How to Pack a Backpack for Hiking
When you are planning to go for a hiking trip, throwing all your gear and clothing into a backpack and heading out into the wilderness is not exactly the best idea. Regardless of how many items you fit inside of your rucksack, the way you arrange them inside will make a huge difference on how it feels while carrying. Now, seasoned hikers and backpackers know most of the tricks of the trade but what about you? If this is the first time you're leaving the civilized world with a thirst for adventure, following some guidelines would greatly help you to have a comfortable and memorable experience.
Before you get started, lay down all your gear on the floor and organize them into piles according to their category. For example, toiletries, cookware, first aid kit, sleeping gear, clothing, dry food, and anything else that you want to take along. Use of a zip lock bags are highly recommended as they help in saving space and guard your items against the effects of moisture. The bonus is of course, a neat and well organized backpack.
The pockets should be utilized to store items that you would be needing quick access to while hiking. This would ensure that you can reach the items easily without having to reach inside of the bag.
What should be the ideal backpack size?
As a general rule of thumb, you can determine what size of backpack you need based on the duration of your trip and your weight carrying capacity. Some adjustments can be made to these two considerations based on common sense and experience. If we were to assume that you'll be going on hiking for at least two days, then look for a bag that is at least 24-48 inch capacity. If you are going on a trip for more than five days, look for a larger bag that can store all your essentials without making you feel too heavy.
Whether we like to admit it or not, gender also plays a role in one's capacity in carrying heavy weights. It's not like women can carry less than men because there are plenty of women who are equally capable of getting equal weight as men, but they are seasoned veterans and not someone who is going to the first hiking trip. So, keep this in mind before you begin stuffing items in your bag.
How to organize the items?
Maximum weight: The general rule of thumb states that the maximum weight of your backpack should not exceed 25 to 30% of your body weight. So, a person weighing 150 lbs should not be carrying anything above 45 lbs. The 200 lbs should be okay as long as they're carrying up to 60 lbs.
Weight distribution: Always stuff your gear divided in three layers. The bottom layer for lighter items that you will really need access to in the trip, such as sleeping bag, clothing items, etc. The middle layer should be reserved for heavier items such as cooking stoves, dry food, and fuel. And of course, the top of the backpack should be available for lighter items that you can easily reach while travelling. Be sure to distribute the weight evenly, and also leave some room for occasional adjustments.
What to do with the additional gear?
If your bag is already full, do not worry because there is still some space left over outside to carry the leftover gear. It is important that you remember to put away sharp items like knives, forks, etc. inside of the backpack. Also, do not attach too many items outside of the bag or it may create stability issues. Soft items, however, like sleeping pads can be attached outside with no problem at all.
Get set and ready to go!
In the final step, when you have the backpack on your back, make sure to tighten it around the shoulder, hip, and sternum by adjusting the strap accordingly. A bag that has been packed well should transfer the optimum weight of the gear to your hip and keep the weight on your shoulders at a minimum level. If you have a well maintained and suitably packed rucksack, your trip will go smooth and you'll feel much better while travelling in the long run as weight won't be putting you down.