How To Pack A Backpack For Hiking (Expert Advice)

Backpacking is one of the most rewarding ways to explore the outdoors. It’s also one of the most challenging. 

If you want to make sure your first foray into this activity is a safe and enjoyable one, we can help! 

We’ve put together this list of essentials for hiking and a few extras that will make your trip more comfortable and efficient:

How to Pack Your Backpack the Right Way
Expert tips on packing a backpack for hiking
Importance of proper backpack loading and weight distribution
Tips for packing different types of gear and supplies
How to pack a backpack for a comfortable hike
Training and preparation for a successful hiking trip

Pick A Pack

When choosing a backpack, consider:

Size. A pack that is too big can cause discomfort, while one that is too small may not fit all of your gear. If you aren’t sure what size to get, try to borrow one from someone who hikes regularly and knows their way around backpacking equipment.

Weight capacity. This number refers to how much weight your pack can carry before it begins to wear down its suspension system (the parts inside the frame that keep everything in place). 

The more weight you plan on carrying, the more durable your suspension system should be—and therefore heavier than usual but this also means less flexibility for traveling across varied terrain types or with minimal gear loads.

Duration of trip and distance walked per day (if applicable). Consider how long you’ll be out there and how far apart camp sites are when calculating how much food and water might be needed per day on average

If you’re going on an overnight hike where food items need refrigerating between meals but there’s no room left inside due to other necessities like clothing or sleeping bags then consider taking a small cooler instead!

 Before going on a hike, it is important to properly tie your hiking boots to keep your feet secure and avoid discomfort. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to tie hiking boots to ensure that your boots stay comfortable and snug throughout your hike.

Line The Inside Of Your Pack

A trash bag is a cheap and easy way to line your pack. Simply cut holes for your straps, roll it up and put it in the bottom of your pack.

The most popular option for lining a backpack is a waterproof liner, which can be purchased online or at any outdoor store. This will keep all of your gear dry if you happen to get caught in rain on the trail.

Another option would be using a stuff sack (or dry bag), which has Velcro closures that keep everything safe and sound inside every time you take out something from inside!

Pack Food And Water

When packing a backpack, you want to make sure that the food you pack is lightweight. It should also be high in calories and easy to eat. Foods that can be eaten cold are ideal because they will last longer than other types of food. 

There are many packaged foods available that meet these requirements, but they may not always taste great while hiking. 

For example, dried fruits and nuts work well as snacks when hiking because they have an excellent shelf life and provide plenty of energy for your hike. 

Additionally, if you have time before your trip begins then consider making some sandwiches with peanut butter or other spreads instead of using individual packets of peanut butter which tend to get messy when packed away in a backpack without proper containers (we’ll talk more about this later).

When packing water and other drinks like tea or coffee make sure not just any container will do! 

Not only does it need some kind of seal so no bugs can get inside your drink but also something easy enough for anyone else hiking with you so everyone won’t need their own cup each time someone wants one – this could add up fast over multiple days worth sitting around camp waiting for everyone else who needs refills too! 

Quick tip: Some people prefer having separate cups for their hot drinks vs cold ones – especially if there’s no way around taking hot soup out into backcountry environments where there might not always be accessable cold water nearby (which would mean having

Keeping your hiking boots clean is essential to prolong their lifespan and maintain their overall quality. Learn how to properly clean your hiking boots with our detailed guide on how to clean hiking boots using simple yet effective methods.

Ditch Heavy Plastic Containers

Plastic containers can be heavy, take up a lot of space, and are often not very durable. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives that are much more lightweight and collapsible so you can fit more into your bag!

A reusable water bottle is an easy choice if you’re looking for a container with which to carry your food and drinks on trail. 

There are also other options such as metal tins and waxed canvas bags that will keep food fresh without adding too much weight or bulk to your pack.

Bring A First Aid Kit

Pack a small first aid kit:

Bandages, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes and pain relievers are all useful to have on hand. A small sewing kit is also a good idea if you’re prone to ripping your pants or tearing shirts on branches along the trail.

You can also include medication for allergies, headaches, and stomach problems in your first aid kit so that you don’t need to worry about running out of these essential items during a hike.

Breaking in hiking boots can take time, but it is crucial to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience. Our guide on how to break in hiking boots provides expert tips and tricks to make the process quicker and less painful.

