The parallels between backpacking and relationships are innumerable, if not completely contrived for the sake of this introduction. For instance, take Paul Simon and me. We’ve never been in a relationship, but he thinks there are 50 ways to leave your lover, and I think there are 50 ways to pack your backpack. Crazy. I know, right? However, despite the many and varied options for each, most “options” on both sides of that fence are prone to leave you miserable in the long run.

So, all of this is a really long way of saying we’ve got a video to share on the right way to pack a backpack. As for the love thing–well, you’re on your own there. Enjoy!

The Best Way to Pack a Backpack

When packing a backpack, it’s important that you do it the right way because a poorly packed backpack will be frustrating, uncomfortable, and will make you work harder when hiking.

First off remember to distribute your weight evenly between your entire group because there are some items that won’t need to be carried by each member, such as tents and cookware.

How to Pack the Bottom of Your Backpack

When it comes to packing your backpack, the bottom of your pack is generally where your sleeping bag goes along with anything else you can fit preferably things that you won’t need until you’re setting up camp.

packing sleeping back in backpack

How to Pack the Center of Your Backpack

The center of your pack obviously holds most of the gear. When loading the center of your pack you want to place the heaviest gear like food, water, and cookware, as low and as close to your back as possible.

Lighter gear like clothes can then get packed higher, and around the heavy gear, to hold it in place. The goal is to create a center of gravity as close to your spine as possible and to minimize the amount that your gear can shift inside your pack. These two things will make hiking with the pack a lot easier.

How to Pack the Top of Your Pack

The top of your pack, which is often called the brain or lid, is for things that you want quick access to throughout the day. This is a great place for navigation items like your map and compass, GPS, snacks, sunscreen and pocket knife, but be careful not to over pack it. People often make the mistake of over packing the lid which then makes the pack top-heavy.

Once your pack is full, it’s time to adjust it to fit. The general guideline is that you should have about 50% of your weight distributed on your hips and 50% across your back and your shoulders. This means that when your hip belt is on your hips the shoulder straps should also be in contact with your shoulders. You can expect it to take a little playing around on the trail to get the fit just right.

So there you have it, a quick overview of how to pack your pack.

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Updated. Originally Published May 25, 2015.