Packing for a single day of hiking is relatively straightforward. All you need to remember is to bring enough snacks for the day, a comfortable layer of extra clothing in case the weather turns, and perhaps a few odds and ends to make the day more enjoyable.
But once you extend your hiking trip past daylight hours – into an overnight or multi-night trek – things get a little more complicated. Now, suddenly, you’re juggling sleeping gear, tarps, multiple clothing changes, meals, water and more. If you aren’t careful, your backpack can easily go from being compact and manageable to bulky and burdensome.
Luckily, you can employ a few space-saving, spine-saving tips to make your next multi-day hike more comfortable. Just remember the following criteria:
- Pack Light
- Pack Versatile
- Pack for Ergonomics
- Pack for Accessibility
Using those criteria, here are five packing tips to use next time you brave the wilderness.
Whenever Possible, Pack Collapsible
If there’s a collapsible version of something, get it. Why deal with a bulky water bottle when you could pack a collapsible water bottle to refill at rest stops? Why pack mismatched pots and pans set when you can opt for a nesting set that takes up a fraction of the space?
The goal here is to save as much space as possible, so try to find space-efficient versions of commonly bulky items.
Harness the Versatile Power of Merino Wool
Merino wool is a godsend for backpackers. Not only is the ultra-fine material comfortable and insulating, but it’s also breathable, sweat-wicking and anti-bacterial. What does that mean for hikers packing light? It means that you really only need one or two of any garments.
You can get away with packing one merino wool t-shirt, one pair of merino shorts, and a couple of pairs of merino underwear and socks. The clothing will stay fresh even as you sweat your way through multiple days of hiking – really! And don’t worry about these merino garments gathering dust in your closet the rest of the year; you can easily find merino wool high performance clothes for everyday use.
Pay Close Attention to Backpack Arrangement
Your backpack is supposed to be an extension of your body. It shouldn’t shift your centre of gravity or put undue stress on your back.
To achieve an ergonomic backpack arrangement, experts suggest packing bulky items (like your sleeping bag) on the bottom, which will serve as a secure base for everything else. In the middle layer of the pack, which sits closest to your natural centre of gravity, pack your heaviest items (cookware, tent, food, etc.). Finally, pack your light merino wool clothes at the top of your bag, where they are easily accessible.
Use Zipper Bags and Side Pockets for Safe Access
Most modern hikers like to travel with their phones and other electronic devices. Ideally, you want these items readily accessible (so you can consult your phone’s maps, for instance) but also shielded from potential rainfall. A straightforward solution is to tuck your electronics into Ziploc bags in the side pockets of your pack – that way, you can easily grab them without worrying about rain damage.
Next time you plan a multi-day hiking trip, follow these simple tips to stay comfortable, light and free of any backaches!