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packing a backpack for hiking and camping

Whether you’re heading into the wilderness for a three-day excursion or planning an afternoon hike, a well-loaded backpack can make toting your gear less of a burden.

Visualize your pack in four zones: the bottom, core, top, and side pockets. If you properly distribute weight throughout each zone, you’ll feel more balanced and comfortable on the trail. This is our preferred method.


Lay out every item you intend to pack. Be judicious in selecting your gear — choosing warm but breathable clothing and multiuse tools will make for a lighter load. Aim to pack no more than one-third of your body weight.

Bottom Zone: Use this space for bulkier items that you won’t need until you reach your destination, like a warmer layer for evening temperatures.

Core Zone: This space is for heavy gear that you won’t need on the trail, such as books, a cooking kit, or extra water. Putting weightier items here will help create a stable center of gravity for your pack.

Top Zone: Pack medium-weight necessities here — a water bottle, hat, toilet paper, snacks, or a first-aid kit.

Side Pockets: These are perfect for organizing your smaller essentials, like your ID and car keys. They’re also ideal for anything you’ll need to access quickly on the trail, such as sunscreen, your map, and a compass.

Tip: Imagine you’re laying bricks and arrange your gear in rows, not columns. Fill every bit of extra space until you have a solid, stable load.

Photography by: John Mowers; Snacks and personal-care products provided by: Thrive Market

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Let’s not forget Doggie! Many people bring their dogs too.
    Dogs can also carry their own light packs that are made like a vest and contain their water and collapsible dish plus smacks.

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