How to Pack Your Hiking Backpack
Written By: SportsShoes
Heading out to the hills and mountains? Inclement weather conditions and tough terrain mean you’ll need to take the right kit to ensure a safe and comfortable hike. Here’s our guide on how to pack your hiking backpack.
1. Be Prepared for a Range of Conditions
Ideally, you don’t want to go overboard with unnecessary kit that you’ll end up lugging around with you and weighing you down. With that said, fast changing weather, challenging terrain and remote landscapes mean it’s sensible to ensure that you’re covered for a number of scenarios.
Key considerations are safety, changeable weather conditions, food, hydration and also navigational equipment in your packing choices. Make a kit list of what you’ll need to take and lay everything out ready to organise for storage. For more tips on the best clothing to take with you, check out our What to Wear On A Hike guide.
2. Layer Your Packing in a Smart Way
The overriding principle here is to have the items you’ll need to use most frequently easily to hand without having to root through your pack to find them. Categorise items into groups – top, middle, bottom and exterior and set them out beside your pack.
Bottom of Pack
Restrict these to items you won’t need until you’re setting up camp, for example your sleeping bag and sleep wear.
Middle of Pack
Here, you should stow heavier items that you won’t need to access on the trail. These sit closest to your core and centre of gravity, helping you to keep you more stable on trickier ground. This includes items such as your cooking stove and equipment and heavier and denser food and hydration sources.
Top of Pack
Here you need your easy-reach items – for example your warm extra layers, waterproofs, torch and First Aid Kit.
Most packs have a surprising amount of storage in exterior pockets. Consider the need to keep your pack centred and well balanced and don’t overload these, but use this storage for easy-grab items such as maps, sunglasses, compass, snacks and small key essentials such as your keys or phone. You can use the exterior loops for hooking on longer items that are trickier to pack, for example a sleeping mat or tent poles but again, always consider the need to stay balanced on difficult terrain and position accordingly.
3. Make Sure Your Pack is Comfortable
There’s nothing worse than gear digging into your back or straps rubbing shoulders when you’re hiking for hours. Take time to consider the fit of your backpack and adjust the fit accordingly. Your pack should fit comfortably and securely against your back without bouncing or rubbing. Ensure the padded straps sit snugly over your shoulder blades with the hips strap aligned with your hip bones. When packing, use softer items to pad out awkward, bulky pieces of kits and fill in storage gaps.
4. Suggested Hiking Kit List
Of course you’ll be likely to need certain personal items that are individual to you, but in general, we find the following kit list is a good starting point when packing for a hike. If you’re just getting started, you’ll be able to buy many of these items from our Hiking and Outdoor Store.
Best Hiking Kit for the Top of Your Backpack:
- Warm fleece
- Change of socks
- First Aid Kit
- Consider packing your tent at the top if expecting stormy or wet conditions on arrival at camp
Best Hiking Kit for the Middle of Your Backpack:
- Camping stove and cooking kit
- Food and hydration supplies
- Additional pieces of clothing
Best Hiking Kit for the Bottom of Your Backpack:
- Sleeping Bag and Mat
- Sleepwear and extra sleeping layers.
Best Hiking Kit for the Exterior Pockets of Your Backpack:
Best Hiking Kit to Attach to the Exterior Loops of Your Backpack
- Trekking poles
- Tent Poles
- Larger mats
- Sleeping bag (optional)
If you’re looking for more tips and advice, or even some inspiration for your next hike, check out our Hiking Hub.