Chapter 36: How to Pack Your Backpack

When you pack ultralight, loading your pack is pretty simple.

It’s amazing how many so-called experts tell you it’s good to pack some of your heaviest gear high in your pack or away from your body. Simple physics will tell you it’s best to keep most of the weight near your hip belt and close to your body.

Fortunately, with ultralight gear it’s all light so you just need a good system that works for you. Here’s what I do. See if it helps you. I start by putting my sleeping bag sideways in the bottom of the pack. It’s soft against my lower back and helps give the pack some shape. I carry my tent and pole in an outside pocket, but if I didn’t, I would place it in the pack next.

Then I add my sleeping pad, another cushioning item that I won’t need during the day. If you use a pillow, you can place it against your back.

Your sleeping bag, tent, and pad can remove the need for a frame or special padding against your back or the need to place your sleeping pad around all your gear.

Most of the remaining items are clothes and food, so you can place the soft clothes against your back keeping the items you might need during the day, like your hat or rain jacket, on top. Pack your food next keeping the items you’ll need during the day near the top.

My cook kit, fuel, and drinking cup are placed fairly high so I can retrieve them easily, but apart from one another so they don’t bump together and make noise as I’m walking.

Smaller items that I want to keep handy like map, reading glasses, gloves, snacks, repellent, compass, and toilet paper are kept in the waist pockets or lid pocket. I have a sandwich-sized ziplock with 27 items like flashlight, knife, and lip balm that is placed in the lid pocket.

Remember to tighten the compression straps to keep your pack close to your body.

Your gear is now comfortably and conveniently packed.