How NOT to pack like a Noob for an Overnight (or two) Backpacking Trip

During the first several backpacking trips I found myself digging through my backpack looking for an item that I “knew” was in there, but didn’t know where. Believe it or not, there have even been a few items that I thought I had packed but I had not, while having unnecessary duplicates of other items. I quickly realized my backpack was packed incorrectly – or at the very least – inefficiently. Hopefully what I share below will keep you from making some of the silly mistakes I made in the beginning. Also, if you have additional ideas or questions, please feel free to use the comment section. I welcome your comments on any of my posts. I like feedback!

First, make a packing list. This may seem too simple, but it’s really the most important step. It is important to write the list down and go over it several times (and even the next day) to ensure nothing is missed. One method is to make the initial list in chronological order from the time of getting dressed for the trip to the moment of return to the ride home. List EVERY item “skin out” (This means items things are worn/carried, not only the items put into the backpack.) Don’t forget emergency items such as a first aid kit and signaling devices. Some people chose to make a comprehensive list on Excel that can be easily adjusted according to the season and length of the trip and there are several web based programs as well. Either electronic method may be time consuming initially, but because the information is already assembled it is very quick and easy to plan for future trips.

If reducing your pack weight is an idea of interest, the first step would include buying a cheap digital scale and listing the weight of EVERYTHING on your packing list. This will be a huge assistance when cutting down the total pack weight – something that may be addressed in a later blog post. Another advantage to weighing EVERYTHING is knowing the total pack weight before packing the very first item. THAT’S helpful!

Second, (after the complete packing list is made) and just before starting to pack, gather everything together in one location and organize as much as possible, not forgetting to include carried/worn items in a separate pile. Basic categories such as Packing/Storage, Shelter, Cooking, Clothes, Tools, Health Items, Water, and Food are good basic categories to use. By looking at everything in categories, it has been helpful to remember items such as batteries, knife, light, etc and to ensure I only carry the items needed. Before the first item is packed, plan where each item will be located for the most convenient access at the needed time and always carry items in the same location unless you decide to make a change. This will reduce the amount of time spent searching for items when they are needed.

Third, pack in reverse order, checking items off the packing list as you place them in the pack. The items needed last (sleeping insulation, spare clothes, etc) should be at the bottom of your pack and the items that may be needed first/quickly should be on top or somewhere with easy access. Also consider the center of gravity of your backpack. Heavier items should be carried from the middle of your back toward your head packing it closest to your body within the backpack.

Finally, your packing list should be all checked with the exception hiking clothes and items not carried in the backpack. Be sure to check around and make sure nothing was left out.

Below is an example basic load and placement and are listed in the order of being placed in the backpack, from first to last:

Backpack: Ohm 2.0 with sweat bandanna on right shoulder strap

Pack Liner: Trash Compactor Bag. Everything that needs to stay dry gets packed in here.

Main compartment – (inside trash compactor bag)

  • stuff sack containing sleep shorts, sleep shirt, spare socks, and spare underwear

  • Top Quilt in stuff sack

  • Bottom Quilt (loose)

  • Hammock and suspension

  • If these are all the items that MUST stay dry, the trash compactor back is then purged of air and the top is twisted and folded over.

Main compartment – (on top of the sealed trash compactor bag)

  • Bag containing First Aid kit, Emergency signal device, Health and Beauty Aids, etc)

  • Food in a gallon Ziploc bag inside the Ursack food bag (with any hiking snacks removed)

  • Cook kit minus fuel

  • Rain gear/light jacket if needed

  • Tarp on very top.

Small mesh pocket inside pack

  • Small insect repellent

  • Fire kit

  • Head Lamp (unless dusk/night hiking)

Back mesh pocket

  • “poop kit” consisting of hand sanitizer and toilet paper/wipes in a waterproof bag

  • Tarp Stakes in bag

  • Map

Right Back Pack Pocket

  • Water bottle (Gatorade Bottle)

  • Refletix Sit Pad (secured by strings on the side of the pack)

Left Back Pack Pocket

  • Water Filter (Sawyer Squeeze)

  • Fuel (denatured alcohol in a sealed container stored in a Ziploc bag)

Right Hip Belt Pocket

  • Camera with Stick Pic

  • Compass (attached to pack)

Left Hip Belt Pocket

  • Hiking Snacks

Attached to outside of pack

  • Temperature Gauge (top left side)

  • GPS (top for best signal)

By packing this way, every item has a “home” and it is very easy to find. Also, all of the items that may be needed first/quickly are on top or easily accessible, while the items that won’t be needed until it’s time to set up camp are further down in the pack.

How do you pack? Suggestions? Comments?


About jnunniv

I like outdoor activities including hiking, camping, and scuba diving.
This entry was posted in Backpacking, Beginner Series, Hammock Camping, Helpful information, Hiking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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