A badly packed backpack can cause quite a grievance during a hike. Aching shoulders and sore back will only deplete your energy and ruin your mood. But such a result is easy to avoid.
Bring only what you absolutely need
Before you start packing, lay all the things out at one place. Reconsider whether you really need five T-shirts for a two-day trip and two pairs of shoes. Any extra burden, albeit insignificant at first glance, will be greatly felt after the first few kilometres.
LOAP tip: Two functional T-shirts will be more than enough for a weekend hike.
You can easily test the weight of the backpack at home. Put your prepared things inside perfunctorily, and put the backpack on. Does it feel too heavy already? Then the entire hike will be a torture. Go through the list of things again and cut it down without mercy.
Lighter things belong to the bottom part of the backpack
Is the list reduced? Great, let’s go packing.
The general rule says that lighter things you don’t need throughout the day should be stored in the bottom part of the backpack. A sleeping bag is a typical example. To save as much room as possible, put the sleeping back into a compression sack and properly tighten the sack.
Store your collapsible roll mat with your sleeping bag. If the mat is too big and takes up too much space, fasten it to the backpack from outside.
LOAP tip: Don’t fasten the mat lengthwise. It’s usually longer than the backpack and is in the way when you’re passing through a narrow terrain.
Your spare clothes should be put on the sleeping bag. You can use the clothes to fill in the gaps between the sleeping bag and roll mat. Socks or a quick-drying towel are ideal for this. Put your clothes into plastic bags because not even a waterproof backpack covered by a raincoat cannot withstand the onslaught of a daylong downpour.
LOAP tip: Store your clothes in a compression sack, just like you would a sleeping bag. You’ll save space that way.
Carry heavy objects as close to your back as possible
After your sleeping bag and clothes, pack the heaviest things, usually the tent, cooker, mess tin, and food.
LOAP tip: If you have a travelling companion, share the load equally. One of you can carry the tent while the other one will take the cooker and mess tins.
Heavy things should be carried directly on your back. This gives you a good centre of gravity and a needed stability. If you place the items further from your spine, they’ll outweigh you. A correctly packed backpack can’t pull you forwards, backwards, or to the side.
LOAP tip: Use the space inside your mess tin and stuff it, for example, with your underwear.
Water is one of the heaviest objects. Most modern backpacks have a special back pocket for a water sack, a better option than traditional bottles. The weight of the water spreads equally across your back and you don’t have to remove your backpack if you want to have a drink.
LOAP tip: Store your PET bottle on your back or in the backpack’s outside pocket so that it’s easily accessible. Take balance into account, though. The bottle mustn’t unbalance you and pull you to the side.
Always keep your snack, phone, and first-aid kit at hand
Place the things you need the most throughout the day into the upper part of the backpack. A snack, map, rainproof jacket, sweatshirt, etc. are typical examples.
This concerns also things that should be easily accessible, e.g. a first-aid kit, flashlight, matches, or toilet paper.
Hide your valuables, such as car keys, your ID, or wallet, in the inside pocket on the lid of the backpack. This guarantees that you won’t lose them and can reach them quickly.
One last check and let’s go
Try to get all your equipment inside the backpack. Things attached to the outside of the backpack disturb your balance and often get caught in branches. Furthermore, they make it harder to attach the rain cover so that it would stick properly.
LOAP tip: Trekking poles, for example, are an exception.
Take care to balance the backpack out well. Inappropriately distributed weight disturbs stability and causes back pain.
Once the backpack is packed, tighten the compression straps; they’ll keep the contents in place. Then, place the backpack in a free space and take a careful look. Does it stand upright? If yes, then it’s promising.
Put the backpack on. If it fits like a glove and doesn’t pull you to the side, backwards, or forwards, you’ve done a good job. But if you feel pressure to any part of your back or feel that the backpack is pulling you somewhere where it shouldn’t, you must rearrange the contents.
Once you’re satisfied with the result, tighten the back belt, chest strap, and shoulder straps. Does the backpack fit well? Great, you’re more than prepared.