How to Pack a Hiking Backpack

How to Pack a Hiking Backpack

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Whether you’re doing a quick day hike up Bald Mountain in the Uintas or heading out on a two week backcountry expedition, what you put in and how you pack your hiking backpack should be taken with consideration. Where to start? First, assess what you need to bring. Even on day hikes, extra layers might be needed if you’re headed into the high country where afternoon storms or cold temps could leave you wet and chilled. And of course, bring enough food and water to fuel you throughout the day. For multi-day trips, make a packing list for cooking and sleeping items, clothing and extras.

Pick a Backpack

After you’ve figured out your load for the trip, pick an appropriate size hiking backpack. Choose a large enough pack that you won’t have to strap items on externally, but not so large that items will be floating around loose inside. For longer backpacking trips, make sure your pack has enough support and suspension for hauling heavy loads. For shorter trips, make sure you’ve got enough space for lunch, snacks, emergency blankets, water and extra layers. A favorite among our customers is the Osprey Viper 13 Backpack. On the smaller side for those who like to travel fast and light, this hydration pack has ample space for lunch, snacks and clothing, in addition to its 3 liter hydration reservoir.

Loading the Hiking Backpack

Now its time to start packing! If you’re overnighting, place your sleeping bag in first, at the bottom of the backpack. Lighter, squishy items that you won’t need during the day should also go in here – long underwear, down booties, etc. Heavy items such as food and water should go on top of these – you want them to sit at mid-back level and be closer to your body for balance. Place your raincoat or emergency layer on top so you don’t have to empty your pack to get to it at an inopportune time. Items such as maps, flashlights, first aid kits, and snacks should be placed in external, easy-to-reach pockets.

Carrying the Load

When you first put on your hiking backpack, loosen all the straps evenly, then go about adjusting them. First, tighten the hip belt so that it feels snug around your hips, not on top of them. Then cinch down the shoulder straps so that the load rides evenly on both sides. Adjust the load lifters so that the pack’s weight sits close to your body and does not swing. Then adjust the load stabilizer straps on the hipbelt and the sternum strap for comfort.

Test It Out

Take a few paces in your loaded pack – if it feels uneven, repack it. You don’t want to end up with sore hips, knees or a bad back on the first day of a backpacking trip due to an unbalanced pack. Hiking with a backpack takes some getting used to, but it should feel as if you are one unit with your pack, with nothing swaying inside or moving unpredictably.

If you’re planning a trip to Park City, check out our selection of hiking backpacks and our guided hiking tours.

Evelyn Dong, content writer