Know How

How to pack a Backpack?

Kanishka S

Last updated: 11-03-2020

A backpack when packed right is not only easy to carry and use but can also fit in an amazing array of items.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to packing. However, some broad guidelines exist which mountaineers and experienced trekkers alike follow when packing their backpacks.

Pankaj, one of our founders, discusses these points with us below.


Let's assume we are packing for a week long Himalayan Summer Trek. How do we go about packing the items into a backpack?

It feels like a mind-boggling task, doesn’t it? The idea of fitting so many items into a 50l or 60l backpack?


How to pack a Backpack?


In reality though, there is a method to this madness. It is called the ABC Rule of Packing.

A stands for Accessibility.

B stands for Balance.

C stands for Compact.


Hmm..This sounds simple. Could you tell us a little bit more about this?

Let’s start with A- Accessibility. We want the contents of our backpack to be easily accessible.

So naturally, the items we use during the day, like our raincoat, sun cap, sunscreen, medical kit, gloves etc need to be packed in the outer pockets and at the top of the main compartment of a backpack.

The items we won’t need during the day like body warmers and sleeping bags can be placed at the bottom of the sack.


How to pack a Backpack?


So far so good. Let’s move onto the next aspect of Packing: Balance.

Even the best of backpacks can place unnecessary stress on your body if the packing isn’t balanced.

A wrong method of packing could botch the centre of gravity of your backpack requiring you to put in more effort into maintaining your balance on the trails.

So how do we ensure the packing is well balanced?

As a general rule of thumb, fill the bottom of your backpack with relatively fluffy but light weight items like a sleeping bag, warm jackets etc. This provides excellent cushioning for the lower back.

Then place the heavier items in the middle portion of the pack closer to the spine. This creates a centre of gravity in the right position.

Place the lighter items like clothing and things you need easy access to on the top.

Be aware of the items you place in the external pockets. For instance, two half litre bottles on either side pocket creates better balance than a full one litre bottle.


How to pack a Backpack?


And finally there is a small trick to finding out if your backpack is indeed well balanced!

Place the backpack upright on the floor.

A perfectly balanced backpack will continue to stay in an upright position without support.

A backpack that isn’t balanced on the other hand will fall back flat on the floor.


I have tried this once! It is so hard to achieve that it gets frustrating after a point.

This is true. The idea sounds simple. But getting that perfect balance with the centre of gravity resting in the middle portion of the pack close to the spinal cord takes time to master.


So, assuming we have nailed the balancing part of the packing, let’s move on to C.

C stands for Compact.

Reduce the surface area of the things you carry. For example if the packaging material of some snack item you are carrying is bulky, transfer them to zip lock bags so that they will occupy lesser space.

And avoid dead spaces within the backpack at all costs. Fill such spaces with socks and other clothing. You do not want things tumbling on the insides of your backpack while hiking.


How to pack a Backpack?


To put it simply, packing a backpack compactly is like playing a game of Tetris. You are laying down rows with oddly shapes items and making sure there are no empty spaces in the structure.


I must interject here.
Should we roll clothes or fold them while packing them in a backpack?

Ahh there has been much debate about this online!

Some say rolling (particularly ranger rolling for backpacking) conserves space while others swear by folding clothes.

I would say go with the choice you are most happy with.

You can also go with both folding and ranger rolling if you would like.

 Your winter clothes like sweaters and jackets tend to bulk up when rolled. So it would be more prudent to fold them.

And your tshirts and trek pants can be rolled/ranger rolled.

To find out how ranger rolling is done, there are several tutorials available online.


Alright, Moving on…
To get a more concrete idea of how to apply these principles, could you tell us a little bit on how you would pack your backpack for a one week long Himalayan Summer Trek?

Sure, the infographic below presents what I would carry and where I would place them in the backpack quite succinctly.


How to pack a Backpack?


Our trekkers usually don’t have to carry sleeping bags or tents. Going by a checklist of items trekkers trekking with us need to carry, how would you propose we pack our backpacks?

If we are eliminating tents, sleeping bags, fuel and stove, the following info graphic could be one method to follow.


How to pack a Backpack?


But do keep in mind that this is not a hard and fast rule. Feel free to tweak it according to your needs and comfort.


To wrap up:

When Packing a BackPack

1. Keep the ABC Rule in mind.

2. Accessibility:

Items you need during the day are placed at the top and in the outer pockets.

Items you don’t need during the day stay at the bottom of the pack.

3. Balance:

Bottom: Fluffy light weight items like sleeping bags, bulky jackets etc

Middle: Heaviest items placed close to the spine

Top: Light items you need easy access to like snacks, first aid kit etc

4. Compact:

Reduce surface area

Eliminate empty spaces.


Designs by Ayush Magotra


Kanishka S

Kanishka is a part of the Content Team at Bikat Adventures. She holds a Masters in Development Studi Read more

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