How to pack a hiking backpack, select, adjust, and prepare it for a hike or a long trek in autonomy? Here are some tips for porterage without worries.
Rule #1: Choose the right capacity
- If you go for a trek with porterage, you will need a bag with a capacity of about 30 liters. It will host raincoat, jacket, rations for the day (water/food), and other stuff like cameras.
- For a hike of 2/3 days with a night in a refuge, you will need to choose a backpack of approximately 50 liters. Able to fit your sleeping bag, more food, cooking accessories, spare clothing, and toiletry kit.
- For a trek in autonomy and long hike, choose a higher capacity of 60/70 liters. Your backpack will contain everything necessary for several days of autonomy. Attention to properly adjust your bag before leaving because the optimal filling according to your load and your morphology is essential for the comfort of your walking.
Rule #2: Define the correct adjustment
The principle of a good fit is load distribution. In order for the straps to embrace the shape of the shoulders without putting pressure on them, the load must be, for the essential, carried by the hips. Here are, in sequence, the actions to follow:
- Fill the backpack before doing the adjustments that correspond to your morphology.
- Adjust the distance between the shoulder straps and the hip belt depending on your height. There are two major sets of settings:
- System of the self-gripping belt. A Velcro strap is wedged on a graduated frame allowing adjusting the height of the back. This strap surrounds the shoulder straps.
- Tubular systems and sliding rails. The straps slide on rails and are blocked at the desired size. This option allows a fine adjustment and a suspension of the bag during the walk.
- Loosen all the straps and belts of the backpack.
- Wear your backpack.
- Adjust the hip belt around your hips. This part of the body must bear the main load.
- Adjust the length of the shoulder straps. They must rest on the shoulders so that the pack is well in place on the back. If necessary, adjust the distance between the shoulder straps and the hip belt in order to ensure that the bag is placed at the right level without the pressure to be too high on the shoulder straps.
- Adjust the load straps (or load lifters) located on the top of the shoulder straps (sometimes at the bottom) to fit the backpack on your back. These straps define the space between the bag and the shoulders. The tighter they are, the more the shoulders are solicited.
- Adjust the sternum strap to obtain optimum stability. Be sure not to suffer any unpleasant point of contact. This setting is sometimes a little laborious the first time. Some trials may be required before finding the correct adjustment. Brands such as Osprey or Gregory offer several back sizes, to choose from according to your morphology. Similarly, models specifically designed for women are available on the market today.
Rule #3: Optimize the filling of the backpack
Source: Fix.com Blog
A good filling allows you to distribute the load. It must avoid lateral imbalances and the effects of a lever by placing the heavier closer to the back. It also allows a good distribution of the content based on the interest of each item and its frequency of use. The principle is not to have items hanging on the outside of the pack and not having to open it constantly.
How to fill your backpack with optimum efficiency?
- At the bottom of the backpack: light things (sleeping bag). On models allowing direct access to the bottom of the pack, we place also clothes useful in the day.
- Along with the back and above the bottom of the pack: heavier items (stove, tent, food for the evening…).
- In the upper part and the side pockets: things useful along the day, taking care to correctly balance the pockets.
- Under the top pocket: Keys and papers.
- In the top pocket: The most commonly used or fragile objects (compass, map, or hiking GPS).
When the backpack has a pocket on the hip belt, you can fit a few cereal bars or a digital camera.
Mats are often too cumbersome to be carried inside the backpack. They will often be placed above the main pocket or tight by straps. Attention, if you have opted for a self-inflating pad type “Therm-a-Rest”, it will be preferable to leave it inside of the pack to avoid tears.
Do not forget to adjust the compression straps to avoid movements inside the bag.
Learn how to limit the weight of your backpack. You must not exceed one-quarter of your weight. Also, be sure to hydrate frequently. A hiking water bladder with a straw will be useful for not having to “remove” your bag to catch your reserve of water.
