How I Pack My Backpack For An Overnight Hiking Trip

Backpack Packing Basics

Let me grab my rain jacket. I think that’s it. So here I have basically everything laid out that I’m gonna need for two days backpacking. This could also be upwards of three four or five days of backpacking as well.

The basics are kind of the same. The only thing would really be changing is my food, which I have all set aside in this bag kind of to keep it self-contained. So that’d be the real difference. I also do have some clothing and some camera gear that may be different based on what you’d be using.

So I am a photographer. So I’m carrying probably about 15 pounds of well… my tripod or probably altogether about 15 pounds. So I think it’s. A good idea is to try to shoot for around 30 pounds for a one or a two night backpacking trip. There’s really no real need to go heavier than that 30 pounds.

You can carry everything that you need. I typically do go heavier strictly because I’m carrying camera equipment as well. So I’ll teach you how to set up your backpack, how to actually pack it, where to place items in terms of efficiency and having the load of your backpack basically properly set for the trail.

So a couple of things. Basically, you want to make sure you have the basics, sleep system, insulation, which is basically your body, so the clothing that you’re wearing food and calories and illumination and navigation.

Those are some of the basics, but let’s start with tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat. That’s basically your sleep system. So I’m going to be taking the Marmot Bolt. It’s a two person ultralight tent, and it’s basically just over two pounds, so it’s about as light of a tent as I’ve really used for backpacking and it’s been awesome. I’ve used it all over and I highly recommend it. The only thing that it’s not great for is if you’re getting into four-season territory and possibly have high winds and real inclement weather. It can handle rain, no problem.

Consider The Weather When Packing Your Backpack

It can handle a certain amount of wind… no problem. But I did one camping trip where it was literally 50 mile an hour winds, and that was too much for the tent. It is an ultralight tent, so it’s not made for like expedition gale force winds.

So if you are going to be camping in some of those types of conditions, I recommend something a little bit more robust, but for a standard, backpacking trip it’s an awesome tent. It’s hard to get lighter than that, and it’s real simple and it’s a wonderful time.

So I’ll show you where and how to best attach that. But then I want to go with my sleeping bag. Basically, you want to get your base set up right. So pretty much any sort of backpacking backpack you’re gonna have is gonna have some sort of bottom compartment.

It’s your standard place to put your sleeping bag. What this does is, it creates just a nice foundation for all of the rest of your gear, and also weight wise, it’s actually gonna sit below your butt or kind of right at your butt, and that’s a pretty good spot for that type of stuff.

Backpack Packing Weight Distribution

When you’re thinking about weight distribution, basically you want to have everything your heaviest stuff right at the lumbar of your back. So for me, that’s going to be camera equipment and that’s gonna be some of my sleeping gear, and that would certainly be water and then a little bit of food.

So those are the types of things I want to have right around here. So up from there, I now have a good foundation within the seating bag. Inside I put my camera and then I can kind of build around that. If you’re not taking a camera like probably most people, this would be some place where I’d put a sleeping mattress or water filters.

Certainly, for water you’re actually using a bladder system or whatever you’re using for your water transportation. However, you’re carrying your water, that’s going to go basically right against your back and pretty low in general.

As well, basically, you want to keep all of the heavy settings close to your back and your lightest items further away from your back, because weight will actually act as a lever, so the further away that it is from your back, the more it’s going to pull you backwards and actually feel like heavier weight.

Backpack Weight Distribution Affects To Your Body

Your body will be affected differently depending on how your backpack is packed, so making sure that you have an efficiently packed backpack is critical for being comfortable on the trail, and so that when you’re 10 miles in, your back’s not aching and your shoulders aren’t killing you, and those types of things that really add up and accumulate over miles on the trail.

So I’m gonna add in now my sleeping mat and I will also be thinking of not only how do I want to build my backpack vertically in terms of weight, but also side-to-side.

The lateral weight is really important as well. So I’m going to be looking for things that kind of seem to balance each other out. So here I’ve got the MSR Guardian water filter, which is a super bomber water filter, and this is great for the Southwest because of how much sediment there is out here… I really like it and I stand by it.

So basically I want to find something that is going to be roughly maybe opposite to this. So I’m going to put this on one side and then maybe I put on the other side my cook set with my stove and fuel and things like that on the other side to counterbalance it. They’re similarly weighted and they’re similarly-sized. And so now I’ve got water filter over here and cooking gear over here.

Basically, it kind of helps balance laterally. So you don’t have the left side or the right side heavier than the other side, which would throw you off and then ultimately your body’s going to be compensating for that weight the whole time on the trail. And by the end of the day, or certainly by the end of like say five days on the trail, that really starts to add up for water systems.

Carrying Water In Your Backpack

Basically, I’m going to be using a camel back style bladder system, but I usually also carry a dromedary. This is basically just a bag that hauls water. It’s really handy. If I’m doing stuff in the desert – which I often am, this is really good for water hauling. It can hold up to… I think this one holds six liters, which is generally overkill, but it’s really handy when it’s time for making camp. And I just need to go to the creek and haul water back to camp and use two or three liters just for cooking and cleaning purposes.

These are really handy to have as well. I usually backpack them with them empty unless I need to haul extra water on the trail. Things like clothing, insulation, puffy jackets. Those are things that are really good to wait until the end, and you kind of build everything else around that. It’s filler and it’ll help build your backpack out and lock everything else in place, and then also it’s just usually a little bit lighter. So that’s handy to go towards the outside of your backpack, towards the top of your backpack.

