Hiking: How to Pack your Pack

You’ve got your gear, chosen your route, and now are ready to pack up and head out. But how to keep all the odds and ends in order, and accessible when you need them? Learning how to pack your pack is an important skill to have. Your comfort and ability to access needed items and to carry everything comfortably relies on how you stash your gear.

But first, remember to pack your Day Hiking Essentials

  • At least 2L water 
  • Food for the hike
  • Map and Compass 
  • Sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen 
  • First Aid kit 
  • Headlamp 
  • Lighter or Matches
  • Pocket knife 

You want to put the heaviest items closest to your spine, and pack other items around them so those heavy items don’t move around too much as you walk. That means things like water are nearest to my back, in the center of my pack. Lighter items like extra jackets or snacks, are tucked around the water.

how to pack your pack: A happy hiker has an orderly backpack

How to pack your pack: heaviest to lightest

Items that you know you will use a lot (map, snacks) should be easily accessible, in the top compartment of a multiple-pouch backpack, or just at the top of the main backpack compartment. Items you won’t be using as often (e.g., first aid kits, headlamps) can be stowed at the base of the pack. 

Special Additions

Depending on the weather and season, you might also add:

Autumn weather means including a warm beanie hat, jacket, and gloves. If it’s stormy and muddy, a rain jacket, gaiters (the kind that go around your ankles), and trekking poles. Or, if it’s going to be a warm or hot hike, extra water is a must!

How to chose a pack

Most day packs and backpacks are sized by how much volume they hold, in litres. Daypacks range in the 20-35L size, while backpacks range from 45- to 60- to even 100L for long trips. Many half day or single-person day hikes a 20-25L pack is just fine, but if you are doing an all-day hike, or hike with multiple people or children, you will want to err more towards the 35L size. 

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