure Your Backpack is the Right Size for You

How you pack for your trip will be determined by the bag you choose. How far is your journey? How much water and food are you planning to bring? What kind of clothing do you require? 

The ideal size for a backpack should give you security, comfort, and stability.

Choose a bag that is appropriate for your body type and neither too large nor too small.

A properly-fitting backpack ensures that carrying it around all day won’t put undue strain on your back or shoulders; this not only helps prevent injuries but also boosts productivity!

Pack Light

When packing for a hike, it’s important to pack light. You should only bring the essentials and leave anything extra behind. This can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to hiking and need clarification on what you need.

How to pack your backpack for hiking
packing a hiking backpack

Here are a few tips to help you pack light for your next hike:

  • Only bring the essentials. This means items like food, water, shelter, and clothing. Anything else can be left behind.
  • Choose versatile items that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a bandana can be used as a washcloth, a headband, or sun protection.
  • Evaluate the weight of each item. Sometimes, it’s worth it to pack a heavier item if it will make your hike more comfortable.
  • Spread the weight evenly. This will help you avoid getting tired too quickly.
  • Invest in quality gear. High-quality gear tends to be lighter-weight and more durable.

Waterproof Your Backpack

Backpacking is a great way to explore the outdoors. When you’re hiking, the last thing you want to worry about is your backpack getting wet. A waterproof backpack is essential to keeping your belongings dry. 

How to pack your backpack for hiking
waterproof hiking backpack

There are a few different ways to waterproof your backpack, and the best method will depend on the materials your backpack is made from.

If your backpack is made from waterproof materials, you can treat it with a waterproofing spray or sealant. This will provide additional protection against water and help keep your belongings dry.

Suppose your backpack is made from non-waterproof materials. In that case, you’ll need to line it with a waterproof material before you treat it with a waterproofing spray or sealant. 

Also Read: How To Waterproof A Backpack for Hiking (The Complete Guide)

Buy a Backpack That Fits Your Frame.

One of the most important things to consider when planning a hike is what hiking backpack to buy. And it’s not just about finding a backpack that’s the right size – it’s also essential to find one that fits your frame.

When shopping for a hiking backpack, ensure it is the right size for your height and weight. If it’s too big or too small, it won’t be comfortable to wear, and you won’t be able to carry all your gear. 

Then, make sure the backpack fits your frame. If you have a small frame, you’ll need a smaller backpack, so it doesn’t overwhelm you. And if you have a larger frame, you’ll need a bigger backpack to carry all your gear.

Keep Everything Tightly Packed.

One of the most important aspects of packing for a hike is to keep everything tightly packed in your backpack. This will help distribute the weight evenly and prevent items from shifting around and becoming unbalanced. 

packing a backpack for hiking
packed gear

It’s also important to ensure that all your gear is easily accessible in case you need to get to it quickly.

One way to keep everything tight and secure is to use compression straps. These unique bags have tags or cinch cords that you can pull to tighten the bag and reduce the amount of space it takes up. 

You can also use packing cubes to help keep things organized and easy to find. Lastly, use the straps on your backpack to secure any loose items. 

By following these tips, you’ll be sure to have a well-packed backpack that will make your hike more enjoyable.

Bring A Map and a Compass

You’ve packed your bag, you have your essentials list, and you’re ready for your hiking trip. But before you head out into the wilderness, there’s one more thing you should add to your list: a map and compass.

how to pack your hiking backpack
map and compass

A map and compass are essential for any hike, even if you’re going for a short day hike. A map will help you navigate and find the trails, while a compass can be a lifesaver if you get lost.

Here are some tips on how to use a map and compass:

  • Familiarize yourself with the symbols on the map. This will help you orient yourself and figure out where you are.
  • Find a landmark that you can see from the trail. This will help you orient the map.
  • Using the compass, align the needle with the landmark. This will help you figure out which direction you need to go in.
  • Finally, follow the direction indicated by the compass needle until you reach your destination.

Related: How to Attach a Sleeping Bag To a Backpack Properly

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is essential to pack your backpack correctly for hiking. You should pack items such as maps, a compass, first-aid supplies, and food at the top of your pack for easy access.

You should also distribute the weight of your backpack evenly. By following these tips, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.

Hopefully, these simple tips will help you make the most of your backpack’s space so that you only bring along what you require for your hike.

If you have any additional tips on packing your backpack for hiking, leave us a comment below!

What do hikers carry in their backpacks?

Hikers typically carry a variety of items in their backpacks, including but not limited to: a map and compass, a flashlight, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a rain jacket, a sleeping bag, a fire starter, a pocket knife, matches, water, and food.

Is it better to roll or fold clothes in a backpack?

Roll your clothes to secure more storage space in your backpack. This will help you fit more clothes in your bag and reduce creases.

Should you bring toilet paper on a hike?

When hiking, it is essential to carry toilet paper or tissue and a Ziploc plastic bag. After use, place the tissue in the bag and dump it in your toilet when you get home.

Should I bring my phone on a hike?

Yes, you should bring your phone on a hike! It can be an excellent resource for navigation, taking pictures, and staying in touch with friends and family.

Can hiking burn belly fat?

Hiking can help to burn belly fat by increasing your overall calorie burn. To maximize fat burning while hiking, focus on increasing your heart rate by walking at a brisk pace or by walking uphill. Interval training, such as alternating periods of walking quickly followed by periods more slowly, can also help burn fat.

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