How To Pack A Rucksack

Learn to pack an expedition pack correctly...

Whether you’re on a walking or hiking expedition like the DofE, travelling the world, camping or at a festival for the weekend, you probably already know the importance of a good rucksack. However, even if you have the best rucksack in the world, if it’s not packed properly then carrying all the equipment you need for your trip could become a nightmare.


Once you’ve chosen the perfect rucksack for you and checked it fits correctly, spending some time making sure that you’ve packed your bag properly will make any trip all the more enjoyable.

Image courtesy of Lowe Alpine®

Packing Your Rucksack 

Loading up your bag correctly is all about weight distribution, and ensuring that you have easy access to the items you’ll need during the day and in an emergency. Packing too much heavy equipment towards the front of your bag will pull you backwards as you walk, making activities like trekking up hills more difficult. Equally, if you have too much weight on the left or right, you’ll be pulled to one side.


How To Pack Your Kit

  1. Your tent should go in your bag first, as it’s likely to be the biggest item you’re carrying. Put your tent in your bag vertically, against the part of the bag that will be against your back. This will keep the weight of the tent close to your body, making it easier to carry.
  2. Put your sleeping bag beside your tent to balance the weight. Your sleeping bag should always be inside another waterproof bag to keep it dry.
  3. Next, place the bulkier items of your kit, like your cooking equipment, in the bag.
  4. If your bag has a bottom access point, keep a dry change of clothes at the bottom. The rest of your clothes can be used to pack out the spaces that haven’t yet been filled.
  5. If you’re taking liquid fuel with you, put it in one of the side pockets. This will keep it vertical and stop it from leaking.
  6. Balance the weight of the fuel by putting your water bottle in the other pocket. This will also ensure that it’s accessible throughout the day.
  7. Your food should be at the top of your bag, with your lunch at the top.
  8. Put your waterproofs in last, so that you can get to them quickly if it starts to rain.
  9. Fill the space in the lid of your bag with all the things you might need during the day – your first aid kit, snacks, sun-cream and head torch.

Once you’ve packed your bag, give it a shake to make sure there are no loose spaces that you haven’t filled.

Image courtesy of Lowe Alpine®


  • Check that you’ve packed your bag properly by putting it down on the floor. If the bag falls to the left or right, then the weight isn’t evenly distributed on each side and the load will need adjusting. If the bag falls onto its front, with the straps up in the air, you have too much weight towards the front of your bag, which will mean that the load pulls you back as you walk.


If you’d like more information on choosing the best rucksack for you, take a look at our rucksack buying guide. Or, to find out how to make the most of your bag, read our rucksack fitting guide.



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