How to Pack a Rucksack

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How to Pack a Rucksack

Make your hill-walks more efficient with proper packing

Having a poor fitting rucksack can make walks very hard work, add a poorly packed rucksack to this and your day will just be very uncomfortable. A good mountaineer knows the importance of investing in a quality stripped down rucksack that fits well and is fit for purpose, but even the best rucksack can cause you problems if you don’t pack it properly. Here are some top tips to help you pack your rucksack appropriately.

Packing your Rucksack

When packing your rucksack you want to think about how the weight of the contents is distributed while also keeping key items easily accessible throughout the day. With regards to weight, it is best practice to have the heavier items closer to your spine. If the heavy items are closer to the front of the rucksack instead, then they will pull you backwards, this can fatigue you throughout the day, especially if walking uphill. Likewise, having those heavy items on the side of the pack can pull you off balance.

The other rule of thumb is to have the items you are likely to use nearer the end of the day stored at the bottom of the rucksack. usually these items would be spare clothes, tent, sleeping systems and cookware. items that you would need quickly should be near the top, such as waterproofs and water. Here is a rundown of packing your rucksack;

  • Put your tent in first and run this vertically along where your spine would be in position to the rucksack. This brings what is likely to be your heaviest item closer to your centre of gravity, making it easier to carry on long journeys.

  • Put your sleeping system (sleeping bag, roll mat, etc) next to the tent and ensure these are protected from the elements. This might be achieved by putting them in a dry bag or bivi bag. I save space by wrapping my sleeping bag in the outer of the tent and stuffing it in the rucksack - then packing the poles separately in the rucksack.

  • put your cookware, fuel and food in next and position it in such a way that other items can still go in the rucksack. I like to keep cooking systems really simple and packable, such as a MSR Pocket rocket and small gas which all fits in a small titanium kettle to save loads of space. I would use this to re-hydrate food.

  • If your rucksack has sidepockets, then some people will put the cooking fuel in one pocket, and water bottle in the other to balance out the rucksack. I prefer to use a lightweight climbing rucksack without side pockets as they are more streamlined to walk with - I would put the water and fuel inside the rucksack.

  • Put your waterproofs in last as you might need them during the day, or even better practice wearing them if the weather is forecast to rain during the day. If this is uncomfortable then invest in better breathing fabrics such as Goretex pro. These waterproofs are expensive but worth their weight in gold for how comfortable/breathable they are as well as how long they last. Unless the sun is shining and it is a hot day, I just wear mine as a windproof layer to save space in the rucksack.

  • Keep useful items in the lid of the bag such as keys, snacks/lunch (if it fits, I prefer to graze as I move rather than sit for lunch and get cold), first aid kit, head torch etc. If you have a floppy lid, stuff it in the rucksack before doing the rucksack up.

  • Use the compression straps to lock everything in place and test the rucksack by standing it up on the floor; if it tips either side then it may not be evenly loaded.

In the next article we will look at how to pack lightweight for hill walking and with equipment suggestions.

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