How to Properly Pack Your Pack in Preperation for an Amazing Backpacking Trip




Introduction: How to Properly Pack Your Pack in Preperation for an Amazing Backpacking Trip

About: A firm believer in the teachings of the great sage, MacGyver, I found instructables almost 6-ish years ago, and it quickly became my favorite site (replacing google and in my "most visited si…

Getting ready to go backpacking and don't know how to pack? Was the awesome-ness of your last trip diminished due to an uncomfortable/loosely packed backpack? In your inexperience, did you pack everything in a messenger bag, only to kill your shoulders by the first day? No? Only me? Well then...

After hours of HEAVY-DUTY(!) Google-ing, I think I can safely say that I can advise you, the marvelous outdoors-loving how-to fan that you are, to properly pack your pack.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Im still getting pictures and will be updating this instructable shortly. I only published it unfinished to show a teacher and a friend.

FIXED! Now with pictures!!

I made the FRONT PAGE!! :D Cross that off my bucket list!

Step 1: Gear: the Pack

First, you must decide on a backpack. You'll have to look at your trip plan (how many days/nights will you be out, how many people are coming, how many miles you're hiking) and decide how much gear you'll need to bring. Then, pick a pack from there.

For a light hike, a "fanny pack" or something like a "sack pack" (the ones that are just bags with a draw string that you can put on your back) will do.

For an overnight stay, you'll need a larger pack. Also think about if youre bringing a tent, a sleeping bag, maby a hammock, because you may want lashing options on the pack for that.

For multiple nights, you'll want a more serious pack. look for one with a capacity of 60 to 80 liters, again, depending on what your trip looks like.

Step 2: Gear: First Aid Kit

The first aid kit must not be neglected!! the last thing you want to to end the adventure because someone's minor cut turned septic when you neglected it. Now Bill has to get his finger amputated... or something. Dont want a twisted ankle ruining your trip.

But I'm rambling... You should design your 1st aid kit based on how many people will be on the trip, and how long the trip is.

Here's a list of sugested items for your first aid kit:
*First aid manual
*Personal medications
*Roll bandages
*Triangular bandages
*Ace bandages
*Butterfly bandages
*Sterile compresses
*Adhesive tape
*Sterile gauze pads
*Antiseptic wipes 
*Safety pins
*Latex gloves
*Plastic Bags
*Small mirror
*Antibacterial soap / wipes
*Eye drops
*Burn ointment
*Sunburn lotion
*Disinfectant cream
*Decongestant and antihistamine tablets
*Antibiotic cream
*Aspirin / ibuprofen
*Hydrogen peroxide
*Diarrhea medication
*Hydrocortisone cream
*Poison Ivy cream / cleansers
*Bee sting/snake bite kit
*Heat / cold packs
*Personal information / contact person

You dont need all of it, just use common sense and decide what you need.

Step 3: Gear: Food/Mess Kit

After you plan your nutritional needs and your menu (no real help from me there. ;p maby I'll make another instructable), you'll need to choose what pots and pans to bring. I pack my light aluminum mess kit ($2.50 @ army surplus store, cant go wrong there), my fork/knife/spoon set (another $2, same store), plastic bags, and a good amount of aluminum foil. Again, planning for this depends on your trip (common theme, huh?). Will an open fire be allowed where you're camping, or will it be too dry for a fire? Will you need to bring a fire container or some sort of stove? How big of dishes are you making, how many people will you serve?

When I went backpacking, I only went with one other person, so we didnt need anymore than the little kit I carried (he had one too, but we didnt need it), and where we went had nice steel fire pits. If, however, I do end up going to a no-open-fire place, I plan on making one of these for the trip.

Step 4: Gear: Shelter/Clothing

What you pack for clothes and shelter (tent, sleeping bag, maby a sleeping mat)  is dependant on the climate/weather of the area you are backpacking in, as well as personal preference. Of course, if its cold, dress for it. If its rainy, bring a coat or poncho. Common sense is to watch the weather forecast before making final preperations.

It's best to dress in layers. That way, when you get too warm, you can take off a layer or two and stash it in your pack in case you get cold again.

If you are 'packing in really cold weather, you might want to bring a sleeping mat. They insulate you from the ground and makes your sleep more comfortable.

Oh!! Bring extra socks in a zip-top bag. You'll thank me, wet feet suck.

