How to Pack a Backpack

Last Updated on April 17, 2020

How to pack a backpack

Before each tour is a more or less large pile of hand luggage that wants to be stowed in the backpack. And that makes sense as much as possible so that you can travel comfortably even on long stages. Stephan Bernau explains everything about “pack your backpack right” and gives tips on the field.

Packing the backpack properly involves not only distributing the load, but also “managing” its weight and volume. The resulting insights – what is easy and what is hard, what is big and what can be transported in compressed form – are both fundamental and banal at the same time.

Nevertheless, the starting position is very individual depending on the tour and equipment and because of this and another blurring, no ready-made instant solutions are possible.

Well, but experience values such as the following tips and considerations to pack the backpack properly, which must be adapted to your own needs – or may, depending on your point of view.

Reading tip: Set the backpack correctly

Pack your backpack properly: 7 golden rules at a glance

If you really want to pack your backpack, you have to pay a lot of attention – that is, unfortunately, the case. For a first quick overview, one should have these seven rules in mind:

  • Light equipment ( sleeping bag, down jacket,…) stowed in the bottom compartment
  • Pack medium heavy equipment (clothing) upwards
  • Heavy cargo (tent, provisions, …) at shoulder height stow as close to the body as possible
  • Small items that are often needed, pack in the lid compartment of the backpack
  • Use packs to keep things organized
  • The entire equipment should be in the backpack space – only in exceptional cases, bulky, lightweight (!) Luggage attach outside
  • Pay attention to the total weight (backpack weight = max 25% of body weight)

What exactly lies behind these seven golden rules and why the question “What do I need and when do I need it?” Is so important, you read below.

How do you distribute the cargo in the backpack?

To pack properly with the backpack, the basic rules are simple: the heavy is packed as close to the body as possible in the backpack so that the center of gravity of the backpack lies as close as possible to the center of gravity of the body.

The farther the two focuses are, the greater the leverage and thus the effort the body has to apply to carry. When walking horizontally, the center of gravity of the backpack should be well above the hips.

The backpack then supports the slightly bent forward walking movement without pulling the weight backward or downwards. Heavy-compact items are then placed close to the body at shoulder height.

When climbing and climbing, the center of gravity should be closer to the middle of the body, i.e. lower down. Because the arms are needed for locomotion and should be unloaded in all directions to be mobile – without the backpack weight while the upper body following swings to the sides.

As a general rule, the backpack is packed correctly if you are not pulled in the wrong direction while walking, climbing or climbing. And if the cargo does not get stuck, gets wet, gets dirty, or gives the wind a bigger attack surface. All these things happen when a small backpack is hung like a Christmas tree.

Tip: If it has to be, then outside the backpack only bulky, lightweight things should be attached as tent poles. (If they really do not find any space inside)

Order in the backpack: What belongs where to pack the backpack?

The backpack expert Deuter explains the basic rules of the rucksack order quite simply: “Sleeping bag, down a gear and other light objects come in the bottom compartment. Medium-heavy like clothes to the outside. Heavy equipment – camping tent, provisions, thick jackets – up at shoulder level, as close to the back as possible.

Little things are in good hands in the lid compartment and can be reached quickly. Generally, especially with side pockets, pay attention to the even weight distribution.” Everything completely right. And yet it comes in the implementation of the squaring of the circle equal.

After all, the well-distributed load should not limit the mobility, while at the same time protecting all objects as well as possible from pressure, moisture and other damage and then be as quickly as possible in every position at hand.

The fact that this cannot succeed is often the sobering conclusion right at the beginning of a tour – especially when the load of the backpack is only accessible from above. But the squaring of the circle can be approximated.

Basic principle: What do I need and when do I need it?

Either in the already mentioned way of the more or less long-standing own experience or over tips like the following, which I prefer from my own experience: One orient oneself almost philosophically at the fundamental, everywhere valid basic human needs in their different gradations.

This is less complex than it sounds and helps in deciding both the choice and the amount of luggage. Basic needs include:

  • Food (variety ? several days?)
  • Stay overnight, shelter (space and comfort requirements?)
  • Warmth – clothing (how many altitude levels/climates?)
  • Hygiene – Body care (limit of well-being?)
  • Locomotion (rope, belt, securing material ?…)
  • Packing bags facilitate packing and order

According to these needs, you can pack different packsacks and stow them in your backpack. The resulting order and ranking are logical and true to life, which is why you can pack with their help, even without “outdoor experience” each backpack so that you are quite close to the squaring of the circle.

“What do I need when?” Is the next question, with which the priorities and thus the finer division and position of the bag in the backpack as if by itself. The whole thing works great – but only if enough nylon bags, bags and plastic bags are at hand.

Too few bags mean chaos and vulnerability of the items or “dead corners” in the backpack because of the lack of form-fitting. Too many bags can lead to long flushes if you can not remember what is packed where. Especially practical: one or two extra bags for garbage and dirty laundry.

