Hiking is an activity that gives you an opportunity to get in contact with nature. Most hiking routes are located in National Parks and are off-track and inaccessible by vehicles, motorbikes, and bikes. They are only accessible by foot.
Therefore you have to carry your backpack yourself. As much as hiking is an adventurous activity because you get away from the hustles of bustles of the real world, however, the main challenge is that so many items are essential and have to be carried to have a successful hike.
How to Pack a Hiking Backpack
The first step towards having a successful hike is to have a checklist of all the items that you will be carrying. How to pack a hiking backpack will largely depend on whether you are doing a day hike or an overstay hike.
Hiking necessities ensure you are comfortable and safe. Navigation gears comprise a GPS, a map, and a compass. Please note that a state of the art GPS will have a compass although a physical compass is very handy.
You also need to pack sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm to shield you from the sun. You have to pack enough clothes that are comfortable and will protect you from strong winds and light rains. You also need toiletries and hygiene items like toilet paper, hand sanitizers, and wet wipes. The medical kit, emergency kit or first aid kit should have bug spray, bandages, anti-snakebite, anti-bee stings, insect repellant among other items.
Other necessities are a flashlight or headlamp, a firestarter, a water purifier, a knife, food, snacks, right amount of water, other drinks, shelter gear and cooking items if you are self-catering. You also need to carry a good camera.
Other items commonly used on a hiking trek depending on the intensity of the trek include tent poles, sleeping pad, chairs or camping stool, climbing ropes, trekking poles, crampons and ice axe.
Don’t forget to write your contacts on a piece of paper and put it in the emergency kit.
Please remember that if you are accompanied by children and dogs on your hike, they will require their personal items.
Also read: How To Clean a Hiking Backpack – Everything you need to know
Gathering hiking items
In a trek, you must have all the essential supplies to survive yet the lighter your backpack is, the easier the journey. Therefore you cannot compromise on what has to be packed.
In that case, you need to pack the backpack so that everything fits in the bag. To be able to pack all the essential gear for your trip, please find out how strenuous your hike will be because food requirements and fluids vary, get to know the weather and how many nights you will be away.
If you are doing an overnight hiking trek, call the service providers and find out what items they will provide. Check what is included in the camping package so that you know whether you need to carry things like camping stools or not. Then gather all your hiking gear.
Select an ideal backpack
You need a sturdy yet light bag. Opt for backpacks that are designed specifically for hiking. Look for bags that have both external frames and internal frames for supporting the weight of the hiking gear.
When choosing a backpack, get one depending on what items will be carried. Get a backpack with fasteners, tool loops, and other storage solutions. You can use different strategies to fasten some hiking gears on the backpack including using lash patches, compression straps or daisy chains.
An overnight stay where few items are provided at the campsite will require a special backpack that can carry camping stools and tent poles. Other things that may be needed on your hiking trip and need to be planned for in your backpack include trekking poles, tent poles, climbing ropes, ice axe, sleeping pad, and crampons. But try to minimize carrying such items.
Choose a backpack that suits your hiking trip. A day hike will require a smaller bag than an overnight stay. An overnight hike will require sleeping gear and extra food, drinks, and clothes and therefore you need a much bigger backpack. Colder seasons require more items than warm seasons. During winter, you need more food, heavier clothing, and heavier beddings.
Backpacks differ in what they offer regarding pockets and capacity. They can have front, side, and lid pockets. Some pockets have even smaller pockets inside. All these features are to help you organize your items. Backpacks also have different capacities.
The length of your trip will determine what size of bag you need. Backpack capacities are measured in liters. If you are doing a day hike, choose a pack with a capacity of 25 to 40 liters. A 65 to 90 liters backpack will be ideal for a five days hiking trip.
Packing the Backpack
Packing efficiently will see you packing so much into your bag. You should consider various factors when packing your bag. You need to consider the accessibility of the items, how compact each piece is, the weight balance of the backpack and backpack hoisting.
You need to pack well so that you can maintain your balance. Weight should be balanced on each side. A well-packed bag won’t sway during hiking. In addition, you need to pack well so that items that are needed along the journey, before reaching the final hiking spot or picnic spot are easily accessible.
You can line the inside of your backpack before packing. The lining is to help to keep everything dry. On the other hand, you can also invest in a pack cover especially if the hiking area is wet.
Divide your hiking gear into three. First are items that will not be required until the end of the journey. The next are items that may be needed during the hike. The last group comprises items that are essential during the trip.
Pack the heaviest items close to your back to avoid back pains. Cooking items, sleeping items, uncooked food, fuel, camp shoes will not be needed until the end of the journey. Divide the items into two. Have soft gear items like your sleeping bag, tent, sleeping clothes at the very bottom of the backpack followed by the other items like the cooking stove and uncooked food items.
Items such as trekking poles, water filter, rain jacket, headlamp, the emergency kit and insulating layers may be needed during the hike. Pack them at the top of the backpack and if they don’t fit, pack some in an external pocket.
Snacks, drinks, sun protection items, navigation tools, toiletries and other items should be very accessible. Pack such items in the external pockets of the backpack, in your pants pocket, making sure that each item is accessible. Your personal items such as phone, cash, ATM cards, car keys should also be accessible.
Another important factor to consider when packing a hiking backpack is how compact each item is. Compact items cannot be squeezed in between other items and should be planned for when packing, for example, water bottles and cooking pots. But you can squeeze a pair of socks or clothes in a cooking pot or in between food items.
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Ensure that you get a backpack that fits your hiking needs. Then pack well so that all your items get squeezed in the bag. The backpack needs to be well –balanced and should not sway when being carried. In addition, it is important that the bag can be hoisted well. Practice hoisting your bag at home so that hoisting at every resting spot will be convenient.
Packing your backpack efficiently will make your hiking trip comfortable. While hiking, please observe the universal hiking etiquette; please print it out from the internet. Remember to leave no trace. Happy hiking!