If you’re planning a family camping trip or a day’s hike with a group of friends, preparing your hiking pack is critical to ensure you have everything for your excursion. How to pack a backpacking pack so that your sleeping bag, tent, and clothing are stored where it is easy to get to and where you won’t tip over.

It’s easy to bring a few essential items in a small backpack. However, if you’re hiking for just a few hours, a longer trek requires careful planning. Quality hiking gear for your backpacking trip is a must to avoid hiking injuries or straining your back.

Hiker in a yellow softshell jacket, equipped with a backpacking pack, tent, sleeping pad, and gear, ready for the trail
Photo: Thirdman
Fully Equipped and Trail-Ready: Hiker in Yellow Jacket with Backpacking Essentials.

Preparing Your Hiking Backpack

One of the best ways to plan for your backpacking trip is to prepare a packing list of all the items you’ll need. A few hours on the trail doesn’t require an extensive list. You’ll likely need a water bottle, snacks, extra clothes or a rain jacket, and light gear to support your hike.

On the other hand, if your hiking trip lasts for days or weeks, it’s crucial to invest in a quality backpacking backpack. Certainly, one that provides the best bodyweight distribution, compartments, and support to safely load. Additionally, it will need and carry all your necessary items for hours comfortably.

When choosing a backpack for your hiking trip, it’s crucial to list all the items you’ll need to bring. More specifically, you need to determine the size, shape, and features required for your excursion. If you’re planning to set up camp outdoors, you’ll want to invest in a hiking pack that accommodates heavier items. Apparel and outdoor gear, including a tent pole, lightweight tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain gear, a tent, and a first aid kit.

Pack each item carefully so that there is no interference with your center of gravity. Any smaller items, such as water bottles, snacks, GPS equipment, and trekking poles, can be accessed easily from external pockets.

Hiker rolling up a sleeping pad, preparing to pack it efficiently into a backpack for hiking.
Packing Smart: Hiker Rolling Up a Sleeping Pad for Efficient Backpack Packing

Packing Your Hiking Backpack: A Step-By-Step Guide

  1. Select the Right Pack: Find your perfect wilderness companion; not too big, not too small.
  2. Lay Out Essentials: Organize your survival toolkit – shelter, sleeping system, cooking gear.
  3. Heaviest Items First: Pack them close to your back, around the middle of the pack.
  4. Layer Clothes Smartly: Roll and pack them around heavier items for cushioning and balance.
  5. Use Every Nook and Cranny: Fill gaps with small items; socks, underwear, or a light scarf.
  6. Keep Essentials Handy: Snacks, water, map, and compass go in top or side pockets.
  7. Secure the Load: Tighten all straps to prevent shifting and maintain balance.
  8. Test and Adjust: Hoist the pack, adjust straps for comfort and load distribution.
  9. Double-Check Accessibility: Make sure emergency items are easily reachable.
  10. Last-Minute Additions: Top off with a rain cover or extra layer for quick access.
Hiker carefully securing and adjusting straps on a backpack, demonstrating how to pack a backpack for hiking, before starting a trail
Perfecting the Pack: Final Adjustments to a Daypack for Optimal Hiking Experience.

Choosing the Best Hiking Backpack for Your Backpacking Trip

When you’re ready to plan for your first hiking trip, you’ll need a backpack that accommodates your journey. Whether it’s for several hours during the day or a multi-day adventure. We chose the best options for various types of hiking trips. You have top choices for your next excursion.

Best Multi-Day Hiking Backpack

DEUTER Unisex – Adult's Aircontact Lite 65+10...

Deuter’s Aircontact Lite is a heavy-duty backpack ideal for multiple days on the trail. It has loops for trekking poles, and support for heavy items, which are essentials for an ultralight backpacking adventure. As a result, you can carry it comfortably for hours at a time without strain. This exceptional hiking pack is available on Backcountry and Amazon and provides excellent features for your outdoor adventure.

Features include the following:

  • This pack offers excellent ventilation with an internal foam chamber and breathable padding. These details mean there will be minimal moisture impacting the contents
  • You can carry up to 60 liters of gear, which is ideal for multiple days in the backcountry
  • Straps are easily adjustable, so you can accommodate heavier items and manage weight distribution for greater comfort
  • There are side compression straps that help regulate volume so that you can make the most of this backpack’s space.
  • You can add a hands-free hydration system and easy access to external pockets, mesh panels, internal compartments, and a detachable lip that offers additional space.

