How to

Pack Your Hiking Backpack


Right Way

If you don’t pack your hiking backpack properly, it could make you hate hiking.

Knowing how to pack your backpack correctly can do a lot for you. It can prevent pain. It can prevent wear. It can ensure you keep your mind on hiking rather than the discomfort of your pack.

Your back has to carry that load at the end of the day.

So, why not learn how to pack your hiking backpack the right way?

How to Pack Your Hiking Backpack

There is a strategy that you should follow when you pack your hiking backpack. The strategy focuses on the different sections of your pack and the type of gear you’re loading into it. The idea is to take the strain of the weight off your back and legs and centralize it in your hips. But, of course, you also want to pack it correctly to help keep an even balance.

Pack Your Hiking Backpack

What goes in the bottom of your backpack?

The bottom of your backpack should be reserved for gear items you won’t need until the end of the hike, such as your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and loose clothing.

Pack your sleeping bag and pad first, and then fill the empty side gaps with your loose clothing. That evens it out a little bit more and helps stabilize your balance. In addition, that will help prevent you from falling due to undistributed weight, causing you to lean more one way instead of more naturally.

If you’re not carrying camping gear, put gear you are less likely to use on the bottom. Just try to even out the weight as best as you can on the sides and middle of the bottom of the pack.

For my day hiking setup, I carry my water filter, bathroom kit, and odds and ends on the bottom of my pack because I rarely even need those items. Of course, I also put my emergency change of layers on the bottom.


What goes in the middle of your backpack?

The middle of your pack is for items such as food and your cookware.

In the middle of my pack is where you can find my pocket rocket stove with a lid in my cooking pot. I also have an extra cup in the pot to share with Michelle. I keep a fuel canister in the middle for my stove, too.

If you have a water bladder, you should also have it situated in the middle of your back, close to your back. I don’t carry a bladder. Instead, I take two water bottles. I put one on each side of the backpack in the water bottle holders. On hot, longer hikes, I’ll throw an extra bottle of water or Power-Ade into the middle of my pack.

If you carry a rain jacket or rain poncho, pack it around the empty gaps in the middle to help distribute an equal amount of weight.


What goes in the top of your backpack?

This part of the pack is for the stuff you’ll likely need.

I always try to put my first aid kit at the top, even if I never use it. I’m allergic to bee stings, so I need access to the medication I take in case of a sting. It’s good to have what you immediately need as close as possible.

This is also a good place for your map and compass, sunblock spray, and insect repellent.

Anything that you are likely to need should be stored on the top of your backpack.


It’s pretty easy to pack your hiking backpack the right way. But it’s easy to pack it the wrong way, too. The comfort of your hike depends on how you pack things. So make sure you pack smart to focus on what matters – the hiking. If you’ve enjoyed this article, subscribe to my free newsletter for more tips like these.

Please Support Hiking with Shawn

Alrighty folks, I hope you have enjoyed this content. I provide it for free and it takes a while to create. If you would be so kind enough to support my efforts, you can do so by sharing this post with others, especially on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to see my latest videos, shorts and live streams. Follow me on FacebookInstagramTwitter and TikTok for unique content that you will only find on those pages. You might also join my Southern Illinois Hiking & Outdoor Resources Group on Facebook, too!

You can also support me by becoming a Patreon Supporter for as little as $3/month and you can cancel anytime (no contracts or catches). Patreons get access to extra features, exclusive articles, sticker packs, gifts and more. Consider buying official Hiking with Shawn Merchandise as another way to support me. I spend a lot of money on Hiking with Shawn and because of extremely high public land permit fees, I make very little money in return so everything helps.

Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

Subscribe Today!

Get Your FREE Gift Now!

Subscribe to the official Hiking with Shawn Newsletter and get a free gift! The newsletter is free, sent once a month, and contains exclusive articles, tips, offers, contests, and upcomig events that you won't find anywhere else. You can unsubscribe anytime with ease. Subscribe now (for a limited time only) and get my free 70+ page 35 Hiking Trails of Southern Illinois Guide. This PDF will be sent to your email right after you subscribe (check your junkmail just in case and add me as a contact). I hope to see you on the mailing list!

Thanks for subscribing! Go check your email!