How to Pack Your Backpack for a Weekend Trip


Kate lays it all out for us with these tips on how to pack your backpack most efficiently for a weekend trip.

Getting Started

Sometimes the hardest part of a backpacking trip is getting all your gear in your pack.  In this post, I am going to go over a few tips and tricks to make “getting out there” a bit easier. 

When I am going on a trip I first layout everything I am bringing.  I do this for a couple of reasons:  

  1. It helps me go through and make sure I am not forgetting anything.  
  2. I can see that I am not bringing too much.  It’s the last-minute additions that can end up adding ounces (or even pounds) to my pack, and nobody wants to be carrying around that extra weight.  My weak spot is snacks.  I lay them all out so I don’t end up taking double what I intended. 
How to pack - lay it out

Putting the System Together

Once I know what I’m taking, I start looking at my packing system.  I have two goals here, I don’t want any dead space and I want to create accessibility to certain items. 

I start my process by making sure my pack is completely open by unzipping or removing any sleeping bag compartment separators.  I find that utilizing a separate sleeping bag compartment creates unusable space, and I want to avoid this.  If your pack doesn’t have this compartment, no worries, you’re already one step ahead! 

I begin by stuffing my sleeping bag into the bottom of my bag without its stuff sack, again trying to prevent dead space.  I’ll also add my sleeping pad because it is small.  (If you are rocking a larger sleeping bag you may need to strap it onto the outside of the pack). 

Stuffing Sleeping Bag

Then I’ll add my heaviest item, my food container.  My food sack contains all my main meals and snacks for the next day.  I leave out any snacks or food I want to have easy access to on the trail.  I position my food container so that it’s against my low back and then begin to stuff my tent (again out of its stuff sack) around it. 

Packing food
Food canister

Then I take any layers I do not plan on wearing in the day (my sleep clothes) and also stuff them around my food container.  By stuffing my layers around my food, I ensure there are no dead spaces present. 

Next, I will add my cook system.  Followed by the clothing I might want easily accessible like my down coat and rain jacket, and I stuff them around my cook system.  These layers will be more accessible during the day so that I can wear them on breaks or if the weather changes.  

Food system
Adding warm layers
Layers in

I put my water filtration system and snacks in last.  I want my water filtration system close to the top (or in an outside pocket) so that it’s easy to filter water.  Personally, I like to stash my snacks in multiple places.  For example, I put snacks in my backpack’s outside pocket, in my pants pockets, and maybe in my warmer layer’s pocket.  That way I have fuel that is easy to get to before I start to run on empty. Also, a Black Diamond headlamp is in easy reach, just in case!

snacks in the front

All Packed Up

Now I’ve packed and I’m ready to go!  At this point, it’s important to not try to add last-minute items “just in case”.  I’ve already laid out what I was packing and I know I have what I need.  I do not need to bring another 1/2 pound of snacks in case I’m really hungry.  It’s all-important to refrain from adding extra items to the outside of your pack.  A sleeping pad or a tent might have to go on the outside of your pack, but your dining set and an extra towel do not.  Anything hanging off your pack, and not strapped down, will sway.  Sway creates forces that make you feel like your pack is even heavier. Do yourself a favor and keep your gear on the inside. 

There is no perfect way to pack a backpack and you will come up with a system that works for you and your gear.  The first few times you pack your pack it will take you some time, but that’s okay!  The more you go out the faster and easier it will become.  Once you’ve started your hike, you’ll forget the hassle of getting packed.  Now get out there and have fun!

Ready to go!
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