How to pack a back pack

India, the land of some of the most spectacular landscape and destinations. In the recent past, the citizens of this country have embraced trekking wholeheartedly venturing into the interiors to view snow clad peaks, experiencing traditional remote village life, visiting sacred obscure religious destinations, summiting remote peaks, passing through stark raw beautiful mountain passes on routes that involve a time line ranging from two-three days to multi week expeditions.

While the trekking field is no more the playground of the elite few and those from outside the country yet the knowledge and ground rules for serious trekking are yet to be established firmly and practiced all over the fraternity of trekking   enthusiasts. As I say “TODAY is on the move, TOMORROW will be a new story, a new YOU “.

The support and interest in trekking has also led to the growth of the local industry and triggered the birth of many local , amateur and serious mountain trekkers , but whichever category does one belong to , the basic rules will always remain the same and one of this is the correct and efficient methodology to pack a back pack.

Before I begin on the topic, I would like to bring to the reader’s notice just one critical aspect regarding the backpack. The backpack that you will be carrying should be proportional to your body. This has to be remembered, for it plays a vital role later. On how to choose a backpack, well that article is coming up soon.

Now let’s read on , “How to pack a backpack

Talking to many a individual on the various mountain trials that I frequent, made me realize that a large majority of them just dumped their gear into the packs with no organization resulting in discomfort and chaos. Learning to organize the gear correctly before loading into the backpack eliminates issue of forgotten items and helps remove the unwanted weight. In addition, efficiently packing the backpack improves comfort, convenience and stability.

Backpack weight distribution

By distributing weights in a specific manner, we can achieve better comfort, convenience and stability. Let us refrain from stuffing gear inside the backpack and rather follow these universal guidelines wrt weight distribution:

As a general rule do remember that for maximum stability, load the heaviest stuff next to the back near the shoulder blades and in the center of the pack. When we do this, the weight comes onto the hips which should take the maximum weight of our loaded backpack. Make sure that we NEVER load a backpack more than 25% – 30% of the body weight. I remember my first multiday trip and by the time I had finished packing the backpack, the backpack stood like Everest on my back, I tottered and teetered around trying to find a walking balance, it was simply disastrous.

Backpack Organisation: In order to pack correctly, let us always lay out all items/equipment in a place. Once we do this we can have a better picture of what we are carrying and it helps to get the same organized correctly. Follow the below mentioned categories while we begin packing.

A backpack generally is divided into the following zones:

  • Bottom Zone
  • Core Zone
  • Top Zone
  • Accessory pockets
  • Lash on points and loops

The best views come from the hardest Climb “, a very apt quote indeed, very relevant and I am sure a lot many of u would agree. But to climb that hard climb, the backpack would play a very crucial role, hence let’s read on about the various zones of a backpack.

Bottom Zone: These contain bulky items that are not needed until one reaches the camp. These include sleeping bags, sleeping shoes etc.

Core Zone; This includes stuff that is not needed during the day hikes for eg food, cooking kit, stove, water reservoir etc. These are generally the heaviest items that one would be carrying and hence these need to placed next to the back. Packing them too low would create a bag to sag while keeping them higher would make the pack unstable It is also useful to cover these gear with soft items in order to fill the gaps. When one is carrying fuel, though not many do please do remember to carry it upright, the vessel to be air tight and placed below the food stock.

Top Zone: This zone contains, the insulated jackets, immediate use clothing etc which are light weight and will be needed fast though quick access.

Acessory Zone:  These refer to the various pockets all around he back pack that are used to carry a multitude of small items like compass, maps, sunglasses, water bottle, gloves, caps etc which are needed on priority and which do not need large internal backpack space.

Lash on pints and loops: Generally, the reputed brands offer this facility which is rigid and reliable at the same time. These are used to strap items like trekking poles, trek mat, ice axe, crampons, rope etc. These are used to carry gear that simply cannot be put in any other place

Check list: 1. When packing, ensure that all the empty space has been filled with small or compressible items.

  1. After the bag is loaded and packed, tighten all compression straps to limit load shifting while hiking.
  2. Trekking poles to be vertically attached on the outside beneath the compression straps and tucked inside the various pockets that are available on the lower bottom side.
  3. Always tighten all the various straps given once you have lifted the backpack especially the Hip Belt, Shoulder straps, Load lifters (these are near the top of the shoulder strap), sternum straps (across the chest), stabilizer straps (near the hip belt). These all to be tightened comfortably in order to limit the movement of the pack and allow for even load balancing and cascading effect on the various body parts that will be in contact when we are walking.
  4. Assess the amount of clothing that you have decided to take and then just cut it by half. One has to be critical when deciding the amount of gear being carried as every item increases the weight. Carry two pairs of the base layer, one mid layer and one outer layer for a 7-day hike or more. Out of these one would be being worn all the time, while the other would be inside the pack. Carry multiple socks, inner garments.
  5. Use compression sacks to slim down puffy items, these are a great way to reduce volume and size.
  6. Carry bare minimum toiletries, only the very basic essentials and do not carry a kit bag rather use a canvas roll to wrap all in.

I have finished, hope this small article helps all those who will be able to relate to the ordeal of packing. Happy wandering!!!!

Ps: Stay tuned for a check off list of what to carry in a back pack and also how to go about selecting a backpack. Coming soon ……

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