Learning how to pack a backpacker’s backpack is an essential skill if you want to hike like an expert. Most people will spend weeks collecting their travel items but don’t put any effort into the packing. That kind of thinking will hurt you later because you’re not prioritizing convenience and efficiency.

If you’re on the trail and have to unload your entire pack to find what you need, you have a problem. When you’re travelling for weeks at a time you need to know exactly what you’re carrying and where you put it. So here’s what you need to do.

1. Identify the different parts of your backpack

Backpack design is a huge industry, and there are many options for style and compartments, but most modern backpacks share the same basic structure. And knowing where the various pockets are can help you separate items according to priority and type.

Backpack’s brain

You’ll often hear people refer to the backpack’s brain. This refers to the zippered pouch or top compartment of your pack. It’s the easiest to access, and you can take things out while you’re wearing and walking with your bag. Hikers often keep important items like a GPS, torch, or snacks in their backpack’s brain.

Kangaroo pouch

The front pocket of your pack is called the kangaroo pouch. Depending on your backpack’s design, it may be a zippered pocket or a stretchy, open pocket. The last thing you want to do is keep bulky or heavy items in the kangaroo pouch. That will weigh down your pack, and the momentum will pull you backward. You’ll end up wasting energy fighting gravity and trying to stay upright.

Instead, leave this small compartment for essential items that you want to separate from the rest of your stuff. If you’re carrying a rain jacket, this is a good place to keep it because you can easily access it when you need to. Plus, you can put the wet jacket back later and the water won’t seep into the rest of your gear.

Hip Belt Pocket

Much like the backpack’s brain, the hip belt pocket is easy to access. It’s a small, separate area where you can keep medicines, sanitary items, sunscreen, or other essential high-use products. You can easily stick your hand in and pull out what you need while you’re walking.

Water Bottle Pockets

The water bottle pockets are the most obvious and most important part of any backpack.

2.  Pack for your trip

Learning how to pack a camping bag is not the same as learning how to pack for hiking. The key to packing the right way is personalizing the process to suit your trip. If you’re going camping, your focus should be on organization. You can take multiple bags as separate items by category, so food in one, clothes in the second, and gear in a third.

How to pack a backpack the right way

You can’t do the same when you’re hiking or backpacking. If you’re carrying everything on your back, you need to minimize weight and surface area. Often, first-time backpackers who are used to camping trips make the mistake of thinking they’re similar. But learning how to pack for a backpacking trip means embracing a minimalist approach.

3. Choose where to put different items

When you’re learning how to pack for a backpacking trip, you’ll notice that your pack has a lot of straps. These are specially designed parts of athletic gear that hold your gear together. The way the straps compress the items in your pack helps you hike easily. However, depending on what backpack model you have, there may also be any number of semi-secret zippers.

Learning where these zippers are and how they work is the key to efficient packing. Often they will let you access smaller, hidden pockets. So, look out for side zippers and bottom zippers. If your pack has a separate bottom compartment, you should use it to store dirty clothes and wet gear.

4. Avoid overpacking

If you want to learn how to pack for hiking, you need to identify essential items and separate them from the rest. Overpacking isn’t just bad because it adds weight to your backpack. The more items you’re taking with you, the harder it will be for you to find what you’re looking for while you’re on the trail.

How to pack a backpack the right way

You have to take this step seriously and strictly separate your needs from your wants. Do you really need an extra sweater if you’re taking your rain jacket? Your sleeping bag and food items are essential. Books and an extra pair of shoes are not. Once you’ve decided what your must-haves are, see if you have space to fit a few luxury items.

How to pack backpack?

The best way to pack a hiking backpack is for comfort and convenience. These are the top two factors you need to consider.

Convenience is when you can easily get to all the things you need. If you need to stop, unload your pack, and remove items, you’re not packed for convenience. However, if you can pull out snacks and sunscreen from the top or side pockets, while walking, without taking your pack off you’re packed for convenience.

Comfort just means your backpack isn’t making it difficult for you to hike. So, pack your heaviest items against your back and keep the lightest items in the outer pockets. If certain products like food or gear will move in the pack while you’re walking, keep them between your shoulder blades so it doesn’t upset your balance.


There’s no single way to pack a backpack the right way. You have to look at where you’re going and what you think you’ll need. Is rain a concern? Should you take a rain jacket? What about mosquito or bug repellant?

Sometimes backpackers will omit items that they think you can purchase along the way just to reduce weight. You have to pick whatever method works for you.

Good luck backpacking!

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