Packing a backpack correctly can make all the difference in how comfortable a bag can feel when you’re wearing it, and how many items you can store in it. Whether you’re going backpacking, travelling, or packing a bag for school, using the right kind of bag, organizing your materials before you pack them, and packing them efficiently are the keys to packing a backpack well.
EditSample Packing Lists
EditPacking for a Hiking Trip
- Use a backpack with an internal frame to help balance the bag. If you plan to go hiking on trails that are uneven or have a steeper incline, a backpack with a frame built into it can help you keep your balance when your bag is full. The backpack with an internal frame will sit flush against your back and keep your center of gravity closer to its natural position.
- Many backpacks with internal frames are weather-resistant and were designed to be used outdoors.
- Backpacks with frames are also great for long hikes because they distribute the weight evenly on your body and make it easier to carry heavier loads.
- Choose a backpack without a frame for a lighter pack. For a lighter bag to carry, go with the frameless backpack, but make sure it’s weather-resistant if you plan to take it out into the great outdoors. Make sure the backpack fits you well and has padding to help it fit more comfortably, especially when it’s full of gear.
- Frameless backpacks are also generally much cheaper than backpacks with internal frames.
- If you plan to go backpacking somewhere hot, make sure you have a bag that has a mesh panel on the back to keep you from overheating.
- Make sure you have camping and hiking essentials. There are a few essential items that you’ll want to pack for a hiking trip to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience outdoors. Depending on how long or how far you’ll be hiking the gear, equipment, and amenities may vary. And of course, you should bring a few personal items like a camera or a book to read to enjoy your time.
- Lay out everything you plan to bring and group similar items together. Make sure you don’t forget anything by laying all of your gear and supplies out on the floor. Organize them into similar items. Keep small and loose items together in a small bag so they don’t get lost in the bag.
- Keep your toiletries together in a pouch or plastic bag.
- Keep all first aid supplies together in case you need them.
- Pack lighter gear at the bottom and top, and heavier gear in the middle. Pack your clothes and sleeping gear at the bottom of the bag. Put heavier items like food and gear in the middle and top of your bag so they’re against your back, which will make the bag feel lighter. The items you need to access more often should be closer to the top of your bag.
- Keep any weather gear, sunscreen, and insect repellent at top in case you need it quickly.
- Keep essential and emergency items within reach by packing them at the top. Any first aid gear or medications that you need should be packed last and at the top of your backpack so you can reach it quickly in the event of an emergency. You don’t want to have an accident happen if you’re unable to reach a first aid kit!
- Keep your wallet, cash, and identification within reach as well.
- Wear the backpack and walk around to see how it feels. Backpacking can be very physically challenging, so you want to make sure your backpack is packed well and fits you comfortably. Put the backpack on and try walking around, sitting down, and taking it off to see how well it fits you.
- You may need to re-organize your bag to balance the weight. Try shifting the items around by unpacking them and re-packing them in a different manner to distribute the weight evenly.
EditTravelling with a Backpack
- Choose a backpack that fits your items and your mode of transportation. For example, if you plan to take your backpack on a plane as a carry-on, you need to choose one that will fit in the overhead compartment
- Most airlines allow a maximum bag size that is long, wide, and deep.
- If you plan to ride along in a vehicle with other people, make sure your bag will fit in the trunk or under your seat.
- Organize the items that are necessary to pack for your trip. Think about what you will need to use each day and which items will make your travel more pleasant. Leave behind any non-essential items or items you could possibly get at your destination like flip-flops, t-shirts, and amenities like sunscreen and shampoo. When it comes to travelling with a backpack, less is more!
- You’ll be carrying your backpack for a long time as you travel, so try to travel as light as you can.
- Gather all of your toiletries together and put them into a plastic bag.
- Keep any electronic devices with their accessories like chargers and headphones.
- Use the 1 to 6 rule for packing clothes. To pack a full wardrobe that can fit into one backpack, follow the 1 to 6 principle: 1 hat, 2 pairs of shoes, 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 5 pairs of socks, 6 pairs of underwear. These clothing items give you enough variety to arrange several options for an outfit each day.
- Swap out 1 pair of shoes for a sweater or hoodie if you need one to keep warm.
