A well-packed backpack can contain surprisingly many items of mountain gear. On the contrary, wrong way of packaging causes excessive load on the backbone and shoulders. It leads to fast fatigue and inability to find the relevant stuff inside the bag. That’s why the skill of packing your backpack effectively is vital for every mountain lover.
Learn the Art of Packing
No matter whether you are a beginner or experienced mountaineer, it is never late to learn the basic principles of collecting hiking stuff in your backpack. Even though packing is an individual matter, everyone worth to know the fundamental principles of packing up the gear.
Do Packing in Advance
Packing should not be a last-minute activity. Otherwise, there is a high probability of forgetting something very important.
Prepare a packing list for the next hiking adventure at least one week in advance. Stick it in the corner, where you are going to collect the equipment. Afterwards, line through the stuff one by one that you can already see in the corner.
Gradually during these days, you will understand what you really need, what you can leave at home, and what is still missing so that you must buy.
Slow packing is the key to minimize the chances of forgetting many essentials, and glancing at a bunch of gear raises the mood. Later on, with lots of experience, packing will take less time, but do not give up the opportunity to use the packing list!
Consider the Capacity of Your Backpack
Before packing all your stuff, be sure that the capacity of your backpack allows you to include everything. Thus, do not hike with a too small backpack. However, massive bags are not convenient for occasional hikers either.
To choose the right backpack, you need a consultation of experienced hikers. However, the size of about 50 liters is considered suitable in most cases.
To understand that your backpack is adequately sized for hiking write down your personalized packing list, which is the most suitable for your type of adventure
Do not plan to hang the equipment outside the backpack but better think how to pack everything compactly. Try to place everything inside the bag so that it will not cling to branches and other obstacles on the route that sufficiently interfere the movement.
Keep in mind that there is no one absolutely right way of packing. Lay out all the stuff on the carpet of your room before hiking, and try different variants to place everything as compact as possible according to the other tips, which you will find through the article.
After each hiking trip make notes whether your ideas worked out or not. Think about how you could improve your packing as well as the other principles of the organization process during the next outdoor activity.
How to Adjust a Backpack?
Your backpack is packed perfect if it is balanced on your shoulders when you stay or walk with it. The bag has to keep its position when you run or overcome obstacles wearing it behind.
In case if your backpack is not balanced, adjust it to the size of your spine. Tighten compression straps on both sides to avoid shifting from left to right while you are moving. Even a perfectly packed backpack can become a burden in short time if it is not adjusted to your size and height.
Always wear your backpack slowly and without jerks. Take care of your shoulder straps, as well as the seams of your pack from breaking!
Place Your Sleeping Mat
Packing of the sleeping mat depends on the whole set of your equipment as well as many other conditions. Let’s figure out the cases when it is better to carry the sleeping mat inside and outside.
The sleeping mat should be inside if you:
- have enough space in your backpack
If you have a twisting sleeping mat made of foam, it is highly recommended to insert it into the bag first of all. Roll the sleeping mat with a tube and spread on the edge of the backpack.
If you still decide to attach the carpet outside, be ready that it may be scratched or even get holes in a short time. Be especially careful when walking through the forest because your mat can be damaged by sharp needles of the fir trees.
Also, do not stay near precipices, since the mat attached outside increases your total dimensions. So, it might cause an accident if your rug is waving, and the direction of the wind changes.
- have a frameless backpack
Frameless backpacks allow to save on weight, but it is critical to give a shape to your belonging. In that case, a foam sleeping mat inside your bag can serve as its carcass not allowing your equipment to mix up.
Apparently, it is better to avoid walking in the rain, but sometimes you do not have a choice. Keep in mind that even the most durable raincoats can pass some water. Therefore, you sleeping mat inside can serve as additional protection to keep your belonging dry.
This case is pretty obvious, but still, it is not reasonable to carry inflated mats outside the backpack.
Nevertheless, a lot of tourists fasten their foam-made sleeping mats outside the backpacks with straps or ropes. Is it more convenient for them? Here are the most common reasons.
The sleeping mat should be outside, if:
There is one indisputable advantage of fastening the sleeping bag outside the backpack - you can sit on it and relax whenever you want. It can be practical when you have something more or less fragile in your backpack and do not want to sit on it.
The growing number of people nowadays follow the idea of minimalism, and hikers are not an exception. Apparently, you have to carry your sleeping mat outside If your backpack is too small. This way of packing is really convenient for picnics and weekend trips, but it is up to you to decide whether to apply this idea to more extended hiking or change the backpack.
