An All-Encompassing Guide to Packing Your Backpack for a Camping Trip
Camping is a beloved activity for many. However, it requires proper preparation and takes some skill and time to do properly. The most important part of any camping trip is figuring out how to properly pack your backpack. An overly packed backpack means a significant amount of avoiding fatigue on the trail or while setting up camp, so it’s important to get it right.
For over a decade, I’ve been an avid camper—both with my family and on my own. I’ve camped in freezing conditions, in torrential rain, and under the stars. I’ve hiked hundreds of miles in the Canadian Rockies, the Appalachian Mountains, and countless other locations. All of this experience has taught me a lot about packing a backpack for a camping trip. Below, I’ll share all my collected wisdom and provide a few helpful tips.
Step One: Create an Itemized List
The first thing you need to do when you’re preparing for a camping trip is to create an itemized list of all the things you’ll need. However, even before that, figure out who is going with you and how much gear they will bring. That will tell you exactly how much weight you need to be carrying. It will also give you a better idea of the food you’ll need to bring and how much gear each person requires.
Then make a list of the essential items you’ll need, such as the tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water filter, food, cookware, headlamp, first aid kit, and that type of thing. It’s also a good idea to include a few extra items such as a few extra layers, a multitool, and a spare flashlight, just in case.
Step Two: Separate Your Items
Once you have your itemized list, it’s time to separate your items into two sections: “need” and “want”. The “need” section is where you’ll include items like the tent, sleeping bag and pad, cooking supplies, and first aid kit. Anything and everything you need to set up camp and stay safe in the outdoors will go in this section.
The “want” section is for items that aren’t necessarily necessary, but that you want in your bag. This would include books, spare clothing items, games, cameras, or any other item that you’d be happy to have on the trip but don’t need to complete the trip. The items in this section should be kept to a minimum to avoid unwieldy weight.
Step Three: Prioritize Your Items
Once you have your items separated, it’s time to prioritize them. Start by putting heavier and more essential items at the bottom and near the center of your luggage. This makes carrying the pack easier and makes sure any heavier items don’t overwhelm the zipper and straps. You’ll also want to organize your items in such a way that it’s easy to find whatever you need. This will make it much easier to set up camp and find things along the trail.
Lastly, pack your items in such a way that you can use the front and side pockets to store items you use often. Things like snacks, sunscreen, water bottles, and hats are great for this, as you can easily access them when you need them.
Step Four: Roll Your Clothes
Another packing tip to maximize space is to roll your clothes. Instead of folding your clothing, roll them into tight little logs (kind of like burritos). Not only does this save space, but it also helps to minimize wrinkles. Extra bonus: when you stuff your clothes into the main sack of your pack, it’s much easier to move around than if it was folded.
Step Five: Don’t Forget the Extras
Before you finally zip up your backpack and hit the trail, make sure you don’t forget any of the necessary items. Aside from the items on your “need” and “want” lists, be sure to bring a basic toolkit, a map of the area, a compass, a lightweight poncho, a small roll of duct tape, and a whistle. These are all items that are helpful and, depending on the situation, might even save your life.
Step Six: Fit All of Your Gear
After you have everything in your pack, it’s time to start fitting it all in. Make sure everything is packed snugly and securely to avoid shifting while you’re walking. It’s also important to make sure all pockets and compartments are as full as possible. This will help to balance the load and make carrying the pack easier. You can also use a scale to measure the weight of your pack, this way you don’t end up carrying too much weight.
Once the weight is distributed evenly, you can adjust the shoulder and hip straps to position your pack comfortably. Make sure you redistribute any heavy items to help balance the weight and provide more stability. When done correctly, you should feel like the pack is part of your body.
Step Seven: Practice Lifting Your Pack
The best way to make sure your backpack is properly packed and balanced is to practice lifting it. Pick it up and put it down a few times to make sure it doesn’t shift too much and that it’s comfortable to carry. You can also practice by taking short walks around your house to get a feel for the weight. This will help ensure you’re as comfortable as possible while out on the trail.
If all else fails, you can always refer to this helpful video below that reviews the best practices when packing your backpack for a camping trip.
It might seem like a lot of work, but packing your backpack for a camping trip doesn’t have to be difficult. If you create a detailed list, organize your items, prioritize them, and practice, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful camping trip.