So, you’re new to the backpacking game. We’ve all been there before, and we know how overwhelming it can be when you’re just starting out. But don’t stress! We’re here to help you figure out how to pack a backpack, step by step. Packing for your first trip is both exciting and daunting, so let’s break it down.
If you’re in a hurry, you can always check out our free downloadable backpacking checklists for every climate!
WHAT BACKPACK SHOULD YOU GET
Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to backpacks. You might think getting a bigger bag means you won’t have to squeeze everything in, but you will, because you will fill it. You might start off small, but you’ll see things along the way and think it’s okay to get one more shirt because you have the space. But the weight adds up, and a heavy backpack is the last thing a backpacker needs. We also suggest getting dark coloured bags, because they’re likely to get trashed pretty quickly.
Zowie has a 55 litre Osprey Fairview with a detachable day pack. It’s specifically designed for women, but who knows what that actually means, it is very comfortable though! (Full disclosure, she may have gotten sucked into buying the one with the best colours. No regrets). Carson has a 70 litre Osprey Farpoint also with a detachable day pack. We keep our day packs attached and put in there things we want to keep separate from our clothes, like shoes!
We both then have smaller Anello backpacks that we wear on our front for things like electronics, passports, medicine etc. We recommend travelling with two bags, so that your smaller bag can always be with you as carry-on. If something happens to your main backpack in transit, at least you’ll have your important items with you. You can absolutely use your detachable daypack and save yourself a few bucks, in fact, we only just recently made the switch to the Anello bags since they were gifted to us.
PACK WHAT YOU NEED, THEN HALF IT
Everyone always thinks they need at least 20 pairs of underwear, but we promise 10 will do just fine. So pack everything you want to bring, and then cull at least half and you’ll be left with the things you’re most likely to wear and use. So other than clothes, shoes, electronics and all the regular stuff that comes to mind, here’s a few trade secrets so you’ll be ultra prepared for your trip.
Tampons. If you use them, bring them. A lot of countries around the world don’t readily stock tampons, and this can leave you in an uncomfortable position. Literally. Make sure you pack in your backpack however many you think you’ll need for your length of trip and don’t get caught with your pants down.
Medication. Before you leave home, make sure you stock up on enough of whatever meds you’re on because some places are more strict than others. What might usually be over the counter in your country can need a prescription in others. Like eardrops?!
Toiletries. Don’t pack full sized. You’ll find it all in grocery stores once you need to refill. Also, opt for a bar of soap not body wash. It’ll last longer.
No denim. It takes up too much space and takes forever to dry. This is a common mistake new travellers often make. You’re better off ditching denim for cotton or something equally thin.
No white. Too many time’s we’ve taken our clothes into a laundromat only to have our white items come back an awful shade of grey. It’s best to leave these at home or accept that they’ll never be the same.
KEEP IT ORGANISED
Now that you know what, let’s talk about how you’re going to make it all fit. How to pack a backpack is an art form. It starts with packing squares, like these nifty ones from Amazon. You might not think they’re necessary, but think again. When you live out of your bag, things tend to get messy. Packing squares are a great way to keep things organised and will help you separate your socks from your jocks.
ROLL, DON’T FOLD
It’s all about the roll. Forget folding your clothes, the technique you need to adopt to pack your backpack is rolling. You’ll fit more, things tend not to crease as much and you can see all your clothes without having to dig underneath to find that one shirt you always wear. This is why it’s important not to bring denim if you can avoid it. One pair of denim shorts rolls up to the equivalent of 3 cotton shorts. Zowie learned this the hard way on her first trip. Don’t be like her.
The only thing worse than a wet backpack is a bunch of wet clothes inside your wet backpack. There have been countless times where we’ve been travelling on motorbikes and it’s started pouring unexpectedly. Luckily, we’ve had backpack raincovers to protect our bags and their contents. Osprey offers great options that fit any bag you buy from them, and their large cover fits both the 55 litre and 70 litre.
There you have it, our expert guide on how to pack a backpack, as well as some essential tips and tricks. If you found that helpful, we have plenty more travel hacks in The Post as well as free resources you can download!