woman with backpack


I’ve found that I can get a whole lot more into a backpack without compromising convenience if I follow these simple principles for packing a backpack. After countless trials, this is what works for me.


The easiest way to keep everything cleaner and dryer is by starting off with something to line your backpack. I like to a use a white plastic garbage bag as a liner. I stress the colour white because it makes looking for things much easier than dark green or black plastic bags. While purpose-designed liners are available on the market, I have found that plastic garbage bags do the job very well.

Packing with a liner really helps because unless you are using a Drysac carry bag, some water will always get in your backpack, especially around the seams. I also always make sure that my hydration pack is not inside my plastic bin liner just in case.

Even the most waterproof backpacks still have places where they can leak. For example, over time water can leak into the seams and where straps have been sewn on.


For the next stage, I recommend packing your sleeping bag and anything else you will be sleeping with. I squash it in tight to fill the bottom and main walls of the inner compartment of my backpack. This provides insulation for other items on the inside while providing a softer feel to your final backpack. This is great if you have a few items with hard corners. The last thing you want is one of them digging into your back.


It only makes sense to pack the heavier items you have next. They should go towards the bottom of your backpack when standing upright. This gives extra stability when you put it down and also gives you extra stability when you are standing up with your backpack on. I pack all the items I don’t need during the day at the bottom.

I then fold the over my plastic garbage bag over tight. This way my sleeping gear and the stuff that I will only get out at night is sealed off and will definitely stay clean and dry.


Finally, I pack the items I will need throughout the day towards the top of my backpack (when it is standing up). I group these using drawstring packing bags and ziplock bags. That way it is easier to find them. You may want to use a second plastic garbage bin liner for this job. I like to have to complete compartments.

Plastic bags are really good because you can see what you are looking for before you open them. I know my gear pretty well and I have a couple of different drawstring bags I use regularly so this isn’t so much of an issue.

It also helps to put small pin pricks in those ziplock bags so the air escapes or you will spend time trying to squeeze the air out of them.

I have found that by dividing my backpack in this way, with 2 main plastic bags and the top half with all the things I need during the day divided into smaller bags, I can find everything I need during the day while not disturbing what I want to keep protected until I bed down at night. There is nothing like having a nice clean and dry place to sleep after a long on the trail.


Is there anything you can add to this article? Share your thoughts through the comments section below.

Martin White

Martin is huge on everything outdoors and is even bigger on driving and technology. He loves boats, new stuff and writing about it.