As you can see, there are more reasons to carry sleeping mats inside the backpack. However, if you are one of those who prefers the second option, then you must have a durable but lightweight cover for the mat.
The Zones of a Backpack
Packing zones are not the same for every mountain bag, but they are must-have for quality backpacks. Let’s figure out five typical zones every backpack has, and decide where to put each item in your packing gear.
- Top Space - for cumbersome items you may need often.
- Core Space - for heavy equipment and food.
- Bottom Space - for volume but not so heavyweight stuff that you will not need in the daytime.
- Additional Space & Pockets - for small items, which you might need urgently or often.
- Space for Tools and Straps - for shapeless or oversized stuff.
The Peculiarity of the Bottom Area
The bottom area is perfect for storage oversized and soft items, such as sleeping bags, small sleeping pads. Also, it is practical to fill the space with warm clothes, underwear that you use for sleeping or shoes that you wear only in the evening. Keep in mind, that it is not convenient to take items from the bottom zone. Thus, never put to that zone things that you might need urgently in the daytime.
How to Pack a Sleeping Bag?
When you go hiking in the surrounding of your city, you can see many newbie tourists with sleeping bags outside fastened with straps. Do not make this mistake, since your sleeping mat will absorb plenty of water in case of unexpected rain or even fog. So, if it better to find some spare space for your sleeping bag inside and sleep dry and comfy at night.
Where to put your sleeping bag inside the backpack? If you go for a hike in winter, sleeping bag, the sleeping is possibly the largest thing you carry inside. So, its exact location really matters.
Placing the sleeping bag at the bottom of your backpack has several essential reasons. Firstly, most likely we do not need our sleeping bags in the daytime, so that keeps them in the safe place until the evening. Secondly, if the compression bag for your backpack is not tight enough, the rest of your belonging can push on the sleeping bag from above squeezing its size sufficiently. And finally, the sleeping back in the bottom zone can absorb shock, when throwing a backpack on the ground.
Use Separated Bags For Your Gear
With individual bags for the equipment you can quickly find the necessary equipment, and avoid a mess in the backpack. Use a compression bag for clothes, and store different types of the clothes separately in small bags.
Zip-locks are good because they can be squeezed together with things, and do not take much space. It’s a good idea to put a spare set of thermal underwear in a separate zip-lock, and socks - to the other one.
Storage sacks for mountain equipment are produced in different colors and sizes. When it comes to material, Cordura or mesh material are considered the most suitable ones, as they are durable enough and lightweight. They allow to distribute all your mountain equipment and not waste time searching for it when needed.
Do not take rustling plastic bags that annoy your fellow travelers with an eternal rustle, especially when you need to find something early in the morning.
Distribute Food For Every Day
Distributing meals by days before the hiking trip is very convenient. If you put pasta and other food in one package, then you have to measure the right amount of the food for every meal. It is pretty annoying when you are tired, isn’t it?
When the food is separated for every day, you can put all the food packages to one space or distribute between everybody in the group. Preferably place food in the core zone of your backpack. Get one package each day and move it to the top or anywhere else to have easy access to it during the day.
Collecting Stuff in the Upper Pocket
Most backpacks have a large and convenient pocket in the top zone of the backpack, which is excellent for storing small things that you might need in a short time during the daytime.
A windproof coat, a rain poncho, a cap, and toilet paper definitely should be placed in the top pocket.
Protect Your Belonging From Getting Wet
Sometimes rain can unexpectedly happen even if it is not mentioned in the weather forecast. So, it is important to keep all your stuff in a dry and safe place, which your backpack is. However, any bags can’t protect things from an intense rain. That’s why your equipment needs additional protection.
Depending on the weather and climate, think about the rain cover to protect from the rain. It can be a classic cover for your backpack or even a poncho to avoid drops leaking between your rucksack and spine.
Moreover, it is essential to store your sleeping bag, clothes as well as the other valuables, such as electronics and documents in waterproof bags. Some of them come with transparent windows that allow searching for the necessary thing easily and fast.
Don’t Hide Your Camera
If you think that any time you can stop and take your camera for taking amazing shots, you might lose many fantastic photos. Carry the camera at hand. A small camera can be ideally placed in the pocket, while a bigger one requires a triangular case fastened in front of the shoulder straps.
As you can see, a properly packed backpack reduces the load on the shoulders and transfers it to the hips, reducing the perceived weight and eliminating unnecessary fatigue when hiking. At the same time, you have the freedom to be ready for a quick unpacking the necessary things during the daytime. Happy hiking!