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How do you load your pack?
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 09:39:57 MDT Print View

I think loading a pack is a refined art and double that for frameless packs.I'm curious how others load their packs.

Here's my last go-round using a tent with poles,3-season clothing and sleep system:

Pack: GoLite Jam (latest version, large, 3233 cubic inches/51 liters)

From the bottom up:

Tyvek footprint, folded with stakes inside.

GoLite Utopia 1 floor and tent body, each rolled and packed horizontally, end to end across the bottom of the pack.

Caldera Cone in container, vertical on one side of tent section, 600ml pot in ziplock bag, vertical on other side.

Garbage compactor bag pack liner.

20F synthetic bag in silnylon stuff sack, stowed horizontally in the liner.

About this time I add my folded (thirds) Prolite small pad outside the pack liner, vertically against the hydration sleeve.

Next, clothing in a silnylon stuff sack, horizontally on top of the sleeping bag, inside the liner.

Survival/ditty bag (1 liter silnylon) with first aid kit, headlamp, water purification tabs, spare batteries, Heat Sheet bivy) vertically on the side of the clothing bag.

Insulation layer loose on top of clothing and survival stuff sacks.

(Close pack liner-- twist the bag top and tuck it in)

Rain gear top and bottom
Bear bag with line and food inside. There is room for a bear can instead. Either way, food is up in the extension collar.

(Close pack top--- drawstring and compression strap)

Side pockets:
One liter water bottle in each side.
Tent poles in stuff sack, stashed vertically on one side, seated in the pocket with the water bottle, under the lower compression strap and tethered to the upper ice axe/tool loop (not long enough to go under the upper compression strap).

Front pocket:
Z Seat sit pad
Toilet/hygiene kit
Waterproof camera and accessories.

Hip belt pockets:
RH: Compass, small Write in the Rain notebook and mini pen.
LH: Swiss Army knife and survival lanyard (varies with available pants pockets).

The general idea is to make soft horizontal modules that seat against my back, using the pack compression features to stabilize them.
Waterproofing, organizing, and accessibility on the trail are other concerns. I can get to food, rain gear, sit pad, toilet/hygiene, camera and navigation items without taking the whole pack apart. An insulation layer is available within the first waterproof barrier if needed for breaks. I could move that up in the pile if it was cold but not raining. When taking a break, I can pull out the sit pad and open the top of the pack with immediate access to food--- one zipper and one compression strap/drawstring.

Loading clothes without the stuff sack. It saves 1.5oz, which doesn't concern me, but may help take advantage of unused space in the pack. The 20F synthetic bag and tent take up more room than my summer kit with a tarp/rain cape shelter and lighter bag, so tweaking a little extra space would be good. I am a neat freak and I do like having my stuff organized and compartmentalized.

The Jam is a fairly large bag in my world, and was pretty full with 2 days food and the items listed-- I was little surprised at the volume, but it worked well for access and was comfortable. Total weight with 2 liters water, food and fuel was 23 pounds. A summer kit with 40F down bag, cape shelter and less clothing would drop 4 pounds.

If I used a CCF pad, I would try a more vertical arrangement for the sleeping bag and try stuffing loose clothing around it. That might lower the stack height by half a horizontal stuff sack, leaving more room for food and better weight transfer using the packed column of the CCF pad.

How do you do it?

Edited by dwambaugh on 10/22/2010 09:46:16 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 09:50:14 MDT Print View

Soft goods at the bottom (sleeping bag, clothes that I don't need quickly), then food and stove - possibly water, shelter at the top with rain gear. Having a footprint or shelter at the bottom of the pack seems counter intuitive.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
AARN way on 10/22/2010 09:59:04 MDT Print View

Mines a little different as its a body pack moreso than a backpack.

