Packing a Backpack the Right Way
When choosing a backpack, keep in mind that packing a backpack is easier when it has various pockets. This will save you from digging in and around the pack for various items.
The choice of a backpacking tent, sleeping bag, backpacking stove, cookware and utensils, cutting tools, clothing, waterfiltering tool, and other items must be lightweight and durable.
Since your Nalgene water bottle will not go very far, a waterfilter and/or water purification tablets are a must. You can also cleanse water by boiling it, but this requires extra fuel for your backpacking stove. Here is some help with the lightweight backpacking.
First, many of your hiking items are based on personal preference. The gear will also vary depending on the season, the length and location of your backpacking trip. But after you have your gear selected and ready to go, you need to know the proper way of packing a backpack.
Packing Backpack Discretion
Due to the massive differences in individual choices of what is necessary, there is really only a couple of things to remember about packing a backpack: (1) weight distribution, and (2) items should be accessible without pulling everything out of the pack.
Each of these are relative to the length of your backpacking trip. Day trips require the least amount of backpacking gear, and less trouble locating that item. Weekend and week long trips require more thought for the location of the gear when packing a backpack, and weight distribution becomes extremely important. It is a compromise between convenience and proper weight distribution.
You also want to consider that some gear should not be packed where it is against your back inside the pack. A camping stove, for example, could be rough when getting pressed into or slammed against your back. Ouch! A rule of thumb when packing a backpack is to load the flat and/or soft gear on the forward surface of a backpack’s main compartment.
Weight Distribution of Your Pack
Weight distribution for both internal and external frame packs should be considered, even though an external pack is designed for heavier loads. With either one of these type backpacks, the same rules apply as to where the weight should be located.
Let us start with the 3 dimensions of a pack. The first two – width and front to back – are the simplest. The load should be as equal as possible along the width, and the pack should be loaded with the weight toward your back. By balancing the weight from side to side and loading weight toward your back from the front to back will make handling the pack much easier. The third dimension is vertical.
There is major consideration here. Are you going to be climbing or hiking on an established trail? Climbing obviously takes more balance then hiking on a trail. Generally, it is easier to get a heavy load on the center of your back by leaning forward when the pack’s center of mass is higher by packing the heavier gear higher in the pack. The obvious downside to packing this way is keeping your balance. So, if balance is an issue on your hike, the weight goes in the bottom of the pack.
Accessibility of Gear in Your Pack
Most of the gear you know will be needed more often than other items is a matter of common sense. These items will be packed as near the opening of the pack as possible. But top loading packs can give you some issues. This is where convenience and weight distribution come into conflict.
Usually, your ground cover will be at the top of the pack with your water bottle when it is dry and hot. Empty water containers, the rest of your camping food, extra fuel for the camping stove, first aid kit, and emergency flare can go into the pack first or at the bottom. Other items depend on the elements you expect to encounter and where you are hiking. Basically, the gear you will be using first is packed last toward the top. The external pockets can be used for maps, compass, GSP, headlight, and something to munch on. Other gear can be hung from the pack itself.