Just as choosing the right backpack is important, packing it correctly is very important aswell. You can do many things wrong, without noticing that you can even do them wrong. While you just make it fit when packing a suitcase, you’ll want to create a better tactic when packing your backpack. A 15 kg backpack can be more comfortable to carry than a 10 kg backpack, simply because the 15 kg backpack got packed better.
The most obvious point, but also the most important one. Aim for 10-12 kg. Less is always better. That is totally realistic if you plan to do a “normal” trip around the world, without any really extraordinary activities. If you want to see Antarctica or climb Mount Everest it’s going to be more.
- How many times will you need it?
If you are unsure about packing something, think about how many times you’ll need it. Everything that isn’t used atleast once a week should stay at home. Don’t pack something just because you’ll might need it once.
- Layers instead of thick clothes.
Taking multiple layers instead of thick clothes has several advantages: Less weight, better heat insulation, more usability. You can wear thin layers in different regions, while thick layers are only good for cold areas.
- Light materials.
The most popular example is probably the travel towel. They can pack down to the size of a shirt and weigh way less than a usual towel.
- Replace several tools with one multifuntional.
- Pack things because you need them, not because you want them.
Besides reducing weight, you want to make sure to distribute it correctly aswell. This will make the above mentioned difference of a 10 kg backpack beeing more comfortable to carry than a 15 kg backpack. Of course, it’s not the single important thing when it comes to carrying your backpack without pain. Choosing the right one in the first place and adjusting the straps correctly is just as important.
- Put heavy things as close to your body as possible.
The further they are away from your body the more your shoulders will hurt. It increases the effectiveness of the waistbelt aswell.
- Put heavy things in the middle of your backpack.
If you put them to high your backpack will start to wiggle at every step. If you put them too low it will pull you back.
Here is a little picture, so you can see what I mean.
Pack with system
I am almost 100% that your backpack will be a mess within a few weeks, unless you create a proper packing-system before you leave. It will get a little mess at some point anyway, but you can save yourself a lot of frustration. It will be way faster to pack and you won’t need to find a new way to squeeze your stuff in, everytime you pack. Also, it’s annoying to always search your backpack for things you put at the bottom/middle. Furthermore, you want to separate dirty and clean things, vulnerable and sharp things, blablabla…
- Plastic bags: They are good to pack pretty much anything, the form will adopt to your backpack. It’s a additional protection against moisture aswell. Make sure to find some which don’t crackle too much, if you plan to stay in dormitories.
- Cotton bags: For your dirty laundry. They are breathable so your laundry won’t mildew as fast. You can wash them with your laundry, so they won’t become as disgusting as a plastic bag would.
- Freezer bags: Those are the best way to store your documents. They are usually waterproof aswell. Unfortunately they don’t come in many different sizes, otherwise I would only use them.
Not really mandatory but will make looking for things easier. Store things that belong together in the same container. For example: all your documents in one container, your camera equipment in one container, things you need in the bathroom in one container and so on.
- Curl your clothes instead of folding them. This can save a lot of volume, the downside is that your clothes will be rumpled.
- Use empty spaces. If you store shoes in your bag you can still squeeze some socks inside them.
- Compression bags. I personally never tried them, but they are worth to consider.
- Use specialized equipment. E.g. the travel towel.
You won’t carry your backpack for a long time very often. It’s the 15 minute walk from the bus station to your hotel/hostel and the way back when you leave for another city. Unless you don’t take a taxi anyway. That’s why you see people with 70 liter monsters.
The 70 liter backpack means that you can take all the stuff you don’t really need, but want, with you. The downside is that you sacrifice some of your flexibility. Below are a few examples of situations in which a big backpack will be extremly annoying/exhausting.
- Looking for accomodation, when you just arrived in a new city. Usually you’ll want to book in advance and take the taxi to your hotel/hostel.
- Going pretty much anywhere without a taxi. Even if it’s just the 15 minute walk to the bus station, in warm regions that’s enough to get you sweat soaked.
- Waiting in a queue, to buy tickets, or at the airport.
- Taking a motorbike-taxi, because you’re on a remote island and there are no cars.
- Getting on a ferry and fighting all that tight way to your seat.
- Climbing 100 stairs because the receptionist had a boring day and gave you a room on the 3rd floor.
- Whenever you wear it in general.
As always you are very welcome to leave additions/suggestions/opinions in the comments!