Tips for Packing a Backpack

Fitting all your purposefully picked items into a backpack can be challenging.  Follow these tips for properly packing a backpack.  You’ll thank yourself later.

  • SELECTION: First you will need to carefully choose your items. As a general rule, lay out everything you would like to pack and then cut that in half.  Click on the following link for advice on what to bring and what to leave at home.  Packing Hobo Style
  • COMPRESSION: Use compression bags to categorize items for easy organization (EX: all socks and underwear go in one bag).  Roll your clothes instead of folding them in order to prevent wrinkles.  Line up your clothes with the ends of the rolls facing the top of the bag for easy selection of articles; then Squeeze!  Use the straps of a compression bag to extract any excess air or space out.


    Compression Bag


  • CATEGORIZING: Using clear ziplock bags categorize items into the following:

– Gels and liquids….  If you are using your backpack as a carry-on you will need to remove all gels and liquids from your backpack to get through security.

-Medication… To save space remove pills from the packaging but make sure they are still clearly labeled.  Click the following link for suggestions on which medications to pack. High Class Health Care


Liquids and Gels in separate bag.

-Toiletries…Put all non-liquids/gels in a separate bag.  EX: Toothbrush, make-up, hair brush, hair elastics, nail clippers, feminine hygiene products, soap, toilet paper, razor, ear plugs

-Food…It’s always nice to have some snacks so you don’t have to buy expensive airplane food.  Pack some granola bars, nuts, and protein bars.  Put a collapsable water bottle in this bag too so you can fill it up once you pass airplane security.

  • IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS: Next put all your important things that you cannot lose in something that will be strapped to your body all the time!  A waist belt that goes under your clothes works or a very small camelback that can be worn on the front and buckled to you is a good option.  In here, put most of your money, passports, credit cards, phone, important paperwork, and any else that you cannot risk losing.  Consider putting all these items in a ziplock bag as well in case they get wet.

Sidenote: Keep photocopies of your passport and credit cards in another bag and leave a copy with a reliable friend at home.  Also, hide some emergency money in a few different places.  An emptied out chapstick tube or a secret pocket with a zipper are solid places to hide money.

  • LEFTOVER ITEMS:  Some items you might have remaining are sleeping bag, trekking poles, flashlight, towel, knife, lock, journal, etc.  Only bring the essentials and if you must bring it, make sure it is as compact as possible (EX: Micro fibre towel vs. fluffy beach towel or jacket that zips into it’s own pocket).  Set these things aside and most will go in random leftover spaces.
  • PACKING: Now that everything is as small as possible, it’s time to load it all into the backpack.  Follow these tips:

-Put your heavier items closer to your back.  If you are a male (or stronger in the upper body) put the heavy stuff in the middle.  If you are a female (or stronger in the hips) put your heavy things towards the bottom. Never put the heavy stuff at the top. This way, when you do up your waist strap, your hips and core are supporting the majority of the weight.  Packing heavy up high or far from your back will leave you top-heavy and wobbly.


-Pack items that need to be taken out when going through airport security at the top where they are easily accessible. This would be your gels/liquids bag and any technology.

-Do not strap anything to the outside of your backpack.  It will most likely get lost or stolen.

-Fill all corners and spaces.  An easy way to do this is to pack large items first and fill in the rest of the area with small items.  Use all space available!  EX: Fill your shoes with socks and underwear.

-Leave 20% of your backpack space available.  You may want to buy souvenirs and unfolded dirty laundry takes up more room that your carefully compressed clothes.

-Your backpack should not be taller than you and there should be nothing loose or rattly.  Take your pack for a test walk.  It should be easy to carry, not bulky and awkward.

-Wear your bulkier clothes such as long pants, sweatshirt, and shoes on the airplane.  Don’t be afraid to layer up, the more you wear the less you have to carry.

  • PACKING FOR PURPOSE:  If you have additional room in your backpack or an extra luggage bag allowance, consider bringing donations to the country you are visiting.  There are organizations that will assist you in bringing needed supplies to developing countries.  If you have the space and time consider filling an old duffel bag with donated items from your friends or family and delivering those items to people in need once you arrive at your destination. Pack for a Purpose

Backpack, FrontPack and Pack for Purpose bag

Good luck Hobos and Happy Trails!



7 thoughts on “Tips for Packing a Backpack

  1. Alex

    You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be really something which I feel I might by no means understand. It seems too complex and very large for me. I am looking forward in your subsequent publish, I will try to get the dangle of it!


  2. Rosanna Thompson

    F*ckin’ awesome things here. I’m very happy to look your post. Thank you a lot and i am having a look forward to contact you. Will you please drop me a e-mail?


  3. Vickie Mills

    Valuable info. Fortunate me I discovered your website unintentionally, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate didn’t came about in advance! I bookmarked it.


  4. Jack

    This is such a clever post and just a must-read for anybody who is planning on going backpacking (bookmarked!). I never understood how people managed to get everything in a backpack. I have been looking for a backpack since we are going backpacking in the spring but I could really use some recommendations? I have been looking everywhere; Amazon,, target – What do you recommend for a noob who needs lots of space?



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