You have big plans for an overnight, backcountry packing trip. You are leaving the comfort of your RV and you can only bring the necessities in your pack. You have it all figured out – how many pairs of socks, which freeze-dried meals you want to eat, exactly how much rain gear you will need – and now you just need to cram it all into your pack. Right?
There is actually a science to packing a backpack. How you pack all of your gear will largely determine your comfort when carrying it, and the accessibility of the things you most need.
The key is to divide your pack into three zones:
Zone 1: The Bottom
In this zone, you want light items that both:
- Can be squished without losing function, and
- You won’t need until you set up camp.
Items like your sleeping bag, for instance, are an ideal base for your backpack (ideally, your sleeping bag will come in a compression sack, so it takes up less space).
Zone 2: The Middle
This is an important zone – it will make up the bulk of the weight of your sack, and it will be closest to your back to create balance. This is where the heavy items go: tent, food, your pet rock collection that you insist on taking everywhere – whatever. Make sure you direct any sharp edges either into the center of the pack or outwards, so they don’t end up against your spine.
Zone 3: The Top and Down the Front
Medium-weight items, items that you may need during the hike, emergency gear and clothing will most likely go here. You don’t want your pack to be top-heavy, or you will be off balance, so make sure to be thoughtful about what items are needed here.
You also want to avoid having too many items – water bottle, sandals, trekking poles – hanging off your bag as possible. Items like these are easier to lose, plus they will bang against you while walking, which can potentially throw you off balance.
Ensure that the weight is focused in the center of the bag and keep frequently used items in outer pockets. It will never be as comfortable as a night in the RV, but sometimes, a little trek does the soul good. As long as your backpack is packed right.