Step 5: Gear: Fire Kit

Building a camp fire is possibly my favorite part of the entire camping/backpacking experience. Campfires just seem... magical. they bring an end to a long day of backpacking in a perfect kind of way.

Also, I love open fire cooking. :P

The fire kit is fairly simple. You need tinder and an ignition source. Thats about it... Its not hard to make a fire.
the things I keep in my fire kit, are:
*1 bic lighter
*1 pack if windproof matches
* A magnesium-ferrosium rod fire starter (striker attached)
* Some steel wool
* A few cotton balls, and some soaked in petrolium jelly
* A few squares of birch bark (usually you can find fallen trees on the trail. Sometimes I grab a dry birch branch from one and use that as the kindling for the fire)

When I want to start a fire, I grab some dry kindling from around me, build up a nice bundle, and light my kindling in the middle. Then, feed the fire and build it up.

I prefer the smaller, easier to control fires. I don't want a bonfire, and I wouldn't make one unless I had alot of people with me. Bonfires use alot of fuel and are hard to cook on.

Step 6: Gear: Water

Water is very important with any excercise. You'll need to drink lots of it on your hike, and unless you have a way to fill durring your hike, you'll have to carry all of it. 

If you're not sure how much water you'll need, go ahead and take at least 4 1/2 liters. Your health and safety are too important to take chances, even if it means carrying more weight than you would prefer (each liter of water weighs about 2.2 pounds). Also, remember to bring the water you'll need to cook whatever you're cooking.

Start your trip with a full load of water, don't depend completely on fill stations or streams or whatever along your way: you may be dissapointed, and then, dehydrated.

And NEVER NEVERNEVERNEVER(!!!!) skip an opertunity to fill your canteen with clean water.

Also, you can invest in a filtration system and/or other purification system. Either just in case, or for a long trip with no clean sources of water.

Step 7: Gear: Tools

No matter the hike, pack a nice multi-tool, a very sturdy fixed blade knife (no hollow handles, or something bigger than about 4 inches. You're not Rambo, you dont need it. ;P), a flashlight (and some extra bateries), parachute chord, duct tape, your navigation supplies (map, compas, GPS), and a camera (if you want some awesome trail pics).

If you're staying longer, you may want some wood processing tools like a hatchet or machete, and a saw.

Also, a folding shovel, for all of your hole diggin' needs.

And don't forget the marshmallow sticks!!!

Step 8: Gear: Misc/Comfort Items

These are your small, light, essential items. Stuff like:
* Sunscreen
* Bug spray
* Lip balm
* Hand sanitizer
* Music device (I dont bring one, its distracting... no matter how much I LOVE my music, I love the woods more)
* Moist towelletes
* Toilet paper(!)
* And whatever else you think is worth its weight on your trip. (hint: caffine!)

Try not to bring too much though... Don't want 10 pounds of gear and 12 pounds of other stuff.

Step 9: The Actual How To: Step 1- Make List, Check Twice

Finally! To the actual how to!

First, take aaaallll of your gear and neatly spread it out onto a clean floor or bed. Seeing everything helps organize you.

Next, make a checklist and go over everything to make sure you wont leave anything important at home.

Step 10: The Actual How To: Step 2- Bottoms Up!

Take your sleeping bag and extra clothes and place them at the botttom of your bag. You want to pack the least used, light items at the bottom of your pack.

Step 11: The Actual How To: Step 3- Heavyweights

Now, take your heavy items, like pots, extra canteens(filled, of course), and food stash and arange them in the center of your pack.

You want to try to place your heavy items in the center of your pack, close to your spine. This makes your pack more comfortable and more stable.

Step 12: The Actual How To: Step 4- Easy Access

Now, take your essentials (step 8) and pack them on top of your pack (or in your fanny pack!) along with your rain gear so you can grab them quickly when you need/want them.

Try to contain the heavy items with the softer, lighter ones to help minimize/eliminate shifting in your pack.

Step 13: The Actual How Too: Step 5- the Outer Rim

Now, pack the outside/outer pockets of your pack.

Lash tools to the outside of your pack, but try not to have too much parts hanging off, as not to snag on branches.

Put your canteen within easy reach, along with your kinfe, multi-tool, and flashlight (tool and torch could go in fanny-pack...)

Strap your tent to the outside or find another way to carry it.

