Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to Pack a Backpack

There’s a lot of different packs and a lot of different equipment on the market and every company has their own design and every backpacker has their own likes and dislikes and preferred way to do things. So this is going to be some tips and ways to pack basic backpacking gear into a backpack that’s going to make that process logical per items you need throughout the day versus items you need to have in camp, as well as a way to distribute weight in your pack that’s going to work with the packs suspension and general backpack design. So, we’ll start with the bottom of the pack here and a sleeping bag is an excellent item to stow in the bottom of you backpack. They are typically bulky and heavy but they are usually not the heaviest group of items that you may be carrying so it’s usually a good thing to stow in the bottom here. Some backpacks have a zippered compartment at the bottom that you can easily access, some don’t but either way I would put that sleeping bag in the bottom of my pack. This is going to do a couple of things. One, it’s going to give you a nice sturdy base for setting the pack down as well as building a foundation for all the other items that you’re going to stack on top of it. It’s also something that you’re probably not going to need until you get to camp and go to bed so stowing it away in the bottom where you might not have access to it is fine because you’re probably not going to need it. Ok, now we get into the main pack bag, or the main body of the pack, and the next item is a tent. Tents are also going to be fairly bulky and heavy items. If you are going with someone else and you can split it up so one person gets the fly and one person gets the tent, that’s going to be the best way to pack it. You can distribute weight that way better as well.

In this case.....
 I’m going by myself and I’ve got my one person tent that came in a long, skinny sack that really wasn’t conducive to fitting in my pack in a way that allowed me room to pack other items. So what I did was purchased another stuff sack of a size that I liked better. You could even purchase a compression sack if you wanted to compress it and make it even smaller. So don’t limit yourself to the stuff sack that your product came in and consider other shapes and sizes. I’m going to take my tent which is also a bulky item and isn’t too heavy, maybe two pounds, and stick that in my pack next. It’s going to add to the foundation that the sleeping bag has given me and note that I did not pack the tent poles and tent stakes in with the rest of the tent. Typically the heaviest set of items you’ll be carrying are your food and cookware, water set aside. So here’s my bag of food. You do want to think about putting your heaviest items in this mid, center area of the pack and as close to your back as you can get them. You want those heavier items to be right between your shoulder blades. I’m going to take my food, and I’ve kind of got it packed in a way here that it’s long and skinny, so it’s going to sit right up against my back there. Then I’m going to take two other items that fit in here, and instead of laying them long-ways I’m going to stack them in here vertically. Here’s my sleeping pad and here’s my stove. They’re almost the same shape, this longer, cylindrical shape, so they pack in their nicely and they also weight about the same. I’ve also got a little cup and bowl set that I’m going to stack right on top to give me an even platform to finish out my packing. The last items I have that take up a lot of room are my clothes. I’ve got my bag of clothes here and they’re really lightweight but they’re sort of bulky and I want the up high in the pack because they weigh so little compared to everything else. This does make it a little inaccessible for me to get to my food so I’ve made a point to pack all of my dinner and breakfast meals that I’ll eat in camp in here where I don’t need to access it though out the day and I’ve taken out my snacks and what I’m having for lunch and I can putt hose in another smaller bag in an easier to reach spot. So here’s my clothes and they fit right on top here and take up the rest of the room but they weigh almost nothing so they don’t add weight up high in the pack that might throw me off balance. Now I just have a few remaining items and most of them are small. I am going to take my tent poles and stick them in this side pocket.

It’s long verticality is going to make it fit well against the side of the pack so it makes a safe place to put them where I won’t worry about them getting bent and I’ve got a compression strap that will secure those on there. This pack happens to have some other zippered side pockets here. I would take my tent stakes and put them in whatever outside pocket you have available and in this case I put them opposite the poles so the weight can balance out. I’ve got a few more comfort items here. They are both relating to sleep. I’ve got a soft sheet set that goes with my therm-a-rest and I’ll stick that down here with the sleeping bag, as well as a little pillow. With both of these items, if you don’t have extra space down here, I would say you should go ahead and tuck them in inside the pack someplace and try to fill in some of those nooks and crannies that get created when you put bulkier items in. At the top of the pack here, which is fully loaded, I’ll put a rain jacket or wind jacket. I might need them it during the day and take it off as I go up hill and warm up and then take it off as I go down the other side. So, I’m going to stick it here underneath the hood. That way it’s in a place where I can grab it quickly if I need to or if I’m hiking with someone else I can ask them to grab it out of there pretty fast. Let me get the hood adjusted snug here so that jacket it secure underneath of there. It’s out of the way here with quick and easy access and not taking up more room inside my pack bag. Another important item I have here is my Steripen, I use this to treat my water with, and I’m going to keep that either right here in the top pocket or potentially, this front mesh pocket. This makes it easily accessible for me and it can dry here well.

 If I was carrying a larger water filter with me, Steripen is pretty small, I would keep it up here in the top pocket where it is out of the way and protected but I do have quick and easy access to it so when I get to stream crossings I can pull it out, filter water and stick it back in without having to dig into my pack at all. I’ve got a little bag here with some odds and ends in it. A first aid kit, bear bagging line and headlamp and I’m going to tuck that any place on the outside of the pack I can fit it. I might need to get to the first aid kit in a hurry or I might need my headlamp in a hurry if it’s late in the day. That puts all of those items in a easy to get to spot. They could just as easily have gone in one of the top pockets since they don’t weight very much. That leaves me with a side pocket here for my water and there is plenty of room to tuck some of my snacks for the day in there. I also have an extra water bottle and some other odds and ends that I’m going to eat throughout the day as well that I’ll put in these top pockets. And that’s how to pack a pack. These are some basic tips on how to pack a backpack.

They aren’t going to work for everybody and there’s a lot of different packs and equipment out on the market but hopefully it gives you a better understanding of where to put items in a pack and hopefully it makes your next trip a bit smoother and more comfortable. 

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