There’s nothing better than fresh air, an unexplored trail at your feet, and the feeling of adventure that you get from getting out into nature. I know that for my family and me, exploring new and exciting trails is one of the joys of life.
As exhilarating as it is to embark on a whirlwind adventure, it’s important to always be prepared, and that means having a backpack full of everything that you need. If you’ve ever wondered how to pack a backpack for hiking, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to have a safe, fun and enjoyable hike!
Think About What You’ll Realistically Need
First things first; you need to be able to identify what you’ll realistically need. Remember, you’ll be hiking with all of your equipment, so it pays not to overpack. Different trails call for different types of gear. If you’re traveling with children, as I almost always am, you will probably have to carry some of their things too. Think it through logically and lay everything out in front of you. It helps to have a visual.
Kids and new hikers will almost always make the mistake of stuffing everything into their backpacks at the last minute. Take it from an experienced hiker and mom that you want to avoid this trap. Practice proper packing skills right from the start and plan your bag before you even think of lacing up your hiking boots!
Don’t Pack Everything And The Kitchen Sink
Packing a backpack properly is a true art form and a delicate balance between packing everything that you’ll need and overpacking. You might think that you need five different flavors of granola bars, but halfway through your hike you’ll start regretting bringing them. Little things add up quickly.
Different types of treks call for different supplies. If you’re hiking in the cold weather you need to bring several layers of gloves, extra socks, and multiple thermal layers. If you’re hiking in the dead heat of the summer, bug spray is an absolute must, but you can definitely leave those long-sleeved shirts at home. Anyone scaling glaciers or doing serious mountain climbing needs crampons and an ice ax, but you certainly don’t want to throw them in your bag just in case you get a little snow. Bring the essentials but don’t fall into the trap of overpacking. Your pack, and your back, will thank you.
Take Your Backpack Out For A Spin
The first thing that I do when I get a new pair of shoes is take them for a quick walk. Breaking in your shoes is the key to not getting blisters. Breaking in your new backpack by filling it up and walking around accomplishes a similar thing. The last thing that you need is your pack weighing you down, or pinching uncomfortably on the trail.
If you’re planning on taking a long hike, why not go for a shorter, test hike beforehand. As someone who likes to address all possible problems head-on, I find that taking a shorter journey ahead of a longer one helps me iron out all of the bumps. If you’re hiking with other people, especially kids, encourage them to do the same. Whenever my children, husband or I get a new backpack, I love to throw a New Pack Party where we all celebrate by hiking around the neighborhood with our backpacks. It might sound silly, but it’s a great way to get the kids excited about our upcoming hike and break in those packs at the same time.
Prepare For The Weather
Let’s be honest; rain happens. There’s nothing worse than a soggy backpack, and it can be dangerous to have all of your belongings deluged, especially if you’re spending the night. Waterproofing is easy, takes a matter of minutes, and will save you a world of trouble out on the trail. There are plenty of waterproofing sprays on the market, so treat your pack carefully before setting out. Since staying dry is critical, I like to double down on my protection by using pack liners and covers.
Pack liners are waterproof bags for your backpack, and can easily carry everything that you’ll need. By simply using a pack liner as an extra layer of protection, you can ensure that the contents of your backpack are nice and dry, even in the worst weather!
What pack liners do for the inside of your bag, pack covers do for the outside of your bag. A pack cover lies on the top of your bag and shields it from rain.
Since both pack liners and pack covers are lightweight and easy to use, I like to utilize both. That way, I know that no matter what kind of weather I’m in for, my belongings will stay safe and sound.
Find An Organizational Method That Works For You
How you organize your backpack will be totally different than how I organize mine, and that’s okay! I love color-coding, so everything in my pack is separated into different areas by hue. My method doesn’t have to be for you, but I do encourage you to develop your own method. It’s also a good idea to reassess your organizational method from time to time.
Having a system in place will save you tons of stress in the long run. If you’re traveling with children, make sure that you pack their bags using the same rules. That way, you’ll be able to get anything that you need quickly. The name of the game is planning ahead and being as organized as possible.
Use All Of The Straps
Do you know that your backpack’s straps have magic powers? They can save your back from painful cramps and spasms! Your straps help distribute the weight of your backpack and take the pressure off certain parts of your body. Get in the habit of using them every single time that you take your backpack on a hike, and encourage others to do the same.
If you have kids, getting them in the habit of using straps is a lifesaver that could prevent back trouble in the future. Make sure that your straps are tight, but not too constricting.
Pack For Your Back
Another way that you can save your back undue stress and agony is to pack strategically. You’ll want to have the heaviest items in the middle of your back. Put light items at the bottom of your backpack first. Follow up with heavier things, and top off the bag with things that you use all of the time.
My children look at packing properly as a game now. They love to tell me what items go where, and usually, they get it right every time. I like knowing that they’re paying attention and caring for their backs from a young age.
Put Must-Have Items In Convenient Places
If you only follow one suggestion on my list, make it this one. You need to ensure that your must-have items are in a convenient place. The best map in the world is no good if it’s stuffed at the bottom of your bag, and nobody wants to stop hiking to search for their sunglasses or chapstick.
Make your life easier by designating a specific spot on your backpack to items of convenience. It could be a separate pocket or a pouch at the top of your bag. Whatever it is, make sure that it’s specifically for items that you use all of the time, and it’s easily accessible when you need it.
Strap Extra Gear Firmly To The Pack
No matter how well you pack, there’s a good chance that you’ll have extra gear that simply won’t fit into your backpack. Certain things are just too awkward to properly pack, and you’ll need to strap them onto the side of your pack. I always make sure that the straps are securely fastened so my extra gear isn’t moving around or hitting me in the back or legs.
You don’t want to be sloppy with strapping down your gear. I’ve seen hikers lose bits and pieces along the way. Depending on what the item is, accidentally dropping it could be either an annoyance or extremely dangerous. I like to check my children’s straps before they set out because sometimes little hands can’t pull them as tightly as they should be fastened.
Learn how to pack a backpack for hiking and your hikes will be much better and far more comfortable. I find that I can bring everything that I need in a compact pack if I’m organized enough. Simply thinking it through from the beginning will save you a lot of headaches later on. Take it from a hiking mom who knows; packing your backpack correctly is just a matter of following a few simple steps.