- Roll your clothes to save space in your backpack. Rolling your clothes conserves more space than folding them and will give you more space in your backpack for other items. Lay your shirts face down, fold the sleeves into the center, and roll the shirt into a tight roll. For pants, fold them in half, and roll them up tight.
- Make sure you smooth out any wrinkles or your clothes will be very wrinkly when you arrive at your destination.
- Put your shoes in the bottom of your bag first. Since you probably won’t be changing your shoes while you travel, you can put them at the bottom of the bag. Make sure the spare shoes are clean before you put them in your bag so they don’t get your clothes dirty!
- Store socks and small items like jewelry inside your shoes to save even more space and to keep them safe.
- Place your clothes and lighter items on top of your shoes. Add your clothes and lighter items that you don’t plan to access too often while you’re traveling to your backpack. Place your rolled clothes on your shoes and add items like toiletries or any other small times on top of them.
- Make sure your toiletries are collected together in a plastic bag so none of the items can fall to the bottom of the bag if you need to reach them.
- Pack any electronics and items you need to access last. Once you’ve filled your backpack with your clothing and other lighter items, pack your heavier electronics like a computer or tablet and their accessories. Then place the items you’ll need to access often like a passport, tickets, or reading material on top of that so you can reach them easily.
- Test out the backpack by wearing it. You’ll be travelling and wearing your backpack for a fair amount of time, so you need to make sure it fits comfortably and there aren’t any items that are throwing off the weight distribution. Put the backpack on and walk around for a bit to see how it feels. If something feels off, try rearranging your items for a better fit.
- Try sitting and standing with your bag on so you can get an idea of how it will feel when you travel with it.
EditPacking for School
- Organize your books and school supplies before you pack them. Stack your books in a neat pile, put your pencils and pens in a pencil case, and put your loose papers into folders or binders before you start to pack your bag so you can get an idea of how much room you’ll need and how you can arrange your bag.
- If your school has a supply list, use it as a guide and make sure you’ve got everything you need.
- Placing smaller items like pens, pencils, and highlighters in their own case will prevent them from getting lost in the backpack.
- Lay the empty backpack flat on a table or bed. Make sure the bag is completely empty before you pack it so you don’t miscalculate what you can fit in there. Laying your bag flat on a surface like a table, bed, or even the ground will make it easier for you to start loading larger items into the bag first.
- The backpack should be facing up, with the straps underneath the bag.
- Put heavy items like books into the backpack first. With the bag laid flat, open up the main compartment and put the largest books in first. These will be pressed against your back, so make sure they’re even and there aren’t any bulges or edges that could dig into your back. The padding on the back of the bag will help to make it more comfortable.
- If your bag is divided into 2 or more large sections, place your books into the rear section closest to the back of the bag, near the straps.
- Stack the books with the largest on the bottom and the smallest on the top
- Place binders, notebooks, and folders on top of books. After you’ve put your books into your backpack, stack your supplies on top of them, arranging them so that they’re even. Start with the larger items like binders and notebooks, then place your folders and other materials on top of them.
- Try to form an even layer so they don’t shift around too much when you’re wearing the backpack.
- Insert smaller items into the smaller compartments. Use the compartments and pouches at the front of the backpack to hold your smaller items like pencil cases and sticky notes. Anything that you don’t want to get crushed by the weight of your books and supplies should be stored in a separate compartment on your backpack.
- Pack any electronics, fragile items, and emergency supplies last. Expensive and fragile electronic items like phones and tablets should be packed last so they’re on top of all of the heavier items in your bag. If you have emergency medications like an inhaler, epipen, or insulin supplies, pack them last and in an easy-to-reach location.
- Keep any emergency medications in their own bag so you can pull them all out at once if you need them.
- Put on the backpack to see how it feels before you go to school. If your backpack is too heavy, you could strain or injure yourself. Test your backpack out by putting it on and walking around a bit before you head to school. If you need to readjust any items, it’s better to do that before you get to school!
- If the backpack feels too heavy or uneven, consider carrying a few of the books or binders instead of packing them in your bag.
- Organize Your Backpack
- Choose a Backpack for School
- Pack for a Backpacking Trip
- Pack for a Trip
- Pack for Air Travel
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