Backpack Ground


It’s Friday night, you have just finished work and are heading off for a weekend hiking trip. You have one backpack to fit everything in, and a limited amount of time to do it before you need to set off. You need to maximise your packing time and space as effectively as possible.


When you pack intelligently, you will be surprised at exactly how much you can get in your backpack. For a weekend hiking and camping, I usually use a 40L backpack and split it up into four zones. The first zone is at the bottom of the bag. Here I put the less frequently used items, which are fairly light and easy to transport. Due to the way most backpacks are designed, putting the heaviest stuff at the bottom will do nothing to alleviate the pressure on your back. So, items like sleeping bags, waterproof coats or anything like that go at the bottom.

The middle part of the bag should be divided into two zones. The zone closest to the part of the backpack that sits on your back should be reserved for the heaviest items. Your tent and heavier cooking items should be on your back. This is the part of the bag with the most support and will make carrying it more comfortable.

On the opposite side of the bag, the middle part against the outside wall, you should put lighter items that are not needed until you set up camp. This is a good place for towels or excess clothing.

Finally, the upper section of the bag is the most accessible. It also has quite a lot of support, so it can carry fairly hefty items that are needed the most often. Once you have these zones filled with the essentials, the weight in your pack should be evenly distributed. Then you can fill any nooks and crannies with smaller items.


I have always believed that if you have packed intelligently, you shouldn’t need to attach much to the outside of your backpack. The problem with loading up your backpack with items hanging off it, is that they can swing and therefore shift the weight of the pack while you walk. This can cause some stability problems and lead you to lose your footing. If you use trekking poles, these can go on the outside, but anything bulky has to go inside the pack.


People always ask which is the best way to pack efficiently, to fold or roll fabrics, The answer depends on the fabric. Nylon and meshed fabrics are light and very easy to roll, but natural fabrics, like cotton, can be compressed when folded and therefore will take up very little space when folded rather than rolled.

Once you have packed your backpack like this a few times it becomes second nature. Now, I barely even register the packing process. I pack the same things, in the same way, each and every time. I can do it in under ten minutes, and get out the door. The backcountry awaits, best not waste time packing.


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

Oli Ward
Oli Ward

Oli has camped and hiked his way around Australia and most of Europe. He also loves writing about his experiences and sharing his knowledge.