How To Pack Your Backpack
By Brad in NAU Hiking Club
There are many ways it is done and I am going to give you a few way that I have learned directly form the manufacturers of the backpacks themselves. As a conscious consumer of information you need to realize that this is my opinion based on experience and factory training but it does not mean that it is law and you may have a better way of your own. I just ask that you try these ways and make your own mind on which way is best for you. -Brad)
(The four area system (best)
The pack is divided into four areas; top, inside middle (against your back), outside middle, bottom. You want to have the lightest stuff on the bottom (e.g. sleeping bag) The middle is divided into two areas; inside and outside. The middle inside is where you want your heaviest items. (e.g. water, fuel) The middle outside is where you want your average weight items (e.g. clothing, water filter) The top area is where the heavy items are going to go (e.g. stove, cookware, food, tent) Often times you can put your tent on the outside of the main compartment by fastening it under the lid. This will work on most internal frame packs and some external. Your sleeping pad would go on the outside of your pack. Most packs will have straps built in for the pad. I recommend against putting things on the sides of your pack other than light or bulky items some thing will work best there though (e.g. tent poles, camp chairs, trekking poles)
(The three area system (good
Some times it isn't practical to divide the pack into four areas. This is a variation of the four area system. The pack is divided into three areas; the bottom, middle, and top areas. You want to have the lightest stuff on the bottom (e.g. sleeping bag) The middle is where the average weighted items are going to go (e.g. clothing, light pots, water filter) The top area is where the heavy items are going to go (e.g. food, water, fuel, tent) Often times you can put your tent on the outside of the main compartment by fastening it under the lid. This will work on most internal frame packs and some external. Your sleeping pad would go on the outside of your pack. Most packs will have straps built in for the pad. I recommend against putting things on the sides of your pack other than light or bulky items some thing will work best there though (e.g. tent poles, camp chairs, trekking poles)
The day pack
There really isn't much to packing the Day Pack. It is usually too small and too light to make a difference but here is how you would do it if needed. Since the pack is too short to have many different areas you would essentially put the heaviest items toward your back and the lightest items toward the outside. If you have enough room for height you would put the lightest items on bottom and the heavier ones on top.
Examples From Pack Manufacturers
Cutting straight to the Newtonistic dictates of the pack wearing issue; you've got two sets of vectors that you are dealing with. Horizontal momentum (Px ), and that favorite constant of climbers gravity (G). These forces act on you in the form of torque applied on your center of mass (Myou) from the center of mass of the pack (Mpack). The goal when loading your pack is to minimize the work your body has to do to overcome these outside forces while you walk, slide or run down the trail. The strategy begins by bringing the Mpack closer to Myou and to the vertically running plumb line over your hip crest. In effect the closer the net center of mass of the system (Mnet) is to Myou the less work you will have to do to overcome Px. The amount of force is dictated by both the lever arm length and angular relationship (described via cos). Hence, start by making the pack thin not fat. Part 2 consists of loading your pack based on the density of what you are putting in. The adjacent diagram shows generally how you want to split things up. Develop a Newtonian packing strategy and put it into practice and you will notice a difference.
A properly loaded pack can be significantly more comfortable than one that is packed incorrectly. Start by loosening all of the packs compression straps, and if you prefer, all internal dividers. Put your sleeping bag in the bottom. Some people put their bag into a stuff sack, while others simply stuff it into the pack. We suggest using a compression stuff sack to compress the bag to its smallest size. Next, place your tent body and fly, folded into a square. Close to your back. Above the tent, but no higher than your shoulders, should be your heaviest items: food, fuel, water filter, etc. Above this and away from your back should be lighter items, like clothes. The side mesh pockets may be used for water or fuel bottles, tent poles, and fly rods. Try to keep items which you need to get to quickly or frequently near access points or in outside pockets
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