How to pack efficiently into a hiking backpack?
Whether we're talking about a half-day hike, a full-day hike, a weekend trip, or a multi-week trek, a hiking backpack is the alpha and omega of the gear that many things depend on. A backpack made of sufficiently strong materials, but which is also not too heavy and has a good quality back system, is a good basis for one to really get the most out of their adventure.
But while hikers usually care about quality when choosing a hiking backpack and consider it a piece of gear worth investing in, many of the benefits of a good backpack are lost if the hiker can't pack properly.
And that can make a huge difference even a well-versus poorly packed backpack. Not only in terms of ease of access and good organization but also in terms of how heavy the backpack seems and how much we get tired of carrying it.
The most important thing is to naturally only take what is really necessary and to investigate lower-weight alternatives where possible. It is also important to adjust the backpack straps correctly, as a good adjustment can do wonders for comfort. But let's stay on topic - what about the stuff I take on a hike? How to pack them efficiently to get the most out of my pack?
The outside of the pack
It's a good idea to put as little as possible on the outside of your pack, for several reasons. Attaching larger and heavier gear like tents, sleeping mats or sleeping bags to the outside of the pack is natural, but if there's enough room in the pack to shove some of it inside, do it.
For one thing, this gear will be honestly protected on the outside and the risk of some components falling off along the way will be eliminated, but this approach is also a matter of safety. Especially in high mountains, and rocky environments, a tent or sleeping bag strapped to the outside can get caught on a rock and cause unpleasant and dangerous problems. Plus, the more contents that are in the pack itself, the more the weight is concentrated in the center, and the less you'll feel the possible rearward or sideways tipping.
Of course, it's possible that the space of the backpack won't allow you to stash everything you need in the main compartment. The outside of the pack is therefore particularly suitable for hiking poles and typical mountaineering equipment, and if necessary, then of course also for a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat.
The upper part of the backpack
The top part of the pack is ideal for lightweight gear and small items that you need quick access to when needed. This can be a waterproof layer, headlamp, first aid kit, rubbish bag, or toilet paper. Mountaineers also tend to clip a rope to the top of the pack on the outside just for quick access.
The middle part of the backpack
The middle section of the pack is good for gear that you'll need during the day, but not as often and not immediately. For example, this can be cooking gear and related cooking equipment, food and extra layers of clothing, if needed. Generally, the heavier the gear, the closer it should be placed to your back.
Bottom of the pack
The lower part of the pack is best suited for heavy and bulky items that you will need to take out no more than once a day. It's the aforementioned gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, or sleeping mat that you naturally don't need quick access to, so putting them on the outside of the pack is more of an emergency solution than the ideal way to go. You can also keep a second pair of shoes or slippers in the bottom section, for example, as well as toiletries for the night before you go to bed. Avoid placing fragile items (cookers) and soft items (food) here, which could be damaged or melt when the pack is placed on the ground.
Other small pockets
Each of our backpacks, or any good hiking backpack, contains a number of handy pockets that help with organization and allow quick access to essentials. Make the most of them!
The top of the pack usually contains one pocket on the outside for quick access and one protected pocket on the inside. This compartment is great for more fragile items, as it doesn't take the pressure of the rest of the pack's contents.
The inside pocket is great for things you may need access to, but it's also important to keep them safe from the elements - wallet, documents, receipts, money, and first aid. The outer pocket offers quick access to small items and accessories like a hat, gloves, or sunglasses.
Straps around the shoulders or waist also offer additional pockets for super-fast access. This is where you can stow things like your phone or camera if it's compact enough, small food items like granola bars or nuts, or sunscreen. The side pockets are usually adapted for water bottles, but in theory, you could stick the aforementioned slippers in here.