Backpacking: How to Pack Your Bag

Ever go on a backpacking trip and you have to play Tetris to get everything in?  The gear you take is limited so you have to be selective of what you should take.  At the same time you are limited on space so everything you are taking has to fit.  What is a person to do?
Take Your Tent Out of the Carry Case
The tent comes in a little carry case that you can pack in your bag.  This keeps all the pieces together nicely and keeps it organized.  The downfall is not all backpacks are the same size.  So packing it in the carry case isn't always doable.  We recommend taking it out of the carry case and fold the tent so it will lay on top of your gear in the bag.  The poles and stakes can go in a side pocket where you will not need them and they will be out of the way.  Or you can give part of the tent to someone in your group to carry as well.
This saves a ton of room in your bag for other things.  If you don't believe me, try it on your next trip. 
Packing the backpacking essentials
Pack Gear In Importance of Use
When you are hiking with your pack on your back how you packed it doesn't really matter.  You aren't using anything so no matter how you packed it, as long as it fits you are fine.  The down fall is you are going to stop at some point and set up camp.  Do you want to pack your tent at the bottom of your back or the top?  The answer should be the top.

Next you have your food, you are going to eat more often than you are going to change clothes.  Your food and means to heat up any water should be next.  You can also pack some food and your little stove in a side pocket.  Again you don't want to dig to the bottom of your bag when you stop to take a break and eat.

Clothes should be at the bottom of your bag.  You are unlikely to change clothes mid hike on the way to camp.  There is no need to pack this on top.  You may want to keep a jacket or hat close to the top in case you need it but everything else should be at the bottom.

Your water has a compartment already in your bag.  If you are bringing multiple bladders you can carry them in an external bag.  Some backpacking bags come with detachable bags that you can use to carry your water.  Having a water filter is also a great idea if you don't want to carry all the water in.  Water can get really heavy and add a ton of weight.  Check the area you are traveling to ensure there is a water source.  If you are taking a water filter you can pack this in a side pocket for easy access.

Your sleeping bag can be placed in a few different areas depending on the bag.  Some places are on the bottom or top of the bag where it can be secured.  If you don't want to take a chance of it getting wet or damaged, most backpacks come with a cover that can also cover your sleeping bag.  If you are really paranoid you can pack it inside your pack.  Keep in mind this will take up a lot of space for your other items.  I do not recommend packing it inside the pack.

All the tents I have owned come with a carry case.  When you are backpacking that carry case can create a problem because of the way it is shaped.  If you take it out of the carry case and fold the tent like normal, the tent will fit much better in your bag.  The poles you can secure in a side pocket or in the bag out of the way.  This saved me more space than using the carry case.  You can also split the tent into multiple bags if you want, spreading the weight around.  Don't pack the tent at the bottom of the bag so you have to pull everything out just to set it up.  Pack it towards the top of your bag so you can easily get to it to set up.

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