How to Pack a Rucksack

If you’re gearing up for several days of travel and camping, you’ll no doubt have a lengthy checklist, and you’ll be wondering the best way of how to pack a rucksack for DofE or similar expeditions. Carrying everything comfortably in your rucksack for hours at a stretch is essential to the success of your journey and there are right and wrong ways to go about it. We’re going to look at the best practices for packing a rucksack and how to fit a rucksack properly to carry it all for comfortable travelling.

Packing a Rucksack

When rucksack packing, the two main considerations you need to sort your gear by is how much it weighs and how regularly you will be using it. The aim is to put together a pack that is balanced effectively. A packed rucksack should sit comfortably on the back without affecting your centre of gravity.

Bottom – Separate items out alongside your pack; this facilitates packing and also makes it easier to check you have everything. Start out by packing the items you’ll use least, which will most likely be your sleeping clothing, a travel pillow and your sleeping bag. These won’t be needed until you set up camp so they can easily sit at the bottom of your pack bag.

Middle – Next up, you want to add your heaviest items to the centre, closest to your back. These will be water, food, camping cooking equipment and solid items that are heavier in weight. Keeping them close to your back in the centre of the bag gives you a good balance, whereby you won’t be pulled in any one direction. Finish the centre section by adding your lightest items farthest from your back to keep the weight close to you.

Top – Finish by adding all the essential items you use most often at the top. This will include a torch, first aid box, map, microfiber towel, snacks, and other practical items you’ll use while hiking. Too much weight at the top will throw you off your balance and you can risk toppling over.

Exterior – It’s advisable not to overdo it with added items hanging from the pack’s exterior. These can snag on something and their movement can put off your equilibrium. With everything inside the pack you can easily tighten compression straps so everything is secure and won’t throw off your balance.

To clarify:

  • Step 1: Least used items: pack your sleeping bag, pillow and sleepwear.
  • Step 2: Heavy items next: water, food, cookware and other heavy, solid items close to the back.
  • Step 3: Keep heavier items in place by packing lighter items like clothing layers furthest away from your back. This helps maintain the balance of weight closer to your back to ease comfort and stability.
  • Step 4: On top of these are the essential items, like a first aid kit, snacks, fleece, and map. Try not to overdo it and throw off the weight.
  • Step 5: Finally, stow any exterior items like a camping mat, tent and a water bottle. Try to keep these items to a minimum as exterior items can put you off balance and make your pack wider.
  • Step 6: Carefully pull your rucksack up onto your back to get a feel for it and make any adjustments you feel are necessary.

How to Pack Clothes in a Hiking Backpack

If you wish to pack extra clothes in addition to your sleeping clothes then there is the option of carrying your sleeping bag externally, which will allow you considerable more space inside your backpack.

Your emergency fleece or hoodie and the next day’s outfit, as well as extra underwear and socks, can all fit neatly in the sleeping bag’s place. Always pack your clothes first, along with a towel, and ensure they are folded or rolled up nicely to take up minimal space. This will also create a solid base for smaller or looser items to sit on top of, meaning you won’t have to rummage around the dark depths of your rucksack to look for your plastic 3-in-1 sporknife when it gets to dinner time.

How to Strap a Sleeping Bag to a Backpack

In order to fit more clothing into your rucksack, your sleeping bag can be attached externally while still being carried safely and securely. There is no need to carry your sleeping bag by hand or worry about losing it as the majority of backpacks and rucksacks will have outside compartments that allow you to strap on additional items. Either via adjustable side clips or elasticated straps (both in the built-in design of the bag), you can adjust the straps to fit the size of your own sleeping bag and then suitably clip up when you achieve the right fit that will ensure the pack bag does not drop at all on your hike.

Lifting your Rucksack

When full, your pack will be heavy and awkward to lift. There’s a trick to lifting a pack that doesn’t do a number on your back.

  • Step 1: On top of the pack is a haul loop. This can be used to lift your pack up onto your thigh.
  • Step 2: From there, slip an arm into its loop and move the pack onto your back.
  • Step 3: Slip in the other arm and get the weight centred correctly before attaching your hip belt.
  • Step 4: Finish by adjusting the straps as needed and getting a feel for the weight before setting off.

Make Sure Your Pack Fits

Fitting should preferably be done in the shop or before packing, although you won’t get the full effect of how the pack feels until it’s prepped for use, so it’s advisable to do it again afterwards. If your rucksack has an adjustable back panel, adjust it before packing to get the right alignment of shoulders and hips.

  • Step 1: Once the pack is on your back, you need to align the hip belt with your hip bone. Do this by adjusting the shoulder straps so the belt is at the correct height.
  • Step 2: Fasten the belt around your waist. The hip belt should cover your hip bones and when tightened you should still be able to slip your hand flat underneath.
  • Step 3: Continue to adjust the shoulders and the top straps that hold the bag upright. Aim to have the back padding in position over your shoulder blades.
  • Step 4: Fasten the chest strap and adjust the slack so the bag is held firmly yet comfortably to your back. With the compression straps secure, the pack shouldn’t affect your balance.
  • Step 5: Finish the fitting by walking briefly with the pack on your back so you can get a better feel for how it sits.

A correctly fitted pack is essential to prevent discomfort and potential injury to your back and spine. It even helps prevent falls, as you’ll be steadier on your feet and ready to traverse the terrain.

Follow this guide correctly and you’ll be able to set out for a long journey in comfort. It’s easy to forget these important steps or choose to skip them, but pack your bag or fit incorrectly and you’ll certainly feel it several hours down the line. Doing it right doesn’t take long and will help get your next adventure off to a great start while avoiding premature hitches along the way.

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