Packing your pack, what goes where?

Pringles

Member
.
Joined
Nov 23, 2015
Messages
412
I backpack alone mostly, but when I go with others, I notice that my pack looks about the size of a Sherman tank compared to the packs others often have. And when I hang my food bag, well, the people in the Sherman tank will have plenty to eat. I always thought that I just packed too much, but I was watching a YouTube the other day, and the guy put most things in in the order I do. But, while he started with an ultralight dry bag and stuffed his quilt in, then he sealed it. He put his nicely, and tightly rolled sleeping pad down in the bottom, and stuffed a number of individual items down into the void. As I watched, I thought that my items were at about the same level, and probably about the same distance from my back as his was, but he was putting each thing in separately. As I watched, I noticed a few things.

He didn’t have any less than I had, but he was shoving things in individually, I assume taking advantage of every little space.

As separated as his things were, it would take forever to find something.

He put his stove and pot in one place, and his food in another place, and his cup and spoon, and all that was a bit separated. My first thought was that I hike in grizzly country, and everything near the stove and the pot and the cup and the spoon would all smell tasty and interesting to a grizzly. And that grizzlies are very inquisitive and investigate what ever they want to.

I have a Hilltop bag, that holds my JetBoil and canister, my cup, and all my food, and has the bear rope bag attached to the bear bag, and at camp, everything gets hung. It isn’t dainty, but if it possibly smells, it’s up in the bag. My quilt goes in a dry bag, but also there is my little pillow and extra socks and my warm jacket and my sleeping pad. The guy I watched, had most of those things separate, but I want them dry, so put them in the dry bag. It’s kind of bulky.

Anyway, how do you pack so your things are relatively compact and accessible? Thanks.
 
I don't hike in Grizzly country, so YMMV. At the bottom of my pack go the things I won't need until nightfall; tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc. On top of that I put the bear can and anything else I can wedge around it. On top, which is now getting close to the top of the pack, I put stuff I might need on the trail--fleece, rainshell, snacks, etc,. I have one outside pocket on my pack. That gets the water filter, FAK, and a little good bag of bugnet, sunscreen, etc.
 
I try to keep all food smells contained whether in griz country or not. Cup is just for boiling water, maybe coffee. Rinsed thoroughly after use. A 4oz can of fuel fits inside. Spoon rinsed, wiped clean and stuck in boiling water before next use. Goes in ziplock, then Opsak with food. Opsak inside Ursack these days if out west amongst conifers. Too difficult to get a proper hang that doesn't get snagged.

Sleeping bag in compression dry sack at center-bottom, Neoair Xlite rolled tight, outside center-bottom. Tent vertical on one side. Then stove, cup/fuel, fishing reel and lures on other side. Personal kit, sleepwear extra socks etc in compression dry sack on side opposite tent. Same with down puffy in ziplock. Food bag middle, center. Gloves, hat, mid-layer, rain gear stuffed in near the top down into the nooks. First aid kit in lid pocket. Snacks in ziplock in mesh outside pocket with water purification.

Mostly works as a balance of staying organized, but my final pack might resemble this
BackpackFromHell.jpg
 
Last edited:
Basically, that’s what I do. But I’m seeing a trend… I rarely wedge things in. I saw one YouTube where the guy fit his tightly rolled sleeping pad into a gap, and another where a person folded their sleeping pad, and put it somewhere. I try to roll mine, but I can’t ever get it too tight. I put it into the big dry bag, and then scrunch things down, hoping that the floofy things will fill the space around it. I may try folding. If nothing else, it looks easier. I used to put my tent vertical, but it became apparent quickly, that my packing goes better if I push the tent in horizontally. It works best if I have a stuff sack that’s a bit too big, so it squishes around the other things. From what I’m reading, I may work hard to wedge/squish/press things in a little harder than I have. I may have to explore separating things from the food bag. It is very convenient to have everything food oriented, or smelly, in that bag, near the top of the pack. But stoves don’t squish, and if there’s a sandwich in there, I don’t want to be pushing too hard. But maybe I should start parcelling out things a little, and “making” them fit into little gaps. Then bring them back together to hang.

I do feel like my pack sometimes looks a little like that picture, without the TV. I started to think about this when I went backpacking with Scatman’s group a year ago. There wasn’t a lot of space at the food pole, and everyone else’s bag looked dainty, like they had a hot pocket and some cookies for meals, and my bag looked like I had a dead body in it. Then I backpacked a couple of times this summer with a lady whose pack looked so neat and tidy and small… . Small is never a word used to describe my pack. The other day, I looked at a storage tub that I have for my Kokopelli raft. The tub runnith over. I thought, how can I put my raft in my pack and carry it somewhere when I can’t even get it in a storage tub, and that along with all the other stuff I carry? I do carry some extras, like my Helinox Zero and spare glasses. Looking at that tub got me to thinking that maybe there’s a better way to pack stuff. (Side note, my dad could pack enough for a three week journey in the back of the station wagon, when I was a kid. I think he learned in the Marines. I’m not a Marine.)

Thanks for the information. I think I’m looking for little differences that will add up.
 