Stay Warm And Dry With Proper Clothing

You’ll want to stay warm and dry with proper clothing. You can do this by wearing layers, which will help you regulate your temperature. 

Layering also allows you to shed clothes when you get hot or put them back on if it gets cold. Wear synthetic fabrics (like polyester) instead of cotton, because they wick moisture away from your skin so that sweat doesn’t build up under your clothes or freeze when it’s cold out. 

Moisture-wicking fabrics are great for hiking because they help keep hikers dry and comfortable throughout their hikes. 

Breathable fabrics allow air and heat to escape from the body through openings in the fabric itself, preventing overheating on warm days and helping retain warmth in cooler temperatures by trapping heat close to the body instead of letting it escape into the air around you like an umbrella does with raindrops! 

All these things will help keep you warm and dry during long treks through challenging terrain where chafing wouldn’t be fun for anyone involved

Use Stuffsacks For Gear And Clothing

While you’re packing, keep your gear organized with stuff sacks. They help to keep your gear from shifting around, which is a bonus when you’re trying to pack efficiently. 

Stuff sacks come in all sizes and shapes, so whether you want to organize your clothes or toiletries, there’s sure to be a stuff sack that does the trick. 

You can grab them for free at outdoor stores or buy them for a few bucks at any department store.

These little bags are also super lightweight and easy to use: just open up the top of the bag and fill it with things like clothing or camping supplies (you can even use them as laundry bags). 

When all of your items have been stuffed into the bag, secure it by cinching down its drawstring closure that way nothing will fall out while you’re hiking!

Efficiently packing a hiking backpack can make a huge difference in how comfortable and enjoyable your hike is. Learn from the pros with our guide on how to pack a hiking backpack and make sure you have everything you need without overpacking.

Pack A Rain Shell Jacket and Pants In Your Pack

If you’re hiking in the rain, a waterproof jacket and pants are a must. In fact, it’s probably best to throw a rain shell into your backpack no matter what time of year or what kind of trail you’re hiking on. 

The reason for this is simple: they are lightweight and compact, which means they take up minimal space in your backpack. 

And if you keep them around at all times, even if you don’t need them right away, there’s no harm in having one handy just in case.

Here are some things to look for when choosing a rain shell:

Water Resistance: Look for waterproof jackets that have taped seams and fully sealed zippers (if there aren’t any zippers then make sure they’re covered by flaps). 

This will protect against leaks caused by tears or punctures from sharp objects such as branches or rocks. 

If possible try out the item before buying it so that you can test its water resistance first hand; otherwise read reviews on sites like Amazon where customers often mention how well-sealed their product was after taking it through various conditions including rainstorms! 

As far as pants go – all other things being equal – darker colors tend to repel moisture better than lighter ones since light colors attract sunlight which causes materials such as nylon fabric fibers absorb moisture from damp ground surfaces like dirt trails behind houses where owners may not care about watering lawns regularly enough.”

Bring Lightweight Hiking Poles

Hiking poles are an excellent way to help you on your way-up and down the trail. They can be used for balance, as a third leg, or simply as a staff that can be leaned on during those steep inclines. 

Some hikers even use them like crutches when they need assistance in walking or getting up from sitting position.

When buying hiking poles, look for lightweight ones that fold up easily when not in use. The heavier they are, the harder they’ll be to carry around while you’re hiking. 

A good rule of thumb is to look at how much weight each pole weighs by itself before buying them (you’ll often find this information on their packaging). 

If it exceeds 1 pound per foot length of pole then it will probably feel unwieldy after awhile so keep looking!

There are three main types of hiking poles: adjustable fixed length models; adjustable telescoping models; and collapsible/telescoping models which collapse into themselves for easy storage but also extend outwards again if needed for added stability/height boost when ascending steep hillsides etc..

Proper training is key to having an enjoyable and safe hiking experience, especially if you are going on longer or more challenging hikes. Our guide on how to train for hiking provides expert tips to help you get in shape and prepare your body for your next adventure.

Add Toilet Paper, Hand Sanitizer, And A Headlamp

Now that you have the basics covered, it’s time to add those items that will make your trip more enjoyable.

First, include some toilet paper! You never know when nature might be calling and you’re miles from civilization and the nearest bathroom. It’s better to be prepared than sorry!

Hand sanitizer is another must-have; if possible, bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer gel or wipes so that you can clean up any messes before they get too gross. 