Step 14: The Actual How To: Step 6- Hike, Unpack, Repack, Repeat

Go have an awesome time backpacking!! When you find your campsite, unpack, eat delicious potatoes, sleep, and repack like this in the morning!

Oh, and one more thing, take lots of pics!

If you have any you wanna share, please, don't hesitate to post in the comments section!

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    7 years ago on Introduction

    I would suggest adding a firesteel knife, they are very handy and much much much easier to strike than normal firesteel. Bare in mind that you will have to clean the blade after use as no matter how you strike it, you end up with much on the blade.

    As a result
    I tend to favour my army firesteel over my firesteel knife, both made
    by the same mob (the other firesteel is the "scout" one which is not as
    long lasting)

    On the topic of fire :) I would strongly suggest
    adding a pair of forcepts and a tin can full of cotton wool. The
    forcepts hold the cotton wool ball (you wrap it around a little) and you
    can use it to start the wick in a multi-fuel stove.

    I've found that cotton wool, even without petrolum jelly, takes a spark like no tomorrow so always handy to have.

    hatchet that I take with me on some occasions also has a hammer like
    face on the opposite side which is great for whacking in tent pegs :) I
    also tied some outdoor awning cordage to the hole in the handle so I can
    use the hatchet to remove said tent pegs too.

    Also your water
    bladder looks like its under a lot of weight, just watch that as I've
    had my water bladder "block up" and had to take it appart and put it
    back together again (there was a kink somewhere, prob at the bottom
    where the tube and bladder meet).


    7 years ago

    Awesome instructable but in my opinion a gerber tool swis army knife and machete is enough


    7 years ago

    Wow! I go camping at kettle moraine in wi! I'm having a hard time cutting weight on my pack. I only weigh 125 so it's hard to pack according to what is comfortable to carry long distances.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Could you possibly post the contents of your pack? I've had to cut weight a lot before, I may be able to help. Also, what shelter do you prefer? I've camped all of them in the northern unit, I know a lot of what's there, so you may not even have to bring certain things...


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    2-3 person tent
    12x12 tarp
    3300 pack (alps mtn)
    Very little clothes
    Fire starters
    First aid
    0 degree bag
    Rain coat (very light)
    2.5 L of water
    Food (pretty heavy/not freeze dried)
    --> that's roughly it. I cut back since I posted the question. I've been obsessing over this for a week now. It's for winter-ish camping btw.
    Thanks for offering to help!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Small, easy to pack, bundles of carbs. :P I like to wrap them in tin foil and leave them on the outside of my fire right before I go to sleep, like right in the coals. usually when I wake up, I have baked potatoes for breakfast!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I used to disappear into the Catskills and the Berkshires for weekend treks. The only thing I can add to this 'ible is that if you're going overnight, put the tarp, tent, and cordage on top!

    Once you got that up it doesn't matter how you pack/unpack.

    Let's all be careful out there!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I put the shelter stuff on bottom, because thats the stuff I'll need latest in the day. the most frequently used items are on top for ease of acess. This works perfectly well in fair weather, however, if I'm expecting rain, tarp goes on top. Just in case.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    How much does your pack usually weigh? It just seems like you packed a few unnecessary things, like the hatchet... It has to weigh at least 5 pounds, but the handle is pretty sweet!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I can usally keep it under 10-12 lbs with food and water for a short trip. I like my hatchet alot (made the handle myself!), but I don't usually bring it, 'cause its so heavy.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    The Kettle Moraine? :P You from Wisconsin too? :D


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yep! I live like 20 miles from kettle moraine. Its my favorite forest! :D Ever been there?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Lol, thats so awesome. :p

    You goin out there this fabulous summer?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Oh yeah xD I wanna go hiking a lot more :)

    The first thing that I had noticed about your atrical is the picture of someone who looks to be blowing fire?! is that right? thats really cool. how did he do it, or how did you do it? this artical is really helpful and i wish i had the time and money. i cant wait for the "how to backback with you dog" you were talking about..well done Terranan!![:


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thats a picture of me making a campfire. I made a little ember and put it into my tinder bundle and blew on it to get it going.

    :) Im glad you like my instructable, ill deffinatly be making more!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    well done Terranan, I never knew there was a need for so much stuff..especially all the first aid kit! i hope to read more of your articals soon! hopefully you got an A+ in this project!!(: