How To Pack A Hiking Backpack Important Tools

The best part about hiking is being out in the wild, away from your phone, with nothing but yourself and nature at your finger tips. But before you get to that point, there are a few things you need to do. 

The most important one? Pack the right gear! Without it, your hike could be ruined by rain or wind or worse you might not have any fun at all. 

Here are some tips for how to pack a backpack so you can enjoy all of nature’s gifts while staying warm and dry along the way:

How to Pack a Backpack
Tips for packing your backpack for a hike
How to distribute weight in your backpack
Proper technique for packing your sleeping bag
Where to pack food and water in your backpack
Use compression sacks for bulkier gear, but not fragile items

Hiking Boots

When selecting hiking boots, you need to consider a few key things: comfort, support, grip and waterproofing. Your boots will be supporting your feet and ankles throughout your hike, so it is important that they fit correctly. 

Comfort is especially important if you are going on a multi-day trek or doing anything longer than a day hike. If your shoes don’t feel right when you try them on in the store, then they won’t give you the support that is needed when walking over long distances.

When looking at different brands of hiking boots it’s important to look at their sole as well as how much traction they offer because this will affect how much grip there is on slippery surfaces like mud or snow (and if they’re waterproofed). 

If a shoe has good traction but isn’t waterproofed then water can get into the boot causing discomfort for your feet after some time spent outdoors in wet conditions which could lead to blisters forming – not ideal when walking 12km+ each day!

Packing a backpack for a hike can seem daunting, but with expert advice, you can make sure you have everything you need without overpacking. Check out our guide for packing a backpack for hiking with expert advice and set yourself up for a successful hike.

Extra Socks

Extra socks are important for comfort and warmth. On long hikes, your feet will likely get wet and cold at some point. 

Wearing two pairs of socks is better than one because it adds extra insulation to keep your feet warm.

A thin sock can be worn under a thicker pair of hiking socks to increase the amount of warmth your footwear provides during the winter months when temperatures drop to extreme lows outside on the trail. 

This helps keep wetness away from skin contact as well as keeping feet dry even after they have become damp from sweat buildup inside your boots during warmer seasons.

Rain Jacket

The first item you need is a rain jacket. This can be either a standalone item or one that you already have in your closet, but if it’s not waterproof then it’s not suited for this purpose. 

A good rain jacket should be lightweight and keep out wind, so the material should be breathable and packable. 

The hood should come with a drawstring so it can be tightened to fit over your head, and there should be pit zips on each side of the chest so you can let out some heat if needed. 

Some jackets even have an inside pocket for storing maps or compasses; this is an added bonus if you’re planning on bringing any along!

Knowing how to pack efficiently is key to enjoying your hiking trip to the fullest. Our guide on packing a hiking backpack with pro tips will help you make the most of limited space while keeping everything you need close at hand.

First Aid Kit

Next you’ll want to pack a small first aid kit. This should include bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes (or alcohol), antibiotic ointment, tweezers for removing splinters (a key item if you plan on hiking in the woods or on mountain paths), scissors and twine for making a sling if necessary. 

A thermometer can also be useful because it will tell you if someone has an infection or not. A small bottle of water is also useful for cleaning wounds.

Compass Or GPS

If you choose to bring a compass, it is important to know that it will not be as accurate as a GPS. 

Compass readings are subject to magnetic variation, which can be affected by your location and altitude. 

Therefore, if you use a compass for navigational purposes, it’s best to do so in conjunction with other tools (like the map).

GPS devices have become increasingly popular with hikers who want more information about their progress, distance traveled and elevation gain/loss throughout their hike.

However, there are some important things to consider before purchasing one:

  • Some models have limited battery life; others require frequent recharging
  • GPS units tend to be larger than compasses

Proper footwear is essential for hiking, but new hiking boots can be uncomfortable and even painful if not broken in correctly. To make sure your feet are comfortable on your hike, check out our expert tips for breaking in hiking boots for a pain-free hiking experience.


This section is all about the basics of using a map. It’s not a comprehensive guide to every part of how to use a map and not intended as such, but instead is meant to give you an understanding of how maps work in general and what you need to know as you get started with them. 

There will be other guides later on that teach specific skills like orienteering or using compasses and GPS devices with maps, but this guide will help you understand those skills so they can be applied more easily.

There are several ways that maps can be oriented: north up, south up; east at left (or west), north at right (or south); etcetera. 

The most common way for North America and Europe is north up with east at left (west) and south at right (north). In this orientation, north faces upwards on the page while south faces downwards; east faces leftwards while west faces rightwards; etcetera.

Maps show terrain features like mountains, valleys and lakes which allow us to find our way through unfamiliar terrain by following these features from one place to another until we reach our destination


The whistle is a signal device used to attract attention and to summon help in the event of an emergency.

Whistles are usually made out of metal, plastic or wood. They come in many different sizes and colors, but they all do the same thing: produce a loud sound that can be heard over long distances.

Preparing for a hike takes more than just packing the right gear. To make sure you are physically ready for the hike, check out our guide with pro tips for training for hiking, including cardio, strength training, and outdoor training options.

Sunglasses And Sunscreen

To protect your eyes and skin, you’ll need to wear sunglasses and sunscreen.

When packing your backpack, be sure to include:

A pair of sunglasses that fit comfortably on your face. The sun can be extremely bright when you’re hiking, so it’s important to have good-quality sunglasses that offer 100% UVA/UVB protection. Make sure they’re the right size for your face! You don’t want them sliding off by accident while you’re on the trail.

Sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) rating of at least 15+. Never leave home without it! Apply approximately one ounce of sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside (for example, if you plan on leaving at noon). 

Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating heavily (i.e., if you’ve been walking uphill for awhile).

Sunglasses and Sunscreen Essentials

SunglassesProtect your eyes from harmful UV rays and reduce eye strain. They can also prevent debris like dust or dirt from getting into your eyes.
SunscreenProtect your skin from harmful UV rays that can cause sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. Sunscreen also helps to prevent skin damage and discoloration.

Waterproof Matches And Fire Starter

You should bring waterproof matches and fire starter for your hike. If you don’t want to carry the extra weight in your backpack, then switch out the fire starter for a lighter. 

But remember that lighters only work if there is enough oxygen around them (you can’t light up a fire inside of your backpack). If you want to use a lighter as an alternative, just make sure it works!

Hiking is a great way to experience nature and get some exercise, but it can be intimidating to get started. If you are new to hiking, check out our guide to getting started with hiking for beginners, including choosing trails, getting the right gear, and safety tips to make your first hike a success.

Flashlight Or Headlamp With Extra Batteries And Bulb

Should you choose a flashlight or a headlamp? A headlamp is much better because it frees up your hands, meaning you can keep both of them on your hiking poles while adjusting the straps on your backpack. 

Flashlights are also unable to be adjusted, so if your backpack is not balanced exactly right, the light will be pointing somewhere off-kilter.

Headlamps are more expensive than flashlights, but they last longer and are more durable. They weigh about the same as flashlights (anywhere from 10 ounces to 25 ounces)

Which means that if you plan on spending many hours hiking each day with multiple days in between stops for restocking supplies, then it might make sense for you to invest in one of these more expensive options rather than using something less durable like a flashlight or relying solely on daylight hours for lighting purposes.

Pocket Knife Or Multi Tool

You should also have a pocket knife or multi tool. These are small and lightweight, so they won’t weigh you down too much. 

A multi tool should have pliers, knife, screwdriver and bottle opener—or whatever else you find useful on a regular basis. 

If you want to carry one of these knives in your pack instead of on your person (like when looking for plants), then make sure to keep it closed so that nothing comes out when the bag is dropped on its side.

Pocket Knife or Multi Tool

Pocket KnifeUseful for cutting materials such as rope or fabric, as well as opening containers or food packages. It can also be used for basic first aid, like cutting bandages.
Multi ToolContains multiple tools in one, including pliers, knives, screwdrivers, and more. It can be useful in a variety of outdoor situations where multiple tools may be necessary.

