How to pack your backpack

Now that summer is here, getting into the mountains is high on all of our lists. Getting out into the wilderness is a top priority for a lot of us but carrying a 40 lb pack on our backs can be hard on your body! Here we’ll give you some suggestions on how to pack your backpack most efficiently.


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First of all there is no right way to pack a backpack; but a well packed backpack should be well balanced and the bulk of the weight should rest on your hips. We can think of packing by breaking the pack down into 4 zones:

  1. Bottom Zone

    • Good for bulkier items that aren’t needed during the day

      • Ex: sleeping bags, sleeping pad

    • These soft squishy items help add to your pack’s shock absorption

  1. Core Zone

    • Good for heavy bulkier items

      • Ex: Meals, tent, fuel canisters

    • Packing heavy items here helps to create a good center of gravity

      • If you pack heavy items too low the back will sag and too high will make you feel tippy.

  1. Top Zone

    1. Good for bulky items you may need during the day

      • Ex: Lunch items, rain jacket/fleece, water filter

      • Packing items that are too heavy here will make your pack feel tippy

  1. Accessory Zone

    • Good for small items you need frequently

      • Ex: Snacks, sunscreen, maps

You should also visualize stacking your items like you would firewood; laying down rows not columns and then filing all the nooks and crannies until it feels stable and the weight is even. You can play around with your own gear and find what works best for your pack but keeping these things in mind will help to optimize your load and your hike!

– Kate Dolan, DPT

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