Hand sanitizer is especially important because it doesn’t require water something that may not be readily available on longer hikes with few opportunities for rest stops or drinking water refills at streams along the way.

Finally, don’t forget about headlamps! Even during daylight hours in summertime months (when sunlight won’t fade until late), it’s still important to bring along a headlamp so that if darkness falls before your hike ends (or even while you’re still hiking)

You’ll have light without having to carry around heavy lanterns or flashlights with batteries dying out prematurely (and potentially running into an emergency situation where no light source exists).

Hiking Essentials for Comfort and Safety

Toilet paperA small roll or pack of toilet paper to use when nature calls. Pack it in a Ziploc bag to keep it dry and pack out all used toilet paper.
Hand sanitizerA small bottle of hand sanitizer (or sanitizing wipes) to clean your hands before eating or after using the restroom.
HeadlampA headlamp or small flashlight to use if you’re hiking in the dark, or to navigate dark spaces like camping tents. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries or a battery pack if needed.

Sun Protection (Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat)

You can’t plan ahead for every possible scenario, but you should always have a way to protect yourself from the sun. 

If you’re traveling during summer months and will be hiking in direct sunlight all day, pack sunscreen and sunglasses. 

Even if it’s winter and the sun isn’t directly overhead, the reflection of snow can still cause burns on your unprotected skin. 

If you’re going somewhere sunny and humid (like Hawaii), consider bringing an umbrella to block out some of that UV radiation and don’t forget about sunblock for sensitive areas like your lips!

Batteries/Chargers For Your Camera &/Or Phone

It’s always a good idea to keep your batteries in a separate pocket, as they may leak if they get wet. 

You can also use a battery case or a ziplock baggie to keep them from getting damp. If you really want to be extra careful, double-bag them and stick them inside the battery case.

Navigation Tools (Maps, Compass, GPS)

The next section of your backpack should have your navigation tools. This includes a map, compass, and GPS (if you’re using one).

Maps are good for getting an overview of where you are and where you need to go, but can be hard to use in the field because they’re so big. 

The more zoomed out a map is, though, the easier it is to read from far away since there’s less detail on each page. 

Compasses work well if they’re easy to use in wet conditions like rain or snow – some compasses are waterproof while others aren’t! 

If you don’t know how to use a compass or want something quicker than reading instructions on how to use it then consider getting a GPS device instead!

Navigation Tools

MapA detailed topographical or hiking map of the area you will be hiking in.
CompassA reliable compass that you know how to use properly to navigate.
GPSA GPS device or smartphone app that can help you track your location and route. Make sure to bring extra batteries or a battery pack if needed.


This is a basic and comprehensive guide to how you can pack a backpack for hiking. There are many different types of backpacks you can choose from, and we’ve covered some of the most common options here.

Here’s the Further Reading section in H2 with a shorter description for each URL:

Further Reading

Expert Advice: Loading Your Backpack – REI’s comprehensive guide to properly loading your backpack with all your gear and supplies.

How to Pack a Backpack for Hiking – Backpacker Magazine’s guide to packing a backpack for hiking, including tips for different types of trips and gear.

How to Pack a Backpack for Hiking – A detailed guide from Sea to Summit that covers how to properly pack your hiking backpack to ensure comfort and efficiency on the trails.

Here’s the FAQs section in H2 with 5 questions and answers in H3:


How do I properly load my backpack for a hike?

Properly loading your backpack starts with knowing the weight and size of each item you plan to bring. This includes grouping items and placing them in the right compartments. Check out this expert advice from REI to learn more about how to properly load your backpack.

What are some packing tips for hiking backpacks?

When packing your hiking backpack, it’s best to keep heavier items closer to your back and near the bottom of your pack. Distribute weight evenly on both sides of your pack, and organize your gear based on how frequently you’ll need to access each item.

How do I pack a backpack for a multi-day hike?

A comfortable backpack requires proper fit and adjustment. Start by choosing a backpack that fits well and is appropriate for the length of your hike. Then, adjust the shoulder straps, hip belt, and load-lifting straps as needed to achieve a comfortable fit.

Can I bring everything I want on a hike?

While it’s tempting to bring all the comforts of home with you on a hike, it’s important to pack only what you need and what you can comfortably carry. Consider the length and difficulty of your hike, and plan accordingly. Be sure to pack essential gear, such as first aid supplies, hydration equipment, and navigation tools, while leaving unnecessary items at home.