NOLS Field Staffing Director and senior NOLS Instructor Marco Johnson walks us through how he packs his backpack.
When packed properly, a backpack can hold much more than it would appear and can be comfortable despite weight. Achieve comfort and efficiency by following the A-B-Cs.
A: Availability. The top section, or brain, of the pack should have those things you’re going to want throughout the day: water purifier, snacks, sunscreen, maps, compass, and first-aid kit.
B: Balance. This principle comes into play in two ways. First, for comfort and to protect your back, the heaviest items should sit close to the spine in the middle of your back. Secondly, match every item on the right side with an item of equal weight on the left.
C: Compression. Use every bit of space the pack has to offer. Stuff socks into shoes, food into pans, and clothing or your tent into any small holes and empty spaces that develop as you pack.
D: Dry. The easiest way to keep your gear dry is to slide an open heavy-duty garbage bag into your pack before you start packing. Fold the bag over at the top.
E: Everything on the inside. This plays into D. The more gear you have hanging from your pack, the more gear will get wet when rain strikes. Furthermore, anything poking out from an already large pack just begs to be grabbed by a tree branch, resulting in damage, a trap for you, or lost gear.
F: Food above fuel. Should your fuel bottle leak, the worst thing it could get on is your food supply.