Efficiently Pack for an Overnight Hike

Learn how to pack your ultralight backpack for a hike. You defiantly want to practice packing your backpack at home, before a real world scenario.  Having all the items in a specific place can make the weight feel more comfortable on your back.  I like to put each gear item in it own home, that way I do not leave something behind.  Call it like my own version of a checklist.

Properly Pack Your Backpack

 Learn how to pack your backpack properly, can make for a more positive experience on the trail.  A properly packed backpack will make the loads feel balanced on your body.  This could also be called a form of injury prevention in several categories.

Filling the negative spaces will prevent shifting and save space.  It is important that you fill all the gaps inside your pack.  Shifting may also cause you to lose your balance during a critical time of your adventure.

There are many variations to pack a backpack, but for me, I like to put the volume of the load at the bottom of my pack, weight on top of that close to my core and smaller items to fill the extra space.

It is well known that it is always raining here on the Olympic Peninsula.  For this reason, I put all clothing and sensitive equipment in watertight sacks.  This is even more important in the cold weather month.  Having dry layers to put on after a long day in the rain, can mean all the difference for hiker safety physically and mentally.

Lets walk through the steps I use to pack my backpack.

how to pack
How to pack your backpack for an overnight backpacking trip

Example Overnight Hiking Gear List

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TypeGear Item
PackingGossamer Gear Gorilla
Trash Compactor Bag
SleepingSleeping Bag
Air Pad
Foam Insulation Pad
Polycryo Ground Cloth
ShelterTwinn Tarp
CP3 Pole
HydrationSawyer Squeeze Filter
Bag System
CookingBobcat Kovea Stove
Bamboo Spoon
Extra FootwearVibram Fivefingers
Injinji Nuwool Toe Socks
ClothingFleece Sweater
Rain ProtectionRain Gear
Chrome Umbrella
Ditty BagMisc. Items
CameraSamsung NX1000

sleeping bag dry
Line trash compactor bag inside empty backpack - Push bag and air out of sack, then twist closed - Fill all negative space at the bottom of pack, but remember...smaller you compress your sleeping bag, the longer it takes to loft in camp that night.

air pad
Use air sleeping pad to create additional rigidity (on backpack shoulder strap side) - Add food and then ditty bag; against the mattress (leave space for next step).

shelter backpack
Turn backpack around - Slide the foam pad down in the negative space left from the previous step - Add your ultralight tarp

dry bag
Add second trash bag -  Here I keep dry clothes and camera equipment - Push air out, twist and close

Gorilla backpack
Outside Mesh Pocket:  Tent Stakes, Spoon, Ground Cloth, Extra Footwear and Stove.  -  Side Pockets:  Umbrella and Poles (left) - Water Bottle (right).

ultralight hiking
Go Hiking in the Jungle! - credit Kim R.

My Overall Thoughts

This backpacking packing system has worked for all my general Olympic Mountain adventures.  Keep in mind, no two trips are the same, I pack a little different for each one; based on time of year and conditions.  It is important you find what works best for you.   Most importantly, have fun!  You may also enjoy learning how to hiking in the rain.

Updated in August 2016 by Barefoot Jake

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