It doesn’t matter how great of a backpack was purchased if the camper does not know how to properly pack it. This item bears the brunt of the camper’s utilities, and when these are loaded the wrong way will only increase the amount of weight that is felt on the shoulders and back muscles, leading to a premature stop for rest. It is vital for all campers to realize that loading their backpack takes a certain skill level and can mean the difference between an enjoyable trip and a poor one.
The first item of business is to categorize each of the necessities into one of three types: light, medium, and heavy. Each pile will have a priority rating for going into the backpack. They will be loaded based upon their level of importance. This procedure also helps to remember what is necessary and what can be left behind as each section is carefully placed inside.
Since the most weight should be supported across the back, the heaviest items (such as a portable stove) should go here. On an excursion with trails that have been cut down, it is important to place these items in a higher position. This will help to displace some of the weight to the hip area, relieving much of the stress from the shoulders. However, if there are long weeds, or many obstacles to traverse, the heavier load should be in a lower position. This will help to stabilize the body by lowering the center or gravity and providing more stability. A shifting load will throw a hiker off balance when he has to move suddenly to avoid something in the way.
The lighter items can go on the bottom of the backpack (such as the sleeping bag), since they won’t be needed during the hiking portion of the trip. If there is the need for a bear canister (required by many parks nowadays), it should rest against the back in the main section of the backpack or just under the top. Most of the other supplies can be worked in here and there, filling in the empty space as necessary. Small items may need to be kept handy, and these can be put into special bags or containers that are coded to make them easy to identify and retrieve.
Of course, always pack liquid fuel lower than the rations in case of leakage. If possible, carry this item in one of the outer pockets which typically have a mesh side to let fresh air in. Another great tip is not to have any unnecessary items on the outside of the backpack, but if this can’t be avoided, they should be tied down securely. For the stuff that will need to be used during the hike itself, they need to be located for easy retrieval. This includes a map and/or compass, sunscreen, rain poncho, or even some trail mix. These can all be loaded into a convenient outside pocket or on top of everything else so they can be quickly accessed. In order to prevent the load from moving around, it is vital to tightly cinch the side straps so everything is secured properly.
There is no perfect way to learn how to properly pack all of the gear into a backpack for a camping trip. However, once a system has been established and it works for all of the equipment needed, then it should not be altered. By packing things the same way each time, it is much easier to locate an item, and this can help in times of stress. There is always a greatly reduced chance of losing something or worse yet, forgetting to pack it.
A properly outfitted backpack that has been packed well will enable the bearer to handle more weight. This should never be more than 30% of the total body weight under any circumstances. Hikers who violate this rule tend to risk injury, especially in the back and shoulder areas. A lighter backpack may be a great option for some hikers because it will weigh less, and there won’t be as many items carried either, so the entire load will be lessened, possibly meaning a more enjoyable trip for all.