How To Pack a Backpack for Travel

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One of the most difficult parts of backpacking is how to pack a backpack for travel. While that may sound silly, it’s true! It’s tempting to just stuff everything in and hope for the best, but that technique doesn’t work out very well in the long run. Unlike a suitcase, it doesn’t have a nice box to contain everything in, so it’s easy to overfill it! Backpack packing can be difficult, so here are some tips on how to do it.

Initial Preparation

Before you actually start cramming everything into that new backpack, there are two steps that you need to take. The first step is to gather all of your supplies, everything you think you might need, and separate them into piles: pile of t-shirts, pile of pants, pile of toiletries, etc.

Once they are in piles, take a good look and decide how much you need to eliminate in order to fit everything in your backpack and still leave a little room for souvenirs. The second step is to go through and eliminate all the unnecessary items so you only have things you will actually need and use. Remember: less is more.

Rick Steves, a guidebook author, gives this great advice on his website Europe Through the Back Door, “Think in terms of what you can do without — not what will be handy on your trip. When in doubt, leave it out. I’ve seen people pack a whole summer’s supply of deodorant or razors, thinking they can’t get them there. The world is getting really small: You can buy Dial soap, Colgate toothpaste, Nivea cream, and Gillette razors in Sicily and Slovakia.” You’d be surprised at what you don’t need, so when in doubt, don’t pack it.

Back Area

One thing we tend to forget about until it’s too late is the panel of the backpack that will be resting against our back. If your backpack doesn’t have supports, then an improperly packed backpack can have lumps and bumps that make carrying it extremely painful. Try to keep the items lying against the back panel as soft and comfortable as possible.


Don’t forget to balance the weight in your backpack. Some recommend putting the heaviest item at the bottom of the pack, but others say keep it in the middle and close to your back. Try both ways and see which one works for you. It may be best to eliminate the bulky and heavy items from your packing list altogether. Do you really need to bring that heavy guidebook? Will you ever wear that extra pair of sneakers? Try to get rid of the items with the most weight so you aren’t lugging around too many pounds.


When packing your backpack, be aware that you won’t be able to access everything as easily as you think. Items on the bottom are going to take some rooting around to get out, so it’s probably not a good idea to put your toothbrush down there or something that you will use daily. Put the things that you will use less often on the bottom and the items you use most frequently on the top.


backpacking guide cta 3Let’s face it: your backpack may start out perfectly organized with every rolled t-shirt in its place, but it isn’t going to stay that way while you’re traveling. There will be times that you’re rushing to catch a train and jam everything back in willy-nilly, and it’s not going to be pretty. That’s why it’s a good idea to have an easy system of organization from the get-go. Buying different colored bags is a great way to organize. You can put all your underwear and socks in the blue bag, toiletries in the green one, and so on. You get the idea. Not only does it make organization easier, but it also helps with the layering.

Nooks and Crannies

One thing about a backpack is that it has a lot of little spaces that can easily be forgotten about. Be sure to use small items like rolled socks and t-shirts to fill up those places in order to utilize the maximum amount of space. Don’t forget about outside pockets and putting items in places like the insides of your shoes.

With these helpful tips you’ll soon have a well-packed and well-balanced backpack. Have fun, and don’t forget about that stinky sock you tucked away in the bottom! Happy travels!


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