The places that it’s actually more suitable to have light bulkier items that are actually going to be further away from your back and reduce that lever action.

Miscellaneous Packing Tips For Your Backpack

On your back a couple other points, I always bring some sort of like dry sack like this. This is a bag that I’ll use to put little items inside that are easy to get lost. So I’ve got say spare triple-a batteries for my headlamp in case my batteries run out. I’ve got a patch kit for my sleeping mat in case I get a hole poked in my bag or my mat, or something like that.

I might put my keys in there or my cell phone in there. If I’m doing a creek crossing things like that, so simple super lightweight, this thing weighs practically nothing, but it’s really handy for a lot of reasons, and it just helps keep things organized as well for items that are easy to lose. If you’re carrying multiple days worth of food, that’s probably good to have go kind of right in the middle of your backpack and as close to your back as possible.

How To Pack Food In Your Backpack

Food usually ends up being pretty heavy, especially if you’re doing multiple days on the trail. So what I like to do is have something like this that keeps it all organized and together that’s going to be in the interior part of my backpack. But I don’t have things that are like snacks for the trail and stuff that I’m, going to need calories for quick access. That’s gonna go up in the top compartment of my backpack, but I don’t necessarily want to be rummaging around through my backpack every time I want a snack.

Now it’s, time for clothes and insulation. It’s November, so it’s pretty cold out here right now. So I’m taking some gloves, certainly taking a beanie, as well extra pair of socks, and a pair of underwear. One of the things that I definitely recommend Is having a clean pair of underwear that you just save for when you get to camp whatever you’ve been hiking in on the trail that you’re getting sweaty and stinky.

You can change into something clean and then you can basically swap flip-flops whoop swap once you’re on the trail and in camp, but also just as good to have a backup pair anyway and then a rain shell kind of an emergency.

A shell for just in case temperatures drop below what I really think that they’re gonna be tonight or in case the storm comes in always good to have protection. This is basically your your first line of defense.

If you get caught on the trail in a rainstorm or something like that, it’s, always good to have. It’s just a safety piece as well. So making sure that you have a rain jacket or a shell.

Don’t Forget Cooking Utensils When Backpacking

Then I’ll also be taking this pot kettle. It’s a collapsible pot and kettle from Sea2Summit.

Let me try this out. I’ve never used it before. As you can see it’s still in its package. I’m kind of curious about how these collapsible cook systems work out, so we’ll, definitely be giving this a shot and telling you later on what I think about it.

But it seems like a pretty cool way to do some cooking. Certainly saves a lot of space so that’s cool. I’ll take the packaging off before I actually hit the trail so I’m not hauling that around. And some utensils. I like to put these up in this top part on my pack just for easy access. I know where it’s at certain things like say: a folding knife, a lighter, nail clippers, batteries – triple A batteries, those types of things – utensils. I always put them in the same place because it’s easy to just throw things into the inside of your backpack and then you never know where it ends up.

You have no idea and you have to just pull everything out. You’re a junk show. So I like to have things in the exact same place all the time. So I always do light items that I need access to like illumination here in the top part of this backpack other things that I would use put there as a map, a compass, maybe my cell phone, or something like that, but keeping that light.

Common Mistakes When Stuffing Your Backpack

A common mistake that people make when they’re packing their backpack is that whatever they can’t fit on the inside or in the main compartment they just throw into the upper part and into the brain, and then the brain itself, this part, is usually like – maybe half of the backpack weight. It’s stupid… it’s the least efficient place to actually carry it.

I like to keep my brain literally and figuratively light and carefree. So just have a couple items like snacks for the trail, lights, illumination, things that you might need quick access to, and for easy organization. But don’t over pack the brain.

There’s only a couple of things that I think should ever go on the outside of your backpack, and to me it’s basically a tent or a foam sleeping pad. You know like the Z rollers or the the foam accordion sleeping mats. They don’t really fit inside. If you’re carrying one of those, it makes sense to put it on the outside. But other than that, I kind of think that nothing else should really go on the outside.

Don’t put clanging pots, and things like that on the outside. They’re gonna be swinging around on the trail. Find a way to put all of those things on the inside. It’s, more efficient, it’s clean and it’ll actually just help to keep your backpack more efficient and comfortable for you.

On the trail I’m gonna put my tent here on the outside of my backpack… oops airline tag from my last flight. So here I have my fully packed backpack. This backpack is 65 litres. I think 55 to 65 litres is roughly a good size for any sort of general backpacking purposes. Anything where you’re doing four days or less.

This is a great backpack to have. It’s easy to want to over pack. Having a 65 or less liter backpack forces you to minimize and not to over pack everything. Plus, this is me carrying everything plus camera equipment. For most people, they’re not carrying camera equipment, so this is more than enough.

A Couple Of Backpack Packing Tips

A couple of tips… also just when you’re getting it ready to go for the actually being on the trail, you want to have about 50 % of your pack weight on your hips and about 50 % spread across your shoulders and across your back. So what you don’t want to have is a backpack that looks like this, where you have a bunch of your back and your backpack hanging off your shoulders. That’s no good. So things to look for is getting these straps cinch down tight and then also using these straps as well. What that’ll do is bring all of the weight forward. And now I have an efficiently packed backpack that’s ready for the trail, and I can go 10 15 miles today and be good.

So next stop… we’re hitting Sycamore Canyon and we’re hitting the trail.

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