Are there any drawbacks to the Deuter Aircontact Lite backpack? While this backpack offers convenient access to items on the trail, there is no front access. It would be a great added design feature to stash snacks, GPS, and smartphones.

The hiking pack is available in one size only, and there is no rain cover included. However, you can purchase it separately. Priced from .

The Best and Most Comfortable Backpack

Arc'teryx Aerios 45 Backpack Men's | Light Durable...

If you’re a beginner hiker, the Arc’teryx Aerios 45 Pack is an excellent option for maximum comfort on the trail. It’s ideal for overnight hiking and multiple-day trips while providing lightweight support so you can easily carry it for hours.

Arc’teryx Bora offers specifically designed backpacks for men and women to accommodate weight distribution and ergonomic comfort for sleeping bags, backpacking gear, and more. You can find this brand’s line of exceptional hiking packs and gear on REI Co-op’s website and on Amazon.

Here are a few reasons why we chose this hiking pack as a top option for comfort:

  • There is lots of room to pack hiking gear, including a maximum of 45 liters capacity.
  • You’ll have a bungee cord compression system to add extra bulky items gear as needed. Such as a sleeping bag, hiking boots, and camping gear.
  • Larger, lighter items such as a bear canister, are easy to store in the top of the main compartment. This is so you can evenly distribute weight for better balance.
  • There are removable sternum straps to help support and stabilize the weight of your backpack
  • You’ll benefit from a shoulder strap harness, which includes soft flasks for water and two pockets with zippers.

While there are no drawbacks to this product, Arc’teryx tends to be more expensive than other brands. Though a worthwhile investment if you’re dedicated to hiking long distances and for multiple-day excursions.

Priced from .

Best Durable Backpack for Rugged Terrain

Granite Gear Blaze 60L Backpack - Pottery...

If your hiking adventures include rugged, mountainous regions and changing terrain, you’ll want a backpack that can withstand unpredictable weather along the trail.

Granite Gear Blaze’s 60-liter backpack is our top choice for durability. This pack offers a heavy-duty nylon lining, sturdy shoulder straps, a removable sternum strap, and the capacity to handle heavy loads.

There are plenty of great reasons to consider this heavy-duty hiking pack, which is available on Amazon and Backcountry, including:

  • You’ll have a maximum capacity of 60 liters, excellent for hiking trips that last for several days or one week.
  • Easily store smaller items that are quick to retrieve in belt-hip pockets. As a result, you don’t have to open the main compartment of your hiking pack.
  • It’s compatible with hydration port systems so that you can hydrate effortlessly on the trail.
  • All materials are water-resistant and durable, with nylon lining and zipper closures. Also, it includes a removable lid that can be carried like a chest pack.

Are there any disadvantages to this durable hiking backpack? Granite Gear Blaze’s 60-liter pack doesn’t offer sufficient ventilation, so moisture build-up is a risk over time.

Priced from $269.95.

Best Lightweight Backpack

Osprey Men's Levity 60 Ultralight Backpack,...

Whether you travel for one or multiple days, a lightweight backpack is essential for comfort and endurance on the trail. The Osprey Levity 60 Ultraweight backpack is available on the company’s website and REI Co-op and accommodates daily trekking with everything you need on your hike.

Features including:

  • Excellent ventilation and comfort to manage loads for hikers who prefer to travel light
  • You can attach extra gear to the backpack with cord loop attachments and a top lid, which are included.
  • Side pockets offer quick access to water bottle, snacks, and small equipment secured with zippers.
  • A front pocket accommodates rain gear for changing weather conditions on the trail.

We noticed the only drawback with this backpack was the smaller capacity. The result it that you only can carry up to 30 pounds of carrying weight. Ideally, this product is great for backpackers who don’t need much gear and prefer to travel light.

Priced from .

Best Hiking Backpack for Easy Access

Mystery Ranch Glacier Backpack - Signature Design...

