6 Ways to Pack Smarter on Your Next Hike

By Dawn Allcot

Going on a day-long, or even multi-day, nature hike? How you pack your bag can mean the difference between losing time searching through supplies or having exactly you need—when you need it—right at your fingertips.

Follow these tips to balance your bag like a pro, avoid a sore back, and put your necessities within easy reach.

1. Make Resealable Zipper Bags Your BFFs

The base layer of your backpack should be made up of clothing (rolled, of course), blankets, and any liquids, including extra water you won’t need until later in your journey.

Prevent leaks by packing items like toothpaste and liquid soap in individual, resealable zipper bags, and then place them at the bottom of the bag, just above your clothing and blankets. If a leak should occur, it won’t contaminate your food.

2. Distribute Weight Properly

With your clothing as a base, it’s now time to load the center of your backpack with heavier supplies. Pack your camp stove, tent, ready-to-eat meals, cookware, and utensils in the center of the pack, keeping the heavier items farther away from your back toward the outside of the bag.

Other necessities to include? A portable battery and cable for your smartphone and a handheld compass and map in case you can’t get a signal in the woods.

3. Save Time and Space with Meal Prep

Freeze any food you won’t be using on the first day. That’ll serve two purposes: It will help it stay longer, and also keep other perishable items and your water cold without the added weight of ice packs.

Pack the ingredients for your other meals in resealable freezer bags, including any spices you may need. Combine as many ingredients as you can in advance.

You can even cook entire meals, such as high-protein lentil soup or oatmeal with fruit, in resealable freezer bags. Just add hot (not boiling) water, mix well, and let the ingredients sit someplace warm for about 15 minutes before you give it one final stir before digging in.

4. Take It from the Top (Snacks, That Is)

Put items you may need quickly near the top of your bag. Must-haves include a hat, first-aid kit, bug spray (in a zipper bag so it won’t leak), and healthy snacks like Chops Original Beef Jerky.

5. Use Those Pockets


There is only so much space at the top of your backpack, but today’s models typically provide plenty of pouches and pockets to stow your stuff. Use those side pouches to hold an easy-to-reach water bottle and tasty snacks.

If your backpack has a zippered pouch, use that to keep your camera, phone, and flashlight at hand. 

6. Hang Loose 

Use your backpack’s loops and straps to carry larger items, including your sleeping bag and tent.

Distributing items between the outer pockets, the bag itself, and the loops can take some of the weight off your back. Experiment until you find the most comfortable configuration for the long haul.

Before you set off on your next hiking adventure, tell us—what are your favorite trails to explore?

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