Extra Food And Water

Food and water are the most important things to pack.

Pack enough food to last you through the day, but don’t overpack. You can always eat extra if you need it. If you do get hungry, snack on your trail mix or trail bars! 

Don’t forget that you’ll be burning calories while hiking and will need more fuel than usual once you’re done hiking for the day.

Don’t forget your water bottle(s)! It’s also important not to overpack both food and water (especially if you’re carrying a lot around). 

Again, they’ll burn calories while walking uphill or downhill in varying temperatures so keep an eye on how much weight is left in your backpack at all times!

Warm Clothing Including Hat, Insulating Layer, Mittens, And Scarf

Insulating layer

This is a layer of clothing that traps air and keeps you warm. The insulating layer should be worn directly against your skin, so it’s important to choose the right materials: wool, fleece, synthetic fillers like Thinsulate®, or down (if you’re hiking in cold weather). An example of an insulating layer is a fleece jacket.


A hat will help keep your face and head warm by trapping heat close to your body. It’s also an excellent way to prevent sunburn on long hikes when there isn’t much shade available! 

Hats come in many different styles  you can choose between knit hats with earflaps or beanies with brims so pick one that suits your personal taste!

Emergency Blanket Or Bivy Sack And Tent Poles

  • Emergency Blanket Or Bivy Sack
  • Tent Poles

It’s never a bad idea to have an emergency blanket or bivy sack on hand, especially when you’re in the backcountry. 

The best way to pack these items is with a compression bag. They can compress them down and keep them from taking up too much space in your backpack. 

If you don’t have access to a compression bag, then just pack them as tightly as possible so that they don’t move around much while hiking.

How To Pack For Your Next Hike

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: your backpack. You’re going to want a pack that has at least one long strap that goes over both shoulders and can be adjusted to allow room for your back muscles. 

You’ll also want it to fit snugly around your hips so it doesn’t bounce or sway as you walk. If possible, try on several different styles before buying one so that you can find an ergonomic fit for yourself (everyone is shaped differently!). 

It’s important not only for comfort but also safety reasons if an unbalanced pack causes you to trip or fall, anything in there will go flying too!


Hiking is a great way to get some exercise and see the beautiful outdoors, but it can be hard to know what to pack. 

This article will give you some tips on how to pack your backpack so that you don’t forget anything important!

Further Reading

Here are a few additional resources to help you pack your backpack for your next outdoor adventure:

How to Pack a Backpack: A Comprehensive Guide – This guide covers everything from how to choose the right backpack to packing and adjusting it properly for a comfortable and efficient hike.

How to Load a Backpack – This article provides a step-by-step guide for loading your backpack and distributing weight properly to avoid injury and discomfort.

How to Pack a Backpack – This detailed guide covers everything you need to know about packing your backpack, including how to choose the right backpack and what gear to bring.


Read on to find the answers to some frequently asked questions about packing a backpack:

How much weight can I carry in my backpack?

The amount of weight you can carry in your backpack depends on your fitness level, the length of your hike, and your personal preferences. As a general rule, your fully loaded backpack should not weigh more than 20-30% of your body weight.

How do I distribute weight in my backpack?

Distribute weight in your backpack by packing heavier items closer to your back and placing lighter items higher up and towards the outside of the backpack. This will help keep the backpack stable and balanced.

How do I pack my sleeping bag?

Pack your sleeping bag at the bottom of your backpack. If it comes with a stuff sack or compression sack, use it to compress the sleeping bag as much as possible to save space.

Should I pack food and water at the top or bottom of my backpack?

Pack food and water at the top of your backpack so they are easily accessible throughout your hike. This will also prevent them from being crushed by the weight of other items in your backpack.

Can I use compression sacks for all my gear?

Compression sacks are useful for compressing bulkier items such as sleeping bags and clothing to save space in your backpack. However, they are not recommended for items that are prone to damage, such as electronics or fragile gear.