If one of your top priorities is easy access to your water bottle, smartphone, or snacks while hiking, we recommend the Mystery Ranch Glacier hiking pack. This rugged, durable backpack makes it easy to pack all your backpacking gear. You can find everything you need on the go in this quality hiking pack, for multiple trips into the wilderness.

You can find this incredible backpacking pack on Amazon and Backcountry’s website, available in bold, visible colors. We find this product to be an excellent option for the following reasons:

  • It’s made of nylon and highly durable so that you can take it on numerous hiking trips and various terrain.
  • There is a lot of capacity, up to 71 liters! You can accommodate longer trips that last for a week.
  • The top-loading compartment or “brain” offers easy access to smaller items. Helpful, if you frequently organize on the go, without stopping.
  • You’ll find lots of great features included in this pack. From a waist belt that molds to fit, shoulder straps that have excellent weight distribution, and is easy to carry

While this backpack is an excellent investment for serious backpacking enthusiasts, it’s also heavy. This may be challenging for beginners. For this reason, it’s an excellent option to consider once you can safely carry a smaller backpack capacity.

Overall, the Mystery Ranch Glacier hiking pack gives hikers the best comfort possible for a heavier load, though it may take time to adapt to its size and shape.

Priced from .

Essentials First: What to Pack

Pack like your life depends on it – because, well, it does. Essentials first, luxuries last, survival always.

Prioritizing Necessities

In the wilderness, necessities aren’t just items; they’re your lifeline. Start with the ‘Big Three’ – shelter, sleeping system, and cooking gear.

Think like a survivalist: what will keep you warm, dry, and fed? Pack water purification, a sturdy tent, a reliable sleeping bag, and a compact stove are your four horsemen in backpacking pack essentials. Pack them like they’re your treasures because out there, they are.

Lay Out Essentials

Backpacking gear essentials neatly laid out on a wooden floor, including a tent, sleeping bag, stove, water bottle, map, and clothing
Ready for Adventure: The Essential Gear for a Backpacking Trip, Laid Out and Prepped

Once you have all the items you need for your trip, then place all the items on a level surface. Next, place the heavy gear in the pack first, closest to your back in the main compartment. Gear such as sleeping pad, sleeping bag, camping stove and such.

Items you need to access more frequently during your hiking trips, such as cooking gear, water, food, lip balm, and sunscreen, should be packed near your shoulders at the top of your backpack. You can keep these items in place with light clothing, rain jacket, water filter, plastic bags, and other lightweight items.

Weather-Appropriate Clothing and Gear

If you’re new to hiking and join a local group of experienced hikers, then you can learn more about the outdoor gear you’ll need to bring based on the type of trip, terrain, and weather forecast.

Layer up like an onion; it’s all about adaptability. Your base layer keeps you dry, your mid-layer keeps you warm, and your outer layer keeps you protected. Don’t forget the hat and gloves – in the wild, losing heat is not just uncomfortable, it’s dangerous.

Gear-wise, think smart – waterproof, lightweight, and durable. In the wilderness, your gear isn’t just gear; it’s your armor against the elements.

Based on the excursion details, you may want to include various aids to maximize the benefits of your hiking pack. Items such as daisy chains, compression sacks, a hip belt, a packing cube, and other aids prep you for survival.

"Two fully loaded backpacking packs resting on the ground amidst a breathtaking mountain landscape
Adventure Beckons: Fully Loaded Packs Ready to Conquer the Mountains

The Art of Packing

Think of your backpack as a puzzle. Each piece has its place for maximum efficiency and balance.

Layering and Organizing Items

Start with a solid foundation – the heavy hitters like your tent and stove go near your spine for balance. Next, layer in your clothing and softer items around these, like wrapping your gear in a cushion. Think of it as swaddling your essentials in a protective cocoon.

Organize smaller items in outer pockets or the top of the pack for quick access. It’s not just about stuffing things in; it’s about strategic placement for ease of access and weight distribution. Every item should have its rightful place, like knights on a chessboard, ready for battle.

Hiker strategically filling gaps in a backpacking daypack with a stove, mess kits, hiking poles, and a sleeping pad.
Efficient Packing: Filling Every Gap in a Backpacking Backpack with Essential Gear

Balancing Weight Evenly Throughout Your Backpacking Pack

An unbalanced pack is like wrestling a bear – it’s a fight you won’t win. Ensure your pack’s weight is evenly distributed to avoid strain. Heavier items should be centered and close to your back.

