packing a bag

The right way to pack a backpack

Going on a cruise or taking a vacation at a resort or hotel is very different from going backpacking. On a cruise or resort vacation, you can take as much as you want because you will unpack when you get your destination. Your only worry will be being able to fit all that you want to carry in your suitcase. It is very different when you are backpacking because, for the most part, you will be carrying your belongings on a pack on your back.

This is why it is important to know how to pack a backpack properly. You don’t have the luxury of carrying whatever you want. You must pack a backpack that you will be able to carry on your back and comfortably move around. Taking the following factors into consideration will help you to do so;

1) Capacity
The way to get capacity right is to get the right size of a backpack. There are small, medium and large ones. Small ones will not hold everything you need to carry while large ones will be too heavy and bulky for you to move around comfortably. The ideal size is the medium backpack which has a capacity of 40 to 45 liters. Even if you already have a backpack, consider upgrading to modern ones that are lightweight which makes it easier to carry more things without adding extra weight.

2) Weight distribution
You will be carrying your backpack for long periods of time so it is important that weight is evenly distributed for your stability and comfort. Today’s backpacks have internal frames. These have become the standard backpacking frame type. Make the most of them by packing items that are heaviest high and center between the shoulder blades and close to your back. Medium weight items should be towards the top and the outer parts of the backpack. Light items like sleeping bags should go on the bottom.

Packing this way puts the weight on your hips where most of the weight of the backpack should be. More stability can be gained on rough terrain by packing heavier items a bit lower on the back which lowers the center of gravity. Note that a packed backpack shouldn’t weigh more than between 25% and 30% of your ideal body weight. Beginners and those who are not very fit should carry even less weight.


3) Side pockets
Make good use of side pockets by placing items you will most likely need to access when on the move. This would be your water bottle, GPS, bug spray or other types of insect repellant, lamp and rainwear. Keep these close so you can quickly reach for them when you need them.

4) Attaching gear
Related to side pockets is attaching gear to your backpack. You can attach some items externally but not so much as to throw you off balance. You also don’t want things getting caught in the bush as you move along. Attach necessary items like your trekking poles and tent poles. As much as possible, attach items equally on both sides of your backpack.

5) Carrying food and drink
You will most likely want to carry snacks and drink to have when you are hiking or trekking. Carry food in ziplock bags and for your drinks, you can carry a travel coffee cup or thermos for hot drinks and a water bottle for water and juices. Put all food items in a food bag that can be zipped up and always throw away unused portions at the end of the day.

6) Fill up spaces
Something else you want to do is fill empty spaces with items that are small or that can be compressed. For instance, stuff some food items in a pot or carry a roll of duct tape around your trekking poles. Backpacking is about making use of every inch of available space.

7) All set
Once you are finished packing, tighten every compression strap. This will limit the load you are carrying from shifting as you walk.

8) Take your pick
Don’t go for the first backpack you come across when you go to buy. It is worth it to take the time to read reviews and find out the recommendations of those who have used a backpack on how good or bad it is. You also want to keep up with the latest brands and models.

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Founder of Turn It To Trvl. After being made redundant from my digital marketing job, in the UK, I decided I no longer wanted to work the traditional 9-5. I found a volunteer opportunity in Malawi in 2015 and am now freelancing from the warm heart of Africa. Curently building a portfolio of clients and trying to inspire more people to live a life of travel.
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