I put my heaviest items in the very front straps on my frontpockets:

water/fuel in the very front furthest away from my body
moving closer to the body and inside the frontpockets now:

Pocket 1:
most of my heavy food items

Pocket 2:
filtration system
rain gear
first aid

In the backpack working up from the bottom:
extra food
underquilt and top quilt stuffed in stuff sacks at the top of the bag.

side pockets:
tarp in snake skins

I try to keep the weight close between the front pockets combined and the back section. This way the shoulder straps kind of float on my shoulders, light as a feather. Also when its weighted properly, the feature that allows the shoulder straps to slide up and down on that slideable strap that connects at the bottom of the backpack works nice.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 10/22/2010 10:00:50 MDT.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 10:06:25 MDT Print View

I just got a new shelter so this is hypothetical but in line with my previous loading technique.

Pack: Granite Gear Virga w/ homemade hydration sleeve (mine is older model without one from factory)

Listed in order:
1. 4 section 'Z-Rest' horizontally as pack frame
2. Hydration bladder in homemade sleeve
3. Sleeping bag in stuff sack (Soon upgrading to cuben fiber dry bag)
4. Sleeping Mat (rolled Neo Air)
5. Clothes bag (in stuff sack)
6. Misc. Gear (headlamp, repair kit, etc.)
7. Cook Kit (Henie Pot in tall generic 'Kool-aid' container)
8. Food Bag (w/ personal care items and bear rope inside)
9. Shelter (SMD Wild Oasis)
10. Medical Kit
11. Rain Jacket

Left Pack Pocket:
Map, Lunch/Snacks, Gravity filter system (Sawyer+2L Platypus)

Right Pack Pocket:
Toilet paper, Mini Tripod

Pants Pocket w/ lanyard attached to belt loop:
Whistle, Pocket Knife, Chapstick, Purell

I'm still trying to think of a way to carry my camera (Sony NEX) so that it is protected from bumps, dust, and rain while still having it accessible for quick shots. I'm thinking of some chest harness attached to my shoulder straps with #1 Nite-Ize biners.

I prefer to have my shelter closer to the top of my pack so that when arriving in camp when it's raining it is the first thing to go up to protect the rest of my gear. Likewise, it is one of the last things to pack up when waking during a morning storm as well. I can pack all my gear while protected under the shelter without fear of them getting wet during the process.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 10:30:01 MDT Print View

Since most of use have rather light loads, optimum distribution for weight carrying is not a major concern most of the time. I pack things in the order I need them.

- easy access to the items I need will traveling (e.g. snacks and water.

For night...

- groundsheet needs to be handy, not at the bottom.

- if chance of precipitation, shelter needs to be handy, not at the bottom of the gear.

- Usually the last thing I need are sleeping bag/bivy, so they are at the bottom.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re :"How do you load your pack?" on 10/22/2010 10:31:40 MDT Print View

Burrito style.
I use a sil-nylon pack liner.
The sleeping mat goes in the liner. I find this easier than trying to pack the mat outside the liner.
Sleeping quilt and down clothing at the bottom inside a seperate sil-nylon stuff sack.
Cooking gear and food go in next.
Shelter is carried in back mesh pocket, along with waterproofs.
Side mesh pockets carry fuel, stakes, hat and gloves.
Map and compass are packed in either the side pockets or hipbelt pockets. Snacks are carried in the hipbelt pockets.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 11:05:10 MDT Print View

Good point on the shelter location--- more heads help! I'm used to the cape shelter, so it's always on top for rain anyway. This trip was sunny and cold, but working in the rain certainly makes the shelter one of the last things in/out. Any larger tents (REI dome) I have used in the past went in vertical "tubes" down the sides and the poles outside.

Then my stack would go: sleeping bag and clothing in pack liner, cooking stuff, tent & ground cloth, rain gear, food. Easy enough. That gets back to packing the clothing loose in the pack liner to squeak in a little more room around the curves of the stuffed sleeping bag. The cooking gear could nest in above, with the clothing filling the gaps (pack liner in play too). That should give me another 4-5" vertical space, which was a priority.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Shelter on 10/22/2010 11:31:24 MDT Print View

As i hike in a wet area, i try to make sure that i don't need to open my pack until i'm under cover.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 12:28:28 MDT Print View

I don't know my pack weight, but it feels light to me, so I pack primarily for convenience. In my case from the bottom up...

