3 Easy Tips for Packing Smarter
When you’re heading out on your first big trip, whether it’s backpacking, car camping, or going for a day hike, it’s important to pack smart. Packing smart doesn’t just mean packing light, it means ensuring the best layout of your gear to keep you safe, comfortable, and feeling good on the trail. So, we’ve broken down some top tips to help you pack smarter.
1. Organize, organize, organize!
The first step to packing smarter is to organize. It sounds simple, but it’s often easy to underestimate how organized you need to be. A quick weekend trip can go from fun to dangerous if your pack isn’t organized correctly. You can forget essential gear, stow gear incorrectly so it gets wet or warped in the sun, and even hurt yourself by packing your gear wrong in your backpack.
Some people like using packing cubes or dry bags, while others prefer keeping things in simple gallon freezer bags. Anything that keeps your gear sorted, organized, and accessible in your pack is helpful. Not only does it make your stuff easier to find and put back, but it prevents messes, keeps essentials like sunscreen and snacks close on hand, and makes it way easier to unpack when you get home.
2. Plan your trip in your bag
First, you need to lay out all your gear by day, activity, or whatever makes the most sense to you. Think through the timeline of your trip, and ask yourself questions like where will you be when you need fresh socks or a flashlight? It’s going to save you a lot of effort to put essentials like socks and underwear up at the top of the pack, rather than shoving them in a spare pair of boots that are buried with heavy tents and sleeping pads at the bottom of your pack.
Once you’ve answered those questions, you can map out your pack access to ensure things are laid out in the most efficient way possible. This means doing things counterintuitively sometimes. Maybe it’s better to pick out each day’s outfit in advance and have each outfit in its own bag, rather than bundling all your socks, shirts, and pants. That way, each bag can hold your dirty clothes in the same spot it was in before, rather than needing to add a second bag of dirty clothes while you’re on the trail.
It’s also helpful to write down a ‘pack itinerary’ that lists what you’ll need and where your necessary gear is in the pack, that way you can find it fast and put things back where they belong. Now that’s a lot of planning, but the key is that the best packing system is the one you use. Try a couple of different ideas and see what works best for you.
3. Shakedown and pack out
The last and most important step, do a shakedown and figure out what and how you’ll need to pack out. A shakedown is where you pack and then unpack your backpack anticipating exactly what you’ll need. If it’s your first time going out on any type of hike, you can come by your local Alabama Outdoors for a free pack shakedown and get some expert advice on what you need!
When you shakedown your pack, you want to ensure everything you have is necessary for the trip, in good working condition, and sized down to fit in your backpack. You should pack your backpack just like you would for the trail, so with the heaviest stuff at the bottom. Then, weigh the pack and check that it isn’t too heavy. Usually, your pack shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight for an overnight trip and only 10% for a day trip.
Now that you’ve done your shakedown, put on your pack and walk with it on for a bit to ensure it is adjusted correctly and comfortable for you. Finally, go through and plan out where you will put trash, dirty clothes, and other refuse that you want to keep separate from your clean items. Leave space for it in your pack and make sure it’ll all fit on the trip out.
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