The Best Way to Pack a Backpack for Camping

Camping gear for light snow.

Photo: Ross Harmes

Packing a backpack for camping can be tricky, especially for new hikers. There is a lot of gear so having a good backpack that can hold many items and is durable for outdoor use is a must.  Both Columbia and Timberland are good bets for backpacks.

Photo:  Leonard Lin

Since there will be a large number of items going into the pack, the gear should be placed in a specific order and location.  The bottom of the bag should hold sleeping supplies such as a sleeping bag. If the sleeping bag is not waterproof, it should first be packed in a waterproof stuff sack. This creates a soft surface on which the remaining supplies can rest. Next, the middle of the backpack should hold the heaviest items such as tenting gear and cooking utensils. Placing these items closest to the center of the bag will put more of weight distribution on the individual's hips and less on their back. Many outdoor gear companies sell cooking stoves and dishes that stack together to save space. In between cooking supplies and food, dry clothing and socks can be used to fill empty spots and keep dishes and cans from rattling against each other. Even if there is no plan for changing clothes, it is always best to come prepared. Being prepared can save vast amounts of time and make for a more pleasant trip.

Food should be packed in easily accessible spots. This is especially true for snack food used for quick energy throughout the day. Granola bars, sandwiches and dried fruits should be stashed in the backpack’s outer pockets. One should always keep in mind that the body requires extra fuel for energy when hiking, especially at high altitudes or in cold weather. Ready supplies of protein and carbohydrates are a must. Finally, most backpacks are equipped to have extra items strapped to their exteriors. For example, larger tent poles may be strapped to the sides and a sleeping mat can be rolled up and stashed along the bottom. One important facet of which to be aware is items on the exterior can be easily caught on tree branches or rocks. These should be packed with care so that they don't break or become a hindrance to hiking.

Knowing the right way to pack a backpack for camping and hiking can make the journey more pleasant. Balancing out the items in the backpack so that each side is even is one of the most important ways to avoid back injuries. Specialized backpacks by Columbia, Timberland, Eddie Bauer and other sporting goods stores are the best options.

About the Author

World Footprints co-host Tonya Fitzpatrick with a lot of monkeys on her back.

Tonya Fitzpatrick is the co-founder of World Footprints Media.  A self-described “recovering attorney”, she found her purpose as a cultural connector.  Tonya shares a life full of adventure, dark chocolate and champagne with her husband and business partner, Ian.   She has a deep love for animals and would be happy owning a zoo if she weren’t traveling. 

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