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How To Pack A Backpack | Complete List Of Items To Carry

Backpacking Checklist for everyone

Have you ever been planning a hiking trip but aren’t sure what to bring? What happens when you get there, and you have to unpack everything because you packed it wrong? Is there a right way to pack for a hiking trip?

When going hiking the last thing you want to worry about is being prepared. We all want to know 100% that we are prepared for whatever happens along the way.

This includes making sure to pack the appropriate items in the correct way. Personally, this is important for everyone to know especially if you have had close encounters like me.

When I was stung by a bee while hiking, my first aid kit saved the day. Let’s not forget the time that the rain poured down on me, and my trust cover kept my items dry.

We can all benefit from knowing the do’s and don’ts when packing for a hiking trip. Are you nervous about your trip? There is no need to worry; I can help you with your questions!

How To Pack a Backpack?

You want to make sure that you pack your items in the most effective way meaning that the weight is distributed properly so that you can still walk comfortably and not ruin any of your items. If you follow this guide below, then you can count on a successful hiking trip.

1. Pack the Bottom First

At the bottom is where you put the items that you will not need access to as often. You will want to put your sleeping bag at the lower part along with extra clothes.

Make sure to roll, not fold the clothing to fit in the bag. Any night only items would go on the bottom but make sure to keep those things away from the item that could transfer smells such as food or toiletries.

This can attract bears or other animals. Animals do not care if the fragrance is food or perfume; they will still be attracted to the odor.

Creating a stable foundation is important. Please remember not to put breakable items at the bottom.

2. Packing the Core

Heavy items should be in the center of your pack. This helps make a comfortable center of gravity where the bag is not saggy nor tipping over from being top heavy.

Your most bulky items should be placed on top of your sleeping bag and close to your spine. Keep in mind that if you do not pack your backpack correctly then you will have issues along the hike.

When buying your backpack make sure that the frame is built to support your items having centered weight. If your backpack has too much weight on the bottom, it will pull on your shoulder straps and cause pain and fatigue.

If your bag has too much weight at the top, then it becomes unbalanced making you less coordinated.

The heaviest items are your main food stash, cooking kit, and stove. You can wrap the lower weighted items around heavier items to keep the items from shifting.

For instance, use your tent or rain cover to help fill in these spaces and keep the bulkiest items centered.

3. Packing the Top

Closer to the top should be your map, compass, GPS, sunscreen, sunglasses, headlamp, bug spray, first-aid kit, snacks, rain gear, pack cover, toilet paper and sanitation trowel.

This just depends on where your extra pockets are and what you use the most. Top access is important but so are the extra pockets. I generally pack my map, headlamp, first aid kit, and rain cover right at the top.

Try to pack gear on the inside and not the exterior to ensure there are no safety hazards.

4. Easy Access

Some packs have extra pockets, zipper panels, or top access which makes it easy to get to. This is where you want to put your most used items.

For me, I pack my cell phone, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, and one food item. Now I do use water quite a lot, but there is usually a special place for that.

If your pack has a hydration reservoir, then there is a sleeve for this. Ideally, you want to insert this at home while the pack is empty which is what I do.

I do not mind warm water though and perfect the easier way. You can also keep it in the cooler to make sure it is cold and then insert right before hiking.

This truly depends on how you prefer your water and how accessible the sleeve for your pack is. 

Must Have List in Backpack for a Hike

For a day camping trip the items needed may be less than an overnight trip, but they are just as important. The Ten Essentials that you MUST have are below!

1. Navigation Is Important

Navigation is important. You do not want to be stuck out in the woods not knowing where to turn. Make sure that you have a plan in place to ensure that you prepared to make it through your journey.

Now, you can bring your cell phone in hopes that you get a clear signal, but let’s not rely on that. You should have with you a map in a protective case so that it is not damaged. Using this along with a compass is beneficial if you get lost. You could also bring a GPS or Altimeter; these are both optional. 

2. Carry Survival Tools

Make sure to carry with you a knife or multi-tool kit. This is handy in case you need to cut, fix, or repair items. If you need a repair kit for a stove or mattress, make sure to bring one along with duct tape strips.

3. Sunscreen

Protect yourself from Sun by bringing sunscreen lotion, This protects your skin while making sure you do not cause harm to your body. Do not forget to bring your lip balm with sunscreen in it as well as your sunglasses. You will be happy that you brought them all.

4. Stay Hydrated

Even if it is just a day trip, you need to be prepared to have enough water for an extra day. You can bring water packs that will keep you hydrated in case you get stranded. Staying hydrated the entire time is extremely important. 

5. Pack Some Food

Again, you may think it is only a day trip but be prepared for anything. Bring some protein bars and food that is lightweight but ensures you will survive in a life of death situation. Mountain House has a Just in Case 4-Day Meal Kit, which is handy to pack. Read our full blog post about Backpacking Food Ideas

6. Let There Be Light

Bring a flashlight or headlamp even if you do not plan to be outside late. There are multiple needs for light and by bringing them, you will be prepared for whatever may come. Do not forget the extra batteries. 

7. Make Sure to Bring Matches or Lighter

You never know when you will need to make a fire, or you get caught in a situation where a lighter can save your life. If needed, you can bring a fire starter kit with usually comes in an emergency survival kit.

8. Why Not Bring Some Extra Clothes?

You never know what could happen so why not be prepared. For hot trips, make sure to bring an extra pair of lightweight clothing. For cold trips, pack a jacket, vest, extra pants, gloves, a scarf, and even a hat depending on how high the walk will take you. 

9. Emergency Shelter

It is a smart idea to pack with you emergency shelter such as a tarp, pack cover, or tent in case you or your team need to get out of the weather or have to seek immediate shelter.

10. Last but Far from Least Is Your First Aid Supply Kit

In my case, this is a must seeing that I am accident prone. Make sure to carry alcohol wipes, ointment, bandages, benzoin, gauze pads, non-stick sterile pads, Ibuprofen, blister treatment, medical tape, Antihistamine, safety pins, tweezers, and bug relief from stings or bites. 

Optional items are an elastic wrap, wound coverings, eye pads, liquid bandages, hand sanitizer, aspirin, aloe era, eye drops, thermometer, sewing kit, and a magnifying glass.For longer trips makes sure to carry shelter, a sleeping bag, extra food and water, a pillow, stove, fuel, cook set, quick drying towel, your cell phone, toiletries, and appropriate clothing.

If you haven't seen our dedicated article on safe hiking and backpacking checklist then Click here to see now

In Summary

Do you feel ready to tackle the mountain in front of you? Has this article been helpful in making you feel more confident? After reading and following this article, you should be confident in the items that you packed as well as how you packed them.

As I said before, you never know what could happen! If you have a close encounter with any animal, you know you will be ready. What if the weather takes a turn for the worse? Have no worries because you will be prepared by following this guide. 

Most importantly, if anything horrible did every happen such as you breaking your ankle or getting lost or stranded, you will have confidence that you can survive for multiple days. We all have fears and goals when going camping. Please feel free to share your goals and tips that have worked for you. By working together, we can all ensure that hiking is a safe, fun, and exciting adventure.