But I’m seeing a trend… I rarely wedge things in. I saw one YouTube where the guy fit his tightly rolled sleeping pad into a gap, and another where a person folded their sleeping pad, and put it somewhere.
Well, I do wedge in a few things like my clean socks, pjs, etc that fit in between the larger items. Makes for a tighter, leaner pack.
 
I saw one YouTube where the guy fit his tightly rolled sleeping pad into a gap, and another where a person folded their sleeping pad, and put it somewhere. I try to roll mine, but I can’t ever get it too tight
I never get my pad rolled as tight as possible either. Less volume folded flat but I worry about abrasion on a critical piece of equipment. One reason I don't carry it on the outside.
I do carry some extras, like my Helinox Zero and spare glasses.
I use contacts but carry glasses in a hard case. That gets stuffed into a crevice in the pack. I carry reading glasses with soft case in the top lid for easy access. I repackage things like Aquamira and saline into mini-bottles to save weight and space.

Don't know if it's a factor in your case, but the extra air in most freeze dried dinners takes up a lot of space. The "pro" packs are expensive. I've started using my own sealed mylar bags. Use much less room though the recipes I have are way less tasty.
 
Basically heavy on bottom , go lighter as get to top with water bladder, filter, camera and snacks very top .

Plastic bag folded in bottom (pack cover for in camp) Sleeping bag and food sack to bottom. Stuff small and some soft items around them to fill space. Then stove fuel, pot, soft stuff packed around them. Raincoat next under water in case leaks. Camera snack water very top. Tent in bag on outside. Pad is rolled fairly tight and slid down the back of the pack between my food and sleeping bag.

Your big pack may be more of a component size issue. Large pack you'll pack more. I use a 3800 ci pack for everything. Longer trips I have extra nylon compartment sack strapped on outside, when food goes down I transfer stuff to inside. I don't carry a jetoil, to large, my Optimus crux heats water just as good and way smaller and lighter fuel can fits in pot. Food I figure 1.5 to 1.25 lbs per day. That's a fixed volume. Large say 0 degree bag takes up more space. Of course if you are a larger person, I'm 170lb, 5f9in .. my clothes take up less space. If you get cold easily you carry more weight. For 3 seasons and 8 nights ( the thorofare trip with Scat) my pack weighed 41lbs. Food was 14 of that. And had extra 4oz fuel canister. Extra power bank.

Basically it boils down to you carry what little you can to be comfortable, each is different. Buy the lightest and smallest size volume of gear you can afford. Buy the smallest pack to fit. Food only in Ursack. Clean pot doesn't smell, stove doesn't smell. Spoon doesn't smell. Besides most problem problems with smells are at camp.

Air in mtn house freeze never been problem for me, shake contents and roll the package. If it is make a small pin hole near the zip seal a f squeeze the air out gently, put a piece of tape over the pinhole if you like
 
Last edited:
One of the best ways to reduce what you carry. After every trip sort what you don't use out . Obviously things like a first aid kit or backup water tabs would stay.. concentrate on extras. Even consider what you maybe used once. Take a padded chair? Leave it use a log. Etc. a lot of extra socks etc? Take less and wash some. Etc.

Have someone that backpacks a lot review your items. Weigh all your items to see on a postal scale. I have all my weights somewhere.. I'll dig it up and post for you to look at.

You can get lighter without becoming a gram weany.. lol
 
Sleeping stuff: in a garbage bag at the bottom.
Food: in an Ursack up against my back.
Water: side pouches - but I rarely carry any water.
Toiletries/snack: waist pouches.
Everything else: shoved into the remaining space. (Normally it's not much - stove, sunglasses case, electronics, etc.)

I'll add a small bag at top to keep puffy dry if I think it'll be particularly cold and wet during the day - normally just wrap it in my rain jacket and stuff it though.

You can get lighter without becoming a gram weany.. lol
Postal scale and gear list? You're dangerously close to becoming a gram weenie yourself. ;) It is certainly a worthwhile practice - and eventually you get really good at eyeballing it.
 
Last edited:
Sleeping stuff: in a garbage bag at the bottom.
Food: in an Ursack up against my back.
Water: side pouches - but I rarely carry any water.
Toiletries/snack: waist pouches.
Everything else: shoved into the remaining space. (Normally it's not much - stove, sunglasses case, electronics, etc.)

I'll add a small bag at top to keep puffy dry if I think it'll be particularly cold and wet during the day - normally just wrap it in my rain jacket and stuff it though.


Postal scale and gear list? You're dangerously close to becoming a gram weenie yourself. ;) It is certainly a worthwhile practice - and eventually you get really good at eyeballing it.
No.... i only go to the oz. not the gram. I dont drill holes in my toothbrush.
 
I guess I'm pretty similar to others here... stuff I'll need at night on the bottom, then kind of layer from there, ending up with things I'll likely need during the day on top. I'm good enough at this now that I almost never need to do a deep dive into the pack during the day.

one thing that wan't obvious to me at first is that stuff sacks tend to make everything approximately spherical, creating a lot of odd-shaped spaces that are hard to fill. so some items (even big ones like sleeping bag, but especially things like jackets) might be better packed loose.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Bob
Only stuff sacks I have is compression for sleeping bag, Ursack, small silnylon sacks for my small items. Everything else is loose to fit in tight.
 
