I have been researching how to pack a backpackers backpack for three days, and now, I will share with you what I have learned.
Whether you are a beginner or a professional, there are interesting insights, and helpful tips I wish I knew before in this article.
Separate gear into essentials and non-essentials
Essentials: Your essentials are either items that you will use frequently on the trail/at camp, or those which help you stay safe and healthy. These items may be food and hydration, or provide protection from the elements such as tents. Basically, gear you will need to use on the trail, and gear that helps you survive count as essential.
Example of essentials: First aid kit, a tent, water bottle, snow/rain jacket, sleeping bag.
Non-essentials: 3 books, didgeridoo/musical instrument, a big knife(unless you’re doing bushcraft), and alcohol. All of these items are unnecessary to survive in the wild for a few days.
Duration. Consider the duration of your trip when making your essentials pile, how many day’s worths of water/clothes/food, will fit your needs.
Bonus gear. With the essentials separated from the non-essentials, you may now include bonus items if you have space, if you cannot fit everything, there may still be something non-essential which you can remove.
Checklist. List out several essentials and put them onto a Checklist. Check it twice for good measure, you don’t want to forget your favorite book.
Organize. Put your gear in bright, color-coded bags to help you remember which bag is which.
Required items. Wag bags, bear canisters, and a shovel may be required at your camping location. Learn the rules of your campground.
Rain Jacket: Rain gear counts as a safety item. Why? Well, people get hypothermia more during the summertime than during any other time of the year.  There is no chance it will rain, I don’t need a rain jacket or my waterproof tent layer. This mindset can put you in peril and in puddles.
Know the areas of your backpack
Bottom: First put in a couple of trash bags to waterproof the inside of your backpack, then put in your water reservoir against your back. Next, add your sleeping bag, which can act as a shock absorber if you fall, and a cushion for the heavy items in the middle.
Bottom pack item list: Sleeping bag, sleeping pad / rollable, Any layering clothes, shoes for camp.
Middle: Heaviest items go against your back or between your shoulder blades, not away from your back. If your backpack is too heavy in the back, then you can fall over on your backside during your hike.
Bear canister: the best place to store this item is in the middle of your backpack.
Gaps. lighter items go away from your back in the middle to fill in the gaps, like mortar, fills in spaces between bricks for construction.
Middle item list: Stove, fuel, food, bear canister, clothes, toiletries, shoes, and mugs.
Pro tips 1. Make sure your fuel cap is tight, if your cap leaks, then this leaked fuel will damage waterproof tent layers. Put fuel in sealable plastic bags to prevent these spills.
Top: Place your essentials at the top. This area is for your emergency items, or grab-and-go items you will access throughout your hike. For example, your rain jacket, and waterproof tent are items you want easy access to in case the weather suddenly changes.
Accessory pockets: Look around your backpack and try to find all the pockets and zippers. Some pockets even have a lot of smaller pockets inside. You can store little knick nacks in here like a harmonica, or a compass.
Food: Store food such as snacks in the top, unless you are in an area populated by bears. In that case, protect yourself and your snacks by putting them in the bear canister.
Top Item list: First aid, snacks, tents, jackets, Bathroom kit, shovel, sunscreen, headlamp, lighters, GPS, bug spray, a small knife, and maybe a camera if you want to snap a quick photo of a bird.
Pro tip: If you pack backpacks in the same way, you will know where everything is. Especially inside pockets and accessory pockets.
What you don’t need:
Boxes, bags, and packaging. First aid kits, snake kits, any kit usually comes with a big clunky box. Bring gaws, electrical tape, 8-10 bandages, and anything else you think you will need from the kit for an emergency, you don’t have to bring the plastic box.
For a snake kit, just bring the extractor and anything else in the kit you want. Tent stake bags can go, instead you could put them in a backpack pocket. Some packaging can be removed as well, and you can simply bring the items wrapped in the packaging.
Knife sharpener. Do you really need to bring a knife sharpener? Unless you are doing a lot of bushcraft, your knife won’t be used enough for it to need sharpening.
Sunscreen/lotion. Sunscreen and lotion come in big bottles, but you can buy little plastic containers, and fill them up saving more space and weight.
Heavy pan: Why not find food you can eat out of a Jetboil unit. you don’t really need a big cast iron pan, this adds a ton of weight to your bag.
Cup, food. Why not drink out of your pot? Also, if you don’t care for camp food, bring dehydrated meals.
Pro tip: You do not need a whole bunch of fuel if you are doing a weekend backpacking trip. You definitely do not need the whole 8-ounce fuel tank, you will only need 4 ounces, sometimes not even 4. Or you could bring a Kojin ultralight backpacking stove which is as small as your palm, weighs almost nothing, and is easy to store.
Accessibility, balance, and comfort, the ABCs
Accessibility: Think about which items you will want easy access to throughout your hike, and which items you won’t need until you set up camp.
Balance: If you put on your backpack and feel unbalanced, then there are a few things you might need to re-arrange. Place some heavier items closer to your back to maintain a better balance. Also, tighten all compression straps to maintain your center of gravity, and stabilize your load.
Comfort. Once you have your gear packed, you want to be comfortable throughout your hike. Make sure the majority of your weight is directed to the hips, not your shoulders. Also, make sure your shoulder straps are comfortable so you don’t get a sore shoulder.
There are some backpacks that make it easy to access items like your sleeping bag at the bottom. If you plan on getting a good backpack, you may want one which enables you to access the bottom of your gear with ease.
What to do Next?
Maybe you can lighten your load now, and try some of the tips and tricks mentioned above. Since you have removed some things you don’t need, you can bring an extra book or your camera. Have a comfortable, safe, and fun hiking trip, happy travels!