Packed efficiently, a backpack can swallow an amazing array of gear. But what goes where? There’s no one right way to pack. Lay out all your gear at home and try out different loading routines until you’ve found what works best for you. Use a backpacking checklist to ensure you have everything and make notes on your list about what worked well (or poorly) after each trip.
This article offers packing tips and explains the proper way to hoist your pack when it’s full. A well-loaded pack will feel balanced when resting on your hips and won’t shift or sway as you hike with it.
Packing can be broken down into three zones, plus peripheral storage:
Bottom zone: Good for bulky gear and items not needed until camp.
Core zone: Good for your denser, heavier items.
Top zone: Good for bulkier essentials you might need on the trail.
Accessory pockets: Good for essentials you’ll need urgently or often.
Tool loops and lash-on points: Good for oversized or overly long items.
Visualize stacking cordwood. You’re laying down rows, not building columns: Fill nooks and crannies until you have a solid, stable load—and be sure weight is equally balanced on each side. Tighten compression straps to streamline your load and prevent it from shifting as you hike.