Rule #4: Choose a good quality backpack for trekking and hiking
Even if discount prices of some products appear to be attractive, sometimes it is better to choose a more expensive model, but of better quality. A few technical characteristics to consider:
- The design of the backpack, which must embrace the shape of the back and shoulders;
- The materials used should be both strong and lightweight;
- The elements that add to the comfort of the hike (multiple pockets, straps to hang hiking poles, rain cover included, etc.).
- Multiple adjustments: whether the shoulder straps or the hipbelt, a good backpack should offer many adjustments to match the hiker’s silhouette. Some models even offer thermo molding for custom hipbelts.
3 tips to prepare your hiking/trekking backpack:
- Compartmentalize your things (this advice is also applicable when you pack a travel bag): cotton bags for clothing, waterproof bags for food, and all liquid products or that could generate odors.
- Even if your backpack is supposed to resist bad weather, a waterproof cover is very useful to avoid an unpleasant drying up session (also applicable for your daypack).
- If you do not go alone, remember to distribute loads. If you are carrying a tent, you can split it in two, poles, inside and accessories in one backpack and outside cover in the other.
Rule #5: Do not forget anything!
Our list of what you should bring in your hiking backpack:
- 4 breathable T-shirts
- 1 light shirt (if hiking in spring/summer)
- 1 Long-sleeved shirt
- 1 polar fleece jacket
- 1 softshell jacket
- 1 raincoat (or poncho)
- 3 Trousers
- 1 Bermuda (in spring/summer)
- 1 swimsuit (in spring/summer)
- Clothing for the trip home (to be isolated from the rest): if you started your hiking from a spot where you have left a vehicle, you could easily leave it in the car to save space and weight.
To protect yourself from the cold
- Gloves and beanies (often useful during the bivouacs or early morning departures)
- Tight and underwear.
To protect from the sun
- Hat (avoid the standard caps)
- Sunglasses with case
- Sun protection
For your feet
- 1 pair of high-cut hiking boots (read How to Choose Hiking Boots)
- 1 pair of sandals or flip-flops
- 1 pair of low-cut hiking shoes
- 5 pairs of socks dedicated to walking
- Cotton or wool socks for the camp
- 1 sleeping bag, the temperature of comfort -5 and + 5 °C
- 1 sleeping bag liner
- 1 self-inflating mat
- 1 pillowcase that you can fill up
For your walk
- Walking sticks
- Flexible canteen (a second canteen is useful for use of purification tablets)
- Toilet paper
- Multi-use knife
- Energy bars
- First Aid Kit
For the camp or bivouac (read the 5 Rules of Wild Camping)
- 2 Pocket Books (optional)
- Notepad and pen
- Game of Cards (optional)
Not to forget
- Matches / garbage bag / thread and needle /
- Toiletry kit / Drug Kit
- Towel / water purification tablets /
- Wipes / soap without water /
- Insect Repellent
- Plastic bags zips (freezer type)
- Survival blanket
- Camera/ MP3
- Spare batteries for the headlamp
- An international adapter
- Some laundry powder
… as well as all your important documents to be placed in a waterproof pouch.
No doubt, this articles are helpful for me. thanks a lot for suggesting this
I’m glad to be helpful.
I’m planning for hiking next month. I hope your rules will help me to prepare my hiking backpacks. Really loved your article.
I’ll be glad if my article will help you better prepare your hike.
I am a teacher and planning with my graduate school students in April a trip to amazon forest. you all advises are very handy and valuable. I will share your blog with my students.
You’re welcome Olivia. Have a safe trip.
Thanks for point number 4 about choosing a good backpack as my choice is Northface or Osprey brands.
Well, I will keep this article as my checklist for hiking.
I’m glad my article was helpful. Osprey is my brand, no doubt.
due to covid my wife and I have been taking overnight camping trips for the first time ever. I find her and I pack too much and I’m hoping this article will help her and I become better at packing.
This article will certainly help you better pack for your camping trips and hikes.
Your article is both interesting and informative. Next month, we’re planning a hike. We’ll stick to your instructions because we don’t want to ruin our vacation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Thank you James, have a great hike and stay safe.
Very informative. Thanks for sharing