How to pack a backpack…

So you are looking at a packing puzzle. All the stuff you have purchased or want to take is spread out on the floor around your backpack and you are wondering how it is all going to fit in there?

Packing a backpack is an art, and sometimes it takes several attempts. Do not assume that the first time you pack is the correct way, only experience will tell.
Top tip: Don’t wait until the night before to start packing!

Stage everything first
Don’t grab your backpack and start stuffing things inside. Stage everything that you might want to take on the floor in an open area around your backpack. This will give you an opportunity to eyeball what you will be carrying, commit it to memory, and eliminate anything not absolutely necessary for your backpacking trip.

Assume that your backpack will be mistreated
While travelling, your backpack will be thrown from the top of buses and trucks, rained on, slept and sat on (by you), and battered like never before. Fragile items need to be packed with the most protection possible. Remember to pack liquids and electronics inside a ziplock or waterproof bag.

Assume that your backpack will get wet
Anything of value, books, and electronics should be in zipped in waterproof bags. Waterproof covers for backpacks are expensive luxuries if you don’t want to waterproof all the contents. The problem is that they only work when they are on. If a tropical storm pops up while your pack is sitting in the luggage hold of a bus or boat, it is going to get wet!
Top tip: Keep a large bin liner into one of the outside pockets on your backpack so you can at least try to cover it during a storm.

Pack ‘modules’
You do not want to have to dig through a giant rucksack looking for a tiny sewing kit. Organise objects in the way that you know you will need them and then put them inside smaller bags and containers. Preferably the smaller bags will be very soft, water resistant, and pliable so that you can cram them into your backpack.

Never pack to capacity!
Packing a backpack to its full capacity is a disaster in progress. When you start your trip, your backpack should be no more than 75% full. You will most definitely end up carrying gifts, buying cheap objects along the way. Your dirty laundry will take up more room than nicely rolled and folded clothing and when you run out of travel sized toiletries, you may end up having to buy the full sized equivalents.

No Wasted Space
Make every use of space possible. Stuff things inside shoes; remove items from their packaging, whatever it takes to take full advantage of the room that you are already using.

Pack larger and heavier objects first
Heavy objects such as shoes and books should be as low in the backpack as possible and as close to your back as possible so that they do not pull the backpack away from you. Pack larger items first, and then stuff the empty spaces around them with smaller bags and objects so that no room is wasted.

Keep in mind, when choosing a packing order, how often you will want to access certain things. For instance, your sleep sheet or bedding can go in the bottom because you will only need it once a day.

Your backpack should be comfortable
You should be able to wear your pack and walk around for at least 2 hours without getting sore. You can save a lot of money by simply walking from bus and train stations that are usually on the edge of town to the main square. You may have to wear your pack while standing in a long line, maybe in the hot sun (or the rain). When you are finished packing, it should feel like a natural extension of your body, secure, and weight balanced so that you can move and walk like you normally would.

Don’t forget your cheap backpacker insurance!
One thing you should definitely make room in your backpack for is travel insurance for backpackers. You can purchase great value backpackers insurance direct at 24/7 travel insurance.

For a 2-month trip in Europe, will cost you just £13.52* – a small price to pay to really enjoy your backpacking adventure all the more! It could save you from a hefty bill after a medical emergency. Remember, lost luggage and theft is all too common these days, so get a backpacking travel insurance quote from 24/7 travel insurance today.

* Premium £13.52 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual aged 18-35 travelling in Europe for 2 months purchasing a backpacker ‘standard’ policy. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (December 2009) and are subject to change.