It’s the weekend; the smell of adventure is in the air, freedom is so close you can almost taste it, and you’ve got a sweet 48 hours before you need to return to reality. With excitement running high, it’s tempting to just throw everything into your backpack and hope for the best. But we’re not car camping, people. That will come back to bite you.

As the saying goes ‘an excellent adventure begins with a well-packed backpack’. I made that up, but you get my point. If you pack your bag right, good things will follow. A well-packed backpack means you’ll be more comfortable, you’ll feel more steady on your feet, and you’re less likely to annoy your comrades with complaints of a bulky, ill-fitting monstrosity.

Step 1 — Have A Backpack

To pack a backpack, you will first need a backpack. Not only that, but you’ll need a backpack that’s up for the task. In the words of the wise woman known as Goldilocks, you don’t want one that’s too big, or too small, but one that’s just right.

If your pack is too large, you might find things move about too much inside. If it’s too small, you’ll need to start strapping stuff to the outside. And if you’ve ever walked with someone whose metal cup is clanging against a carabiner, then you know that you never want to be that person. It’s not a good look.

Read: Why You Should Get Fitted Before You Buy A Hiking Backpack

Step 2 — Get Watertight

No one wants a wet sleeping bag or a soggy sandwich. Invest in a waterproof pack liner which is a few sizes bigger than the backpack so you can roll it down a few times and create a strong waterproof seal. If you’ve got a pack cover too, that’ll add an extra layer of waterproofing.

Note: You can use a garbage bag in a pinch, but it’s not as reliable and worse for the environment.

how to pack a backpack like a boss Brooke Nolam, osprey raincover, backpack, hiking, waterproofing your gear

Step 3 — Bottom’s Up

The bottom of your pack is for storing lightweight items that you definitely won’t need access to during the day. For most people, that’s the sleep system. Think sleeping bag, liner, sleeping mat etc. Cram them right down in there and forget them until beddy-byes.

Step 4 — Work On The Core

The middle part of the backpack, against your back, is where you want to put anything heavy. Water bladder, food, stove, gas etc. Keeping the bulk of the weight close to the centre of your back helps lower your centre of gravity and provides stability — which you’ll definitely need if you’re walking in uneven terrain.

Get Compressed: Many packs feature compression straps on the sides to turn your backpack into a maneuverable nugget. You can also get compression sacks for sleeping bags and clothing to save space. Get crankin’!

Step 5 — Focus On The Top

The top pocket is for the things you need quick and easy access to while you’re hiking — think waterproof jacket, multi-tool, first aid kit, water purifying system, and a few snacks. Oh, and make sure your first aid kit is waterproofed. A saturated blister band-aid ain’t going to do you much good.

how to pack a backpack like a boss Brooke Nolan osprey aether 60, orange backpack

Step 6 — Fill in the gaps

Steps 1-5 are pretty much the non-negotiable for a decently packed bag. But what about the rest of your stuff? Well, that’s more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ kinda thing.

Not sure what to pack? Read this: Packing List For An Overnight Hike

Clothes: I really like having all of my clothes together, so I use a packing cube and put this at the bottom of the pack above my sleep system. However, there’s plenty of advocates for the ’stuff your clothes in all the gaps’ approach. This makes the most use of the available space and also helps stop the rest of your stuff from jiggling about too much.

Tent: While some people strap tents onto their bag, this can be a bit of a safety hazard if it gets snagged on trees / the bush. I keep mine inside the bag, close to the back of my pack, in the middle (although others swear by having it at the top so it’s super easy to get to when you arrive at camp). Just do what feels right — variety is the spice of life, right?

Random Stuff: Most backpacks will have a whole load of little pockets to choose from which are perfect for storing smaller items. I use the front mesh pocket for any extra layers I think I might need during the day, and the smaller pockets on the side are for toilet roll, hand sanitiser etc. My hip belt pockets I use for map, phone, compass, PLB, GPS etc. And a few more snacks. You can never have enough snacks stashed.

It might take a few tries to find the perfect packing system for you, but once you’ve got it nailed you’ll thank your perseverance. Not only will it make you more comfortable, but you’ll always know where everything is — meaning you’ll be unpacked and packed up faster than you can say g-day.


Photo editing by Vinicius Nenartavis

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