One tip, if you have a minimal pack without many compartments, is to use a tyvek mailing envelope as a ditty bag for all the various little miscellaneous items (https://pmags.com/quick-tip-tyvek-envelope-stuff-sacks). I love my ULA packs, but I used to miss the "brain" pouch on top. The mailing envelope is not only lighter in weight, but I prefer it (over pouches built into the packs) because it allows me to just grab it when I go eat dinner or the like, allowing me to leave the rest of my pack and gear at camp. It's a free, ultralight way to add some organization to a minimalist setup.
 
RyanP... good idea. I just ordered some silnylon fabric an sew stuff sacks the size I need
 
I love my ULA packs, but I used to miss the "brain" pouch on top.
I tried hard to like the Circuit but couldn't get it to fit right. Really do like having quick, secure access of a brain for certain items. Still debating returning the slightly heavier (and more fragile) GG Crown 3.

I've had a small portion of the Tyvek envelope I use to wrap the tent stakes in before stuffing them in the tent sack. Haven't changed it in 10 years. I do like having different colors of stuff sacks. Helps to quickly locate gear.
 
Thank you for so many thoughtful responses. I do most of what you all are suggesting. I started using less organizer bags quite a while ago, because they do create little softball size round things to try to stuff somewhere. In response, I got a schnozzle bag, and put all my dry camp things (quilt, puffy jacket, spare socks, sleeping pad, etc.) in there. I usually look askance as how the sleeping pad doesn’t roll up nicely, and takes up more space, but then I just shove it all in, and compress as best I can, and push it to the bottom of the pack (hyper light mountain gear). I will put the tent in next, and then my cagoule, a bag with my filter, and then my “brain,” which is a bag like my filter is in, but a different color. Finally, I push in my Hilltop food bag, which has my JetBoil (I compared it to the size of my Snowpeak Giga, with my titanium cup, and for the speed it heats water, the inch or two more space it takes was worth it), my GSI plastic, insulated cup, toothbrush, and other little toiletries, and food. My water bottle, Helinox zero, and toilet bag are in a pouch on the outside. I never really thought about it being a big pack, until this year, I was hiking with someone else, and her pack was compact. I don’t regret what I carry. I have a scale, and most of my items are pretty light. I don’t really think I had that much more stuff than she did, I began to wonder if how I was packing it was making a difference. We spend a lot of time thinking about each little thing and gizmo we take, and how much it weighs and whether it’s worth the weight. This time around, I decided I’d look at how stuff got packed, rather than what it was and whether it was worthy. Thanks for the great ideas!
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
balzaccom Packing light back in the day General Discussion 10
S Packing for 2 people General Discussion 4
M Backpacking 50 miles in the Uinta Mountains for 5 days with ~50 pound pack Backpacking 4
fossana Abrasion-proof pack repair? Gear 14
RyanP Pack hauling/lowering questions Gear 7
Cait Hell's Kitchen Basin - Old Pack Trail post Box Fire Trip Reports 3
Ugly Gear Review New Backpacking Pack. Options Gear Reviews 18
westy Stuff to let go - pack, tent, jacket Gear Market: Buy, Sell, Trade 0
Kullaberg63 Pack Creek to Castle Valley - below the rim. Backpacking 0
fossana pack fabric comparison page Gear 2
Wanderlust073 Pack raft Gear 8
DuneElliot Gear Review Gear Review: Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack Gear Reviews 3
T Dark canyon - lower blm portion with pack goats?? Canyoneering 2
Artemus 2017/2018 Snow Pack - or not General Discussion 54
Perry Gregory Zulu 30 - Too Big for a Day Pack? Gear 6
SKLund How Big a Pack for Long Trips Gear 32
steve What's in my pack: my ultralight setup for a quick overnighter. Gear 8
12trysomething VIDEO: What's In My Pack - Winter Backpacking Gear 0
uintafly Look what I came home with? (new pack) Gear 13
rtavious pack size Gear 110
standfast85 Can anyone identify this pack? Gear 0
Eric Christensen Good deal on a decent pack Gear 6
baltocharlie Osprey Stratos 24 Pack, REI deal of the day Gear 7
Flaminghog2099 Ribz pack load out Gear 0
Eric Christensen I need pack advice Gear 6
Colin Parker Looking for a new pack Gear 40
baltocharlie ultralight pack raft Gear 0
NAYR Pack Selection? Gear 13
pstm13 DIY High Capacity Battery Pack for Phones and GPS @$40 Gear 4
Deadeye008 Gear Review Kelty Drifter Hydration Pack Gear Reviews 2
Bill My DIY camera pack harness Photography 11
Nick SLR Chest Pack Reccomendations Photography 16
Nick I need a new day pack Gear 18
Rockskipper Who wants to pitch in to get these for @Scatman when he goes bogging? General Discussion 15
DrNed Nick Goes Big Time General Discussion 13
T What goes in to a hike bag? Gear 0

Similar threads

Back
Top