Monday, July 9, 2012

How To: Loading a Backpack

Getting ready for the trail...
Loading your backpack properly is an essential skill that every hiker needs to learn. It helps you learn your gear and how to organize it in the best fashion for easy accessibility on the trail. The best thing you can do before you start is make your very own checklist of everything you want to bring/own. Having the list saved so you can print it each time makes it hard to forget those little items like bug spray or toilet paper. I always load my backpack for the trail at my house. Doing it this way allows you to lay all of your items out on your living room floor so you can see everything and prioritize.

The following are the parts of a typical pack:

The first thing most backpackers do is shove their sleeping bag down to the bottom of their bag. It depends on the size of your pack but I carry a large 3-4 day pack on all my ventures. I insert my sleeping into the bottom vertically and then place my sleeping bag above that. These are my heaviest items. An important note is that you want to put your heaviest items near the center of your back and close to your spine. Another thing to remember is that the stuff at the bottom of your bag should be things you probably won't need until your at the campsite. After I insert these two items I put some clothes at the bottom of the pack. You want to have your heavy items ABOVE the hip belt to ensure your carrying your load on your hips and not your back/shoulders. Next, I insert items around my sleeping bag and tent to keep them from shifting around. Ensure you load the weight evenly on both side. The ensures one side isn't heavier than the other. After I load these items I load the more akward items like tent poles, crampons, or tent stakes. It is very import that all these items be protected so they don't puncture your pack. I usually wrap a pair of sweat pants or a shirt around the ends so this doesn't happen.

The last items I load are my “most used” items. This could include things like a map and compass, snacks, water, or a knife. You want to put these in a side compartment or top lid compartment for easy accessibility.

Lastly, it's important to remember that you won't pack your backpack perfectly the first time. You may realize you want access to one item sooner than expected and end up moving it closer to the top next time your head for the trail. You will adapt your packing techniques over several trial runs as you learn your gear. If it's your first time with a new pack or heavier gear practice carrying it around the mall or take it on shorter day hikes. This helps you get the “feel” of the pack before your long trip and see how it's going to impact your body. It's to late if you realize a day into a week long trip that your overloaded. Your pack should be an extension of you and feel like it move easily with you.

Got a packing tip that helped you save room or time? Like to put a change of socks at the top of your pack or maybe you carry your tent on the outside? Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Learn. Explore. Survive.