Backpacking Tips: How to Pack a Backpack

You've got a backpacking trip planned for this summer and you've been carefully picking out the right sized backpack, a warm enough sleeping bag and a lightweight tent. Before you head out on your backpacking trip be sure you know how to pack a backpack for the most comfortable fit and logical placement of your necessary items. Keep reading to learn the best way to pack a backpack.

The items you bring on a backpacking trip will vary with the number of days you'll be on the trail and the weather you're likely to encounter. You'll probably be carrying a tent, sleeping bag, clothes and extra food. The way you pack a backpack is more important than you probably think. A properly packed backpack will distribute the weight evenly, keep the load in the middle of your back and keep those important items easily accessible.

How to Pack a Backpack

First of all, you want to start out packing by taking into account which items you'll need access to and which items you won't need until you're setting up camp. Here are some items you'll probably want to keep within reach:

  • Water

  • A light snack like granola bars or trail mix

  • A headlamp in case it gets dark before you get to camp

  • A knife or multi-use tool

  • A map and compass or GPS unit

  • Sunscreen, insect repellant or bear spray

  • A waterproof rain jacket, a hat or gloves

  • Water purification system

The above items are things that are pretty small and can be placed in the hood of the backpack or in the external pockets for easy access.

How to pack a backpack

Next, you'll want to place the larger heavier and bulky items in the bottom of your backpack. Most people like to keep the sleeping bag at the bottom of the backpack. A sleeping bag generally takes up a lot of space and is something you won't need until you've set up your campsite. After the sleeping bag, I'd suggest packing your tent, cook stove, bag of food and extra clothes, in that order. Keep in mind you want the majority of the weight to be in the middle of the pack and close to your back. If the weight is really high or too far from your back the backpack will pull away from your body and feel heavier.

Finally, make use of the external straps to carry even more gear. You can attach your sleeping pad or tent poles to the outside of the backpack to leave more room inside the pack for other items. Ice axes, unused trekking poles and water bottles are great things to hang on the outside of a backpack or to put in the external pockets.

I hope you found these backpacking tips helpful. Now that you know how to pack a backpack, check out our other helpful backpacking tip blog posts and videos. Other blogs include How to Adjust a Backpack, How to Measure Your Torso Length and Tips for Using Trekking Poles. If you are looking for information on buying a new backpack, check out the Sierra Trading Post Backpack Guide.
Andy Hawbaker
posted by
Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
Join the Conversation