Tip: nylon backpacks are usually more colorfully distinguishable, sturdier, more durable, and water-tight, while plastic shopping bags are cheaper.

What is the right backpack size?

The same applies to the backpack: “Size matters” – keyword backpack size. As with the fitting of the backpack to the wearer, it is often forgotten when it comes to packaging that volume matters.

That starts with the purchase, because already here one should prefer a larger backpack “with reserve” than one too small to choose.

It is far better to compress a not quite full backpack than to hang things on the outside (more on that later). Basically, you should at least roughly know before buying what kind of tours you intend. The backpack should then just be big enough to cover these future tours and thereby offer a little leeway.

Orientation offers the usual backpack designations such as ” ski touring backpack, climbing backpack “, ” trekking backpack “, ” hiking backpack day tours”, “hiking backpack weekend tours “, etc.

However, the sizes then still move in the context of plus / minus ten liters, the too little or too much. If needed, our Bergzeit customer service will gladly help you via live chat and hotline.

How to pack a backpack

Reading tip: What should I look for when buying a backpack?

But with the volume should not be exaggerated. Sure, no one will voluntarily overload, but at least beginners who have neither experience nor knowledge of their limits can be quite tempted to overload the trekking backpack.

Especially when the 80-liter part still feels great in the dress rehearsal with a 15-kilogram test weight after ten minutes.

Tip: Question your luggage! Are deodorant and moisturizer really necessary during your tour?

Payload: How many pounds are the maximum?

Also, when packing the right pack, as is often the case, the golden mean way leads to the goal: neither too timid nor exaggerated. First, determine the maximum size for which you have to go through the maximum weight.

For this one takes the own body weight and divides the value by four. At least if you consider yourself to be robust. If you think yourself carved from less hardwood, divide it better by five.

Rule of thumb: Body weight: 4 (well trained) or Body weight: 5 (trained)

The rule of thumb mentioned here is based on a definition of the backpack manufacturer Deuter. Deuter speaks of a maximum of 20 to 25 percent of body weight as a reasonable permanent load for trained people. In comparison, the Bundeswehr assumes much more – namely 33 percent.

There are the tours with a backpack but also known to be extremely exhausting! In addition, the fun factor that we do not want to neglect in the outdoor area, when – well – training for the war, a rather subordinate role.

Ultimately, everything is a question of scale. What really are “trained people” is shown not only by far-exotic peoples such as the Sherpa but also the last European porters in the High Tatras who shoulder up to 80 kilograms to supply the mountain huts there.

Pack the backpack correctly: average values from volume to weight

How to convert the volume of a backpack into weight? Here are only estimates and approximate information, because the composition of the backpack load of tens of millions of hikers, trekkers, climbers and long-haul travelers is very different.

There are very different volumes of the same weights and very different weights for the same volumes. So here only rough average estimates and empirical values without claim to completeness or complete correctness can be used.

  • Sample table backpack weight
  • Backpack type volume    Average weight
  • Hiking backpack day trip 15 to 20 liters    3 to 6 kilos *
  • Hiking backpack multi-day tour 20 to 35 liters    5 to 10 kilos *
  • Climbing / high Tourenrucksack 30 to 50 liters    7 to 13 kilos *
  • backpack 60 to 80 liters    10 to 18 kilos *
  • at average load, based on experience

Small additional tip: strengthen the back

Compared to what the Sherpa, the Slovaks and the tough guys and girls on the magazine cover so packed away, the own maximum carrying weight is usually a sobering small size. But that does not have to discourage it or stay that way.

Anyone who is willing to crank up some downhill and downhill training ambitions has everything in their own hands (or better, on their backs). How about some strengthening for the shoulder muscles, which are often badly battered after the tour ends?

Specifically, the trapezius muscles that connect the spine and neck with the shoulders. In any case, the trapezius muscles are usually underdeveloped from the overly sedentary lifestyle and are particularly painful.

They can be strengthened within a few months with exercises that are as powerful as they are powerful. In addition to increased “carrying power” in backpacking brings as a nice side effect also the end of all neck pain in everyday life.

Exercises can be found online with keyword research or – better – in well-founded instruction books such as “Fit ohne Gerate” by Mark Lauren.

The latter is a personal tip for a meaningful fitness mainstream trend that is exceptionally good for once. Although it does not guarantee that you can do it yourself on the magazine cover, but that’s just a secondary goal anyway.

How to pack a backpack

At a glance: 10 tips to pack the backpack properly

  • The volume of the backpack should fit the tour
  • Question your equipment: What do you need (really)?
  • Maximum load weight: <= 25 percent of your body weight
  • Transport the heavy as close to the body as possible
  • Lightweight, voluminous equipment belongs in the bottom compartment
  • Medium-heavy equipment to the outside
  • Use the lid compartment for what you often need.
  • Pay attention to a balanced load distribution
  • Order according to the principle “What do I need when?”
  • Packsacks facilitate the order


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