Backpacking 101: How To Pack A Backpack

08 Aug 2016

I wish I had been able to give myself advice on how to pack a backpack when I set off on 8 months on the road. Alas, I learnt through trial and more trial, talking to others and re-packing at every destination for the first few weeks. I finally found a good system that worked. Luckily I had also done a fair amount of online research and bought some nifty items that made life a whole lot easier. They’re the things I want to share with you here in 3 easy steps to observe in how to pack your backpack.

1. Pack smart

Lay out everything you think you need to take, make piles of tops, bottoms, socks & underwear, toiletries, electronics and other accessories.  Then sort the piles by weight.

One of the best tips I received for packing was this: Lay out everything you want to take. Then reduce the pile by half. It’s brutal, but very sound advice!

Remember that you are going to be stuck with this weight for your entire journey, so less is, well….less!

On a personal note, I know every time I’ve been on a backpacking trip I figure out what my favourite things are going to be within the first few days. They’re the items I will wear over and over (and over..) again, whilst I never even touch some of my other items. Be smart and rid yourself of the stuff you don’t need. Donate it to a local charity or offer it to other travellers. 

How to pack a backpack

2. Compartmentalisation & some nifty gadgets

Think about grouping your clothes and putting them into separate compartments. You can do this with specially designed travel bags that are lightweight or just use a plastic bag.

The reason for this is,  it makes it so much easier to find things and also keeps all your clothing neat and tidy. You’ll be amazed  how easy it is to re-pack when you’re off to your next destination.

Items that should definitely be in their own compartment are things like shoes, your toiletries and dirty clothes. If you’re staying in hostels or places where you share bathrooms, separating all your bathroom items into one bag means you can easily take them with you. There are some well thought out toiletry bags available that have inbuilt mirrors and hooks. This makes it super easy to keep them dry in the bathroom and you can also hang them up in your room.

Here’s an example of such a bag:  Hanging toiletry bag

Similarly, shoes get dirty and should be kept separate. Dirty, smelly clothes can be kept in a laundry bag. This means you can easily take the whole bag to a laundry when you’re out of clothes to wear or just can’t bear the smell anymore.

If you’re the really tidy kind, you can take compartmentalisation to a whole new level and pack all your items into separate bags (e.g. all trousers, all underwear/socks, all tops etc). It will make finding things super easy and keep your bag neat. You could use single garment bags for this purpose. Have a look at these items to get an idea of how you can make your travel life organised and easy: Packing organisation. 

3. Weight distribution:

Your body will be put through all sorts of tests on your backpacking journey, so try and be nice to it. Pack in a smart way and minimise the stress on it. Here’s how:

Bottom: Lightest items should go on the bottom of your backpack, or in the bottom compartment if you have one built in. (Sleeping bags, windbreakers or rain coats, etc.)

Middle: The heaviest items should go in the middle part, closest to your back. (Your toiletries bag, any tech gear like laptops, cameras, etc.) Behind those items, you should place medium light gear. (Towels, etc.)

Top:  Medium weight gear and things you need access to the most should go on top (e.g. clothing)

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of travelling. It’s also very easy to get overexcited and pack way too much. Remember that you might pick up a few items on the way and if you forget something, you’re likely to have the opportunity to buy it locally.

Happy packing and see you on the other side!


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