Many backpackers who have been travelling for a while have got packing their bag down to a fine art. A fellow I met in Nepal could pack his bag in rapid time in a way that meant he got what he needed with his eyes closed. Useful when there’s no power about. Now, not all of us are as well travelled as this man but here are a few ways to pack you bag to make the endeavour of hauling your life in a bag around the globe as you explore every corner is a little easier.

Bag type – Each bag is completely different so it will be packed different. However, there are two main types. Some bags are top-loaded meaning you open it from the head while others are packed from the front access panel. In either case, how you pack your bag will dictate the stress you endure as your travel.

Start at the bottom – There will be items you use only once, twice a week or even only once on your trip. The key is to put these in the far reaches of your backpack or buy them on your trip instead. Where possible, place these at the bottom. It means you don’t have to trawl through these items every time you want to get something. By virtue, you put the most frequent and used items near the top.

Heavy items – Where possible, try and place heavier items in your bag towards the centre of your back. This means that you will be able to balance easier due to the majority of mass in the bag being closer to your centre of gravity (balance point). Too high and you can fall over easily and too low will impede mobility and cause you to leave forward more. No biggie if you aren’t hauling your gear along a trail or around humid cities drenched in your own perspiration but you’ll be glad you did if you are.

Hydration reservoirs – These are compartments that hold your drinking water in a soft sack. If you pack before you put it in, it may be hard to squeeze in. Some people fill it and then start packing around it. Obviously, only needs to be considered if you are actually going to be using it.

Food – Food is something you will likely be using as you pack it so keep it near the top. At all costs, make sure to take it out of your bag when you leave it for an extended period of time. Pesky rats will find it and put a not-so-pretty hold into it just for you.

Top Lid – This is usually the easiest to access compartment and should only contain things you use on a day to day basis. Don’t start stacking your souvenirs in here but rather your phone, charger, compass, glasses, sprays, sun lotion or rain poncho

Externals – Try and reduce the amount of things hanging off your bag. It reduces the likelihood that they’ll catch onto something or fall off. Put trekking poles tucked into the external side pockets and strap that sleeping bag on firm and tight.


  • You might find it useful to put some duct tape around your water bottle. This saves you having to carry around a huge roll and go digging for it when you need it to make a quick fix.
  • Put some safety pins on you bag so when you need to mend your clothes or keep a tear together until you can fix it later, they are easy to access.
  • Take out only what you need when you land down as it reduced your packing time later.
  • If you haven’t used something in about three weeks, it might be a good idea to fight the sentimental feelings and give it to another traveller or even trade for something else you really do need.