Packing a Backpack Washington DC

Whether you go for an internal or external frame backpack , packing is more an art than a science. Although you can choose a backpack engineered for your specific hiking needs, how you fill it is a matter of personal preference. No two hikers will fill a pack the same way.

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DC Sports & Entertainment Commission
(202) 547-9077
2400 E. Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC
 

Packing a Backpack

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Packing a Backpack

Get stuffed

Whether you go for an internal or external frame backpack , packing is more an art than a science. Although you can choose a backpack engineered for your specific hiking needs, how you fill it is a matter of personal preference. No two hikers will fill a pack the same way.

That said, there are some general guidelines most hikers follow to make life easier. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, lighter-weight items go at the bottom of the pack, with heavier items at the top and close to your body. However, depending on your height, weight and the terrain you plan to trek, stuffing heavier items in lower will shift your center of gravity and help stabilize you. Experiment with different arrangements to see what works best for you.

The Basics

  • Sleeping bag: Most backpacks have a special compartment at the bottom for sleeping bags. If you're strapping it on the outside, use a waterproof cover.
  • Clothes: Most will go in the main compartment, but if you're hiking in cooler weather, store your hat, gloves and an extra layer in an outside pocket for easy access.
  • Tents and tarps: If your pack has a compartment for sleeping bags, fit your tent under the sleeping bag. Be sure the tent is in a waterproof sack.
  • Fuel: Store fuel upright and away from food, in case it leaks. Most people store fuel in outer pockets, but if you must pack in the main compartment, be sure it's below the food, not above it.
  • Cooking utensils: Wrap sharp-edged items in towels and pack them in the middle of your pack where they won't stab you or cut into items like sleeping bags and tents.
  • Food: Store in waterproof, animal-resistant containers.
  • Personal items: Squeeze these in wherever they fit. Store items in plastic bags if there's a chance they will leak under pressure.

Easy-Access Items

Stow items that are used frequently or require quick access in the outside pockets or near the top of your pack.

  • Map and compass
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Rainwear
  • Water bottles
  • Camera
  • Snacks
  • Fuel

Packing Tips

  • Leave no space unfilled. Stuff cooking pots with t-shirts, cram socks into extra shoes.
  • Wrap strips of duct tape around your water bottles. You never know when you'll need to make a quick fix.
  • Bring safety pins in case a strap pops, a seam splits or a zipper breaks.
  • To spot items easily, store related small items in color-coded sacks.
  • If possible, divide large items among group members. For example, if you've got a large tent, divvy the canvas, poles and rainfly among trekkers.

What Not to Do

  • Store fuel on its side or near food. There's nothing like the taste of kerosene to give dinner that unique flare.
  • Let gear dangle from the outside of your pack. Fellow hikers won't mind being hit by your swinging gear. Dodging your pick axe keeps the reflexes sharp.
  • Save space by omitting...

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