Woman hiker looking tired and weighed down by an overly packed backpack while trekking on a trail
The Challenge of Overpacking: A Hiker’s Struggle on the Trail

Distribute the weight so you feel stable and agile, like a mountain goat on a steep trail. Also, remember, a well-balanced pack doesn’t just make the journey easier; it makes you more prepared to face whatever the wild throws at you.

Smart Pack a Backpacking Pack Tips

Utilizing Every Inch

In the wilderness, space is as precious as water in a desert. So, roll your clothes instead of folding to save space. Also, use compression sacks for bulky items like sleeping bags.

Stuff socks and other small items into shoes and cooking pots. At this point, think of your pack as a game of Tetris – every inch counts. The goal is to have a compact, snugly packed bag with no wasted space.

This approach doesn’t just save room, furthermore, it makes your pack a lean, mean, adventuring machine.

Two hikers in the mountains efficiently packing a backpack using compression sacks and folding a sleeping mat
Teamwork in the Mountains: Hikers Mastering the Art of Packing a Backpack

Compression and Multi-Use Items

Embrace the magic of compression bags to shrink down bulky items. In fact, they’re like a vacuum in the wild, sucking the air out and saving you precious space.

Invest in gear that serves multiple purposes – a jacket that turns into a pillow, pants that zip off into shorts, or a spork that’s both a spoon and a fork.

Multi-use items are the Swiss Army knives of backpacking; undoubtedly, they save space and add functionality. Remember, in backpacking, less is more.

Final Checks and Adjustments

Your backpack is packed, but you’re not ready to hit the trail just yet. Lastly, final checks and adjustments are crucial to ensure a comfortable and safe journey.

Accessibility of Essential Items

Before you set off, make sure your essential items are within easy reach. Overall, this includes your water bottle, snacks, first aid kit, and navigation tools.

Hiker placing a water bottle in an easily accessible side pocket of a backpack for quick hydration
Stay Hydrated on the Go: Smartly Placing a Water Bottle for Easy Access.

You don’t want to be digging through your pack for a map or a bandage when you need them urgently. Then, arrange these items in the top or outer pockets of your backpack. Think of them as your quick-access survival kit – easily reachable without having to unpack everything else.

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Adjusting Straps for Comfort

Strap adjustment is not a one-time task; it’s an ongoing process. Once your pack is fully loaded, put it on and adjust all straps – shoulder straps, hip belt, and load lifters – to ensure the weight is evenly distributed and comfortable. Walk around with your pack for a few minutes.

Does it feel balanced? Is there any unusual strain on your shoulders or hips? Adjust as necessary. Remember, a well-adjusted backpack can significantly reduce fatigue and increase your enjoyment on the trail.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

What should be packed first in a backpack?

Start with heavier items near the back and balance with lighter items.

How can I maximize space in my backpack?

Use compression sacks, roll clothing, and fill empty spaces with small items.

Is there a specific way to pack for different weather conditions?

Yes, for wet conditions, prioritize waterproof items and covers; in cold weather, focus on insulation and extra layers.

How to ensure comfort while carrying a backpack?

Properly adjust straps and ensure even weight distribution to avoid strain. Efficient packing can reduce fatigue, increase mobility, and make items more accessible, enhancing your overall experience.

Additional Tips:

  • Securing Loose Items: Use external straps for bulky items and ensure nothing dangles outside to maintain balance.
  • Safety and Emergency Gear: Always have a readily accessible compartment for first aid, a flashlight, and emergency supplies.
  • Regular Repacking: Reassess and adjust your pack daily to adapt to changing needs and conditions during your trip.


Generally, packing a backpack requires planning, creativity, and choosing the right option for your hiking adventure. While day trips don’t require much capacity or space for camping and heavy-duty hiking gear, you’ll need to consider everything you need for a multiple-day trek or a week in the wilderness with family and friends.

With some practice and planning, you’ll find the process gets more accessible. Additionally, it will be more rewarding when you set off to enjoy your first expedition in the backcountry.

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Last update on 2024-04-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API