Packing Your Hiking Backpack The Right Way

Your backpacking trip is coming, and you haven't packed your stuff yet. Whether you're a first-timer or an occasional traveler, there's one thing we could agree on: we want to pack our stuff as efficiently as possible.

Packing your camping gear and essentials the right way is vital in every camping trip. You don't want to be that person who's caught up in the moment, rummaging through your stuff in an emergency. You have to remember that the wilderness has an unforgiving nature, whereas unpreparedness could end up a disaster.

There are tons of ways on how to pack your backpacks for the trip. The internet and camping experts have different opinions and procedures in packing. But, it all boils down to a simple formula applied across all forms of stuffing, which you can improvise based on your conditions and the gears you've prepared for the trip.

The fundamental of packing for your backpacking trip is: heavy to light. However, there are certain conditions that you MUST take note before placing all your stuff accordingly, such as the level of necessity or the type of backpack you'll use.

Understanding "Necessity" in Packing

Every individual has their take on what's necessary to store in their backpack. Some might find the stuff you bring along as "impractical," but backpacking is such a unique experience that it revolves around what works for you or not.

Necessity, by definition, is a prerequisite. These items have a particular level of need that's deemed essential to your overall health and well-being. For example, you have a health condition that requires immediate access to medicine or tendencies that demand instant attention. You should treat such personal requirements with high priority in your backpack to prevent discomfort along the trip.

The bottom line is, you can classify items as a "necessity" according to your preference or condition. However, it should be done rationally to ensure that you're not just making excuses in prioritizing particular contents in your backpack, instead efficiently storing your outdoor essentials vigorously.

The Types of Backpack

The classification of your backpack also plays a vital role in how you stuff your contents and how long it can serve you best. Therefore, choosing the right packs is a critical choice since it will determine your efficiency as a backpacker in traversing through the wilderness.

There are two types of backpacks commonly used in backpacking -- the internal frame and external frame backpacks. Both styles are capable of carrying a variety of gears and essentials a backpacker needs. However, it's the specification of each pack that quantifies its capacity per volume and duration.

  • Internal Frame Backpacks are typically more comfortable since there are no protruding frame parts that could lacerate your skin. Regarding its size and design, these types of packs have become an industry standard. They have a much larger capacity compared to external frame backpacks. However, they're more expensive and can be harder to pack.
  • External Frame Backpacks are designed with large steel or aluminum frame that rests on your back. Accordingly, they are much easier to pack since the packs' structure extends past the shell, providing a convenient surface for packing. However, they offer less space and are quite uncomfortable to carry. Some backpackers opt for external frame backpacks if they're going for a budget-friendly route.

Packing Systematically

Now that you've chosen the right backpack for the trip and you've classified your preferred "necessity" items, it's time to start packing. As mentioned above, the best way to pack your luggage to the wilderness is heavy to light.

The most important thing to remember when packing your backpack is to pile each item according to weight, size, and purpose and pile them into sets. Start with the biggest or heaviest items, such as your sleeping bag, roll-up style mat, sleeping pad, or all the bulky gears and items that do not require immediate access until camp, and set them aside.

Next, go through those items that you think you require immediate access like emergency kits, flashlights, knife, or things that you might need while on the trail, and set those in another pile. And finally, your mid-weight items or durable materials like your camp stove, clothes, freeze-dried food, and other supplies.

Now, what you have left are piles of stuff categorized accordingly for convenient packing. Your essentials or items that you require immediate access should sit on top of your backpack. Your heaviest supplies go on the bottom of your bag, followed by your mid-weight items.

Consequently, here's how your stuffing should look like:

  • The Bottom Zone is perfect for all bulky gears and items that you do not require immediate access until you settle on a location to set-up a camp. Systematically placing heavy objects on this section creates an internal shock-absorption system for your back and backpack.
  • The Top Zone is where your essentials and "necessities" should sit, since it's convenient and support swift entry when you need it.
  • The Mid-Zone or Core is for denser, heavier items like your food stash, cook kit, water reservoir, or mid-weight supplies.
  • You can also utilize your backpack's accessory and secondary pockets. These sections are perfect for urgent needs like water bottles, emergency kits, headlamp, ID, maps, and more. However, this depends on the style of the backpack you've purchased.


Packing smart could make a massive difference in your overall backpacking experience. You MUST know what backpack works for you since it serves as your luggage in the wilderness. In choosing a pack for your next adventure, check the manufacturer's tag, and think about the duration of your trip. Having this general idea helps in choosing what backpack to use and the amount of gear you intend to carry and pack. The right way of packing your hiking backpack depends on your itinerary. Just remember always to categorize your items based on weight, size, and necessity. And, by that alone, you'll know how to pack your stuff like a pro.

Carla Arbuckle
Carla Arbuckle

Carla is a staff writer for and She is an avid outdoors enthusiast and photographer. She can be found most weekends fishing and exploring the wilderness.