Our Guide To Packing A Backpack For A Camping Trip And Hike

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A backpack is an efficient way of carrying around camping gear. However, packing for a trip requires a lot of effort. For one, there isn’t a single way of putting together the gear you need for a trip. You might try different routines until you find one that you like best. Here are tips that can help you pack for a trip as efficiently as possible.

General Rule: Pack From Bottom Up

When filling a backpack, do not throw items in haphazardly. Think that you are laying down rows of wood. Fill the entire bottom out until you have a stable base, and balance the pack’s weight on either side. Tighten the compression straps so the load does not shift around when you hike. 

Put Bulky Items At The Bottom

When building your pack’s base, use bulky items that you won’t need before making your camp. Things like sleeping clothes, camp shoes, down booties, your sleeping bag, and your sleeping pad are the perfect bottom-of-pack items. Since they are soft, densely packing them together can create a layer for shock absorption.

Put Heavy, Solid Gear In The Middle

Containers of entire meals, cook kits, stoves, water reservoirs, bear canisters, and other items you won’t need while walking should go in the middle. When you pack heavy items, you should aim to create a stable center of gravity. Having the heaviest items in the middle allows you to keep a balanced pack. If you have the heavy camping gear too low, it will cause the bottom to sag. If it is too high, it will feel tippy.

Also, when carrying liquid fuel, ensure that the bottle cap is tight. Pack it upright and separate it from your food. You can use soft items to wrap bulky gear and make a buffer. Things like the tent body, tent footprint, extra clothing, and the rainfly are handy. Finally, if you are using a water reservoir, put it first before all other bulky items.

Put Trail Essentials At The Top

Your bulky trail essentials should go at the top of your bag. Insulated clothes, rain jackets, first-aid kits, water purifiers or filters, and toilet supplies should be in this area. Tents could also be closer to the top. Doing this makes pitching easy if stormy weather moves in before you reach your camp.

Put Smaller Essentials In Pockets

You can put your map, compass, and GPS in an easily-accessible side pocket. Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, bug spray, and headlamps also go into these areas. You would also want to have your snacks, water bottles, and rain cover in a flap where you can reach them easily. Finally, some bags have pockets or clips inside larger pockets for valuables like car keys, IDs, and cash stashes.

Strap Your Tools And Gear To The Pack

Finally, some tools cannot fit in your backpack, so you have to use tool loops, fasteners, lash patches, and compression straps for them. You can use straps and the like for tent poles, trekking poles, camp chairs or stools, ice axes, climbing ropes, crampons, and large sleeping pads. Note that large camping gear like these makes your backpack unwieldy. It’s best to minimize the number of items on the outside of your bag.

Hoisting Your Loaded Backpack

The number one rule for hoisting a full backpack is that you shouldn’t lift it by the shoulder straps. Doing this can damage and wear out the shoulder harness. Carrying a heavy bag by the straps also makes it difficult for you to control the pack.

First, you need to loosen the back straps to make them easier to put on. Then, tilt the pack to an upright position and stand next to the back panel. Ensure your knees are bent, and your legs are apart before you hoist; if not, you will put all the strain on your lower back. Then, grab the webbing loop at the top of the back panel, and lift. Slide the pack up to your thigh. 

Keeping your hand on the haul loop, slip your other arm and shoulder through one strap. Keep that shoulder on the padding and swing the pack on your back. Then, the hand that was holding the haul loop goes through the other shoulder strap.


Camping trips can look fun, but they require more planning than most people think. From making the most of the amount of storage you have to being efficient in packing and unpacking your items, you should know how to maximize your resources. Having a large, reliable backpack with plenty of compartments certainly helps!

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