By Cameron Ownbey

I remember the first time I had to pack my backpack all by myself. Mom wasn’t there to do it for me anymore, and I was terrified that if I didn’t do it exactly right I’d be left starving and soaking wet, or carrying the kitchen sink. Maybe even both. The first couple (or couple dozen) times you load your pack it can be daunting. Make sure you are following a standard backpacking checklist that includes suggested clothing, tent, sleeping bag, stove, food and the Ten Essentials for Backpacking. Once you get really comfortable you will add, subtract and replace items based on what worked well and what didn’t.

Here comes the fun part! You need to fit all that in your backpack and get it to work best for you! With a little practice it will feel like your favorite pair of fuzzy pink slippers! Here are some tips to get down-home-comfy with your backpack.

1) A place for everything and everything in its place.  Each of your items will find a home in your backpack. If you always put your items in the same place you will always be able to find it at o-dark hundred.

2) Keep the water filter easily accessible while on the trail, unless you like asking questions like “Do you think it’s okay to drink right from this stream?” (Note: don’t do it!!)

3) Pack the heavy stuff close to the small of your back.  This keeps your center of gravity as “tight” as you can. It will be easier to hike, scramble and be comfortable on the trails longer too!

4) No backpack or person is built the same.  Your backpack WILL adjust so adjust it to what feels good to you not what the “expert” tells you should feel good.

5) Keep the snacks handy.  Eat before you get hungry. Getting behind on your calories while working hard is not a fun experience.

6) Distribute your pack so that 85% of the weight is resting on your hips not your shoulders.

7) Water bladders are great for biking.  For backpacking you don’t want to have to unpack your backpack to fill your bladder.  Get a regular water bottle. Put it in a side pocket that you can reach without pulling the pack off.

8 ) You should be constantly adjusting your backpack.  Pull tight when going up and loosen up the straps by your ears when going downhill. It should be a comfy experience, not a burden.

9) Use the pockets for their purpose. The pocket on the top of your pack is reserved for stuff you need immediately on the trail.  It’s not fun to unload the whole pack to get to a snack or toilet paper. Remember to put the headlamp in there too if you’ll be hiking as it gets dark. Other suggestions: camera, sun screen, bug spray and head net, compass, map, blister treatment etc.

Happy’ packing!


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