Backpack weight is very important. The pack weight should be 1/4 of your body weight or less. Too much weight, just like blisters, can spoil a trip. Shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet are the stress points. Downhill hiking is much harder on joints. Uphill hiking stresses quadriceps and lungs.
Considering various experiments and experiences in Indian wilderness I have learnt how to pack rucksack properly. Still experimenting and still learning to improvise day by day. Thought will jot down a few pointers of best practices to pack your backpack for a hike.
Get Rid of Stuff sacks
Pack items like sleeping bag and tent without its stuff sack saves a lot of space and allows efficiently fill every corner of backpack. Add on is saving some weight and tight stuff sacks can compress the bag’s loft over time.
I prefer stuffing my sleeping bag in bottom compartment or bottom of pack with a layer of clothes on top to create a base for rest of my gear.
Place heavy gear in middle
Focus on putting heavy stuff like food, stove or if we have one/plan to carry one a tent in middle of the pack. On top of sleeping bag and clothes. You will have much more balanced pack that won’t sway side to side as you walk. Stuff light weight gear – clothing – around heavy items to keep them from jostling around inside the pack.
Think about balance
If one side of pack is heavier than the other, it will pull you back and be uncomfortable when you’re walking. Eg if you’re carrying one litre of water on right side of pack then consider putting food or vessel like heavy stuff on left side. Or if you’re planning to carry 2 litres of water then carrying 1 litre bottle on either side is smart move.
Packing Tight and Tidy
If you want your stuff to be intact and do not want them to fall off, this is the right way to pack. Prioritise the organising interior of backpack keeping in mind that things do not jangle on the outside of backpack.
Keeping the sleeping bag flat in the bottom of the backpack creates good base for rest of my gear. Once the base is set, I meticulously fills all available nooks and crannies so my gear doesn’t move around while I walk.
A tip, “Think of it like Tetris.”
Keep Essentials Handy
I keep Snacks, water, phone, tooth brush inside and hip pockets so I could get them without unpacking. Having snacks easily accessible will make you more likely to eat while on a trail – and less likely to crash later. The tooth brush is to remind to stay motivated to maintain hygiene, something that’s easy to forget while logging miles on the trail.
One more tip, carrying a small waist pouch if the backpack waist doesn’t have compartments in waist, is very useful. The torch or head lamp, multipurpose toolkit (eg swiss army knife), Phone, GPS, pocket guide book (Geography, local language etc), sun cream-cold cream, some cash (local currency), cheese cubes, chocolate candies, energy bars, important documents etc having such things handy in waist pouch or bum bags make it convenient and stuff in handy when in need.
Line your Backpack with Trash Compactor Bag
Save yourself weight and money and stay away from a waterproof pack cover. Place a trash compactor bag – which is more durable than a normal trash bag inside your pack, then stuff all your gear in the plastic bag and roll it up. It’s difficult to poke holes through a trash compactor bag, and 100% waterproof IF CLOSED PROPERLY. Carrying zip pouch or sandwich bags to protect items such as phone that’s stored outside the main compartment.