EnLIGHTened cuben fiber quilt, TiGoat bivy and Hexamid solo side-by-side on bottom.
Ursack in the next layer.
Next layer is first aid kit, water filter, hygiene kit, repair & tool kit.
Clothes on top of that.
Dromedary water bag on top.

Pad gets strapped to the rear or on top of the pack.
Headlamp, maps and food for the day go in the rear mesh pocket.
Gps and camera (or sunglasses or nothing) go in the shoulder pouches.
Polycro groundcloth and ti potty trowel in one side pocket along with an umbrella if I bring it. A water bottle in the other side pocket.
Hanging off one shoulder strap is a bottle holder for my shaker bottle.
Snacks go in one hip pocket.
Pee bottle hangs off the rear of the pack...oh yeah, that reminds me that I need to obtain a new one!
Trash (rain) bags are somewhere around the pack...

This is for dry weather where I don't mind laying my stuff on the ground. This may change this weekend since we're experiencing weather...somehow I've avoided camping in the rain for years.

Peter Treiber
(peterbt) - M

Locale: A^2
"How do you load your pack?" on 10/22/2010 12:33:02 MDT Print View

Recent Golite Jam:
Folded BA IAC sleeping pad next to my back. Sleeping bag with thermals and socks in garbage back stuffed in the bottom. Food/stove bag on top of that. Platy on top of that. Ditties, headlamp, rain stuff, windshirt in big pocket. Tent and sit pad strapped under top compression strap. Water bottle in side pocket. Trowel and flip-flops hang off back. Camera, snacks, map/compass, whistle/tool/firesteel, etc. in pants or belt pockets. Sometime I'll take a class in weight distribution for a lightweight pack so my more-conventional hike-mates will stop looking at me that way, but, until then, you know, it's light.

Edited by peterbt on 10/22/2010 12:46:33 MDT.

Warren Crow
(crowculbertson) - MLife

Locale: Alabama
Aarn Pack Balance Pockets on 10/22/2010 12:50:38 MDT Print View

With framed packs the frame's purpose is to transfer the load to the hips. I have been wondering if the balance pockets have a frame in them that would transfer the weight within the balance pockets to the front of the hip belt.

Is this the way the Aarn pack works?

Is it effective?

Edited by crowculbertson on 10/22/2010 12:51:46 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Warren on 10/22/2010 13:15:41 MDT Print View

Most of the larger packs have frame stays for the front pockets. The frame fits into a pocket on the hip belt, then with a buckle, snaps into place. The front pocket then connects to the shoulder strap via a sliding locking piece, pulling the weight off your shoulders, effectively making them weightless. A bungee cord controls the amount of bounche they have, and the front pockets connect to the opposite shoulder staps in an x pattern, where they are adjusted-pulling them close to the body of far away.

It works great..

I use the featherlite freedom, it has one large stay down the back, and one for each pocket.

I hate carry stuff in my pant pockets, so the front pockets work out nicely in that regard. They also have mesh sections on the back, front, and sides to stow stuff.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 10/22/2010 13:20:20 MDT.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 14:32:16 MDT Print View

Hi Dale,

I use a homemade SUL pack. I insert my rolled short Ridgerest to provide the "frame".

Next in goes the aired out, WalMart plastic trash compactor bag.

After that my top quilt is stuffed down at the bottom without a stuff sack.

On top of that goes my stuff sack of extra clothes. Following my clothes two stuff sacks go in vertically side by side. These contain my tarp, bivy and pillow in one and my cook kit and some of my food in the other.

