An obligatory gear photo to incite envy in all your friends

Lay Out Your Gear

Before you start attempting to squeeze everything you think you might need into your pack, take a moment to lay it all out on the floor. This will help to keep your pack organized, to ensure that you don’t forget anything essential, and to give you the opportunity to rethink items which might be superfluous and unnecessary. An extra bonus is the opportunity to take a rad gear photo to make your friends envious of your adventure!

Prepare for the worst, but no more

Only Pack the Essentials

The number one item I typically over-pack is clothing. It is all too easy to get carried away with the thought of ‘what-if’ and end up bringing clothing for every possible weather event. Decide instead to go for quality rather than quantity by checking the weather ahead of time and packing accordingly. I suggest that you only need one to two hiking/working outfits (top and bottom), something to relax in camp and sleep in, rain gear, and a compactable warm jacket for cold mornings (doubles as a pillow!). Materials for these clothes should be wool, fleece, synthetics, or…well, pretty much anything that is not cotton.

Remember, you’re camping, not glamping.

Limit Your Comfort Items

Only allow yourself one to two nonessential items to heighten the comfort factor. These could include a camp chair, a camp pillow, chocolate bars for every night, a packable lantern, or a bag of wine. With all of the amazing new backpacking and camping gear available, it is easy to get caught up and bogged down with the gear. Just remember, you are headed out to get away from it all, so stop trying to replace your creature comforts with lighter versions of themselves. And for the love of wilderness, minimize the technology you bring! I have always felt that limiting these comfort items allows me to appreciate them that much more while in the back-country.

Pack Smarter

To optimize space in your pack, utilize compression sacks as frequently as possible. Not only will this squeeze your belongings down to their smallest size, but it will also keep your gear organized, easily accessible, and will protect it from water in case of a storm.

When it comes to actually packing your pack, things are really up to your preference. Based on the weights and densities of your gear, distribute your belongings according to the ‘Backpack Weight Distribution’ diagram. As a general guideline remember that your heaviest items should be lower and close to your back, and you should not overload parts of your pack above your shoulders, as it will throw off your balance. Many people put their sleeping bag down low on their hips, their tent and cook gear close to their back, and fill the remaining space with clothes and other gear.

Don’t let the size and shape of your pack restrict your packing too much. I always like to attach my sleeping pad to the lower outside and my camp shoes and hiking poles (when not in use) to either side. These odd-shaped rigid items can be cumbersome to fit inside a pack, and may come in handy if you make them easily accessible.

On the subject of easy access in your pack, always keep your rain gear, pack cover, camera, snacks, water, and any other gear you might need in a pocket which is easily accessed throughout your day. These are all items that can be a hassle to dig for when you actually need them!

If you have any additional tips or tricks, please share them below for the greater good.