Horizontally on top of those two stuff sacks my other "main" food bag goes in next. I then roll closed the trash compactor bag and stuff the tag ends down inbetween the rolled sleeping pad and the trash compactor bag itself.

My titanium sheperd's hook stakes, in a small mesh bag, go points down between the overlapped sections of my sleeping pad centered inbetween my shoulder straps.

On top of this I put my hydration resevoir horizontally and close my pack.

Loaded pack :-)

In the outside pockets I put my water bottles, FAK, pack towel, water filter and treatment etc.

I stuff a third pair of extra socks for emergencies inside my pack straps. I don't use a hip belt so there are no hip belt pockets.

LED light and trowel etc. hang off of the shockcord used for compression.

Party On,


Edited by Newton on 10/22/2010 15:48:22 MDT.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 14:40:38 MDT Print View

"Since most of use have rather light loads, optimum distribution for weight carrying is not a major concern most of the time."

Gotta disagree with that.

Let's see, we'll put the cuben tarp and down bag on the left side, & the food and water on the right. oh. wait. that doesn't work so well...

optimizing weight distribution & packing can make a big difference in carry comfort in all packs, but particularly in frameless packs.

realistically, there's also a chasm of difference between the people who frequent & read the forums, & those who regularly post. many people I meet are regular followers on BPL, but are still shooting to get in the range of a 15-20 pound base.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
load on 10/22/2010 14:47:01 MDT Print View

bag on the bottom, extra clothing (except for rain and belay jacket), tent/tarp, stove/food, water, technical gear, belay/rain jacket at top

in order of light->heavy->light ... also works because its the order of what things ill need during the day

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 15:05:01 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/30/2015 21:23:03 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 15:23:26 MDT Print View

"Since most of use have rather light loads, optimum distribution for weight carrying is not a major concern most of the time."

Gotta disagree with that...


Okay, you are correct.

I was referring to heavy items close to top and back. Side to side distribution should be equal. With light loads, I am more concerned with the functionality of getting to things in the most efficient manner. I do not want to unpack everything in my pack to get to my ground sheet or tarp when it is raining. I want to pitch my tarp while everything stays dry inside my pack. Once under the tarp I can deal with the other housekeeping matters while keeping everything dry. If there is no chance of rain for the day, then rain gear can stay in the very bottom, I do not need to use it, or even touch it. If chance of rain is good, I want my rain gear at the top of the pack or even in a side pocket. Packing should generally follow need or function.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How do you load your pack? on 10/22/2010 15:32:39 MDT Print View

Instinctively, I start to load a pack with the heaviest items toward the bottom and closest to my back. But then, that doesn't work, so I load it with the items at the bottom that are unlikely to be used during the course of a day on the trail (e.g. sleeping bag and stove). If it rains on me, then I will want to get out the tent as I reach camp, so it needs to be halfway near the top. Rain clothing and lunch are the two items most likely to be used during the day, so they are always near the top.

Side pockets and back pockets vary, but they are loaded last. A first aid kit needs to be the most readily accessible, but I seldom follow my own advice.


Jon Hancock

Locale: Northwest England
Chris Townsend's packing video on 10/23/2010 03:56:11 MDT Print View

TGO have a short video online where Chris Townsend demonstrates how to pack a rucksack. It's not "extreme ultralight" of course, but Chris has favoured lightweight kit for years and I think this shows good technique for a very reasonable load. Not surprising really, given his job and experience.

Or you can Google TGO video if that doesn't work.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Convenience on 10/23/2010 13:18:10 MDT Print View

I generally pack more for convenience than weight distribution, but of course I don't do really silly things like make my pack super top heavy.

- Clothes sack is at/near the top since that's usually what I am accessing most frequently through the day.

- Below that is my pot, misc. gear sack and food bag since I need this stuff at least once a day for lunch.

- Below that is my shelter if I'm carrying it inside my pack. If it's wet or my pack is overfull then I carry it in the back pocket

- At the bottom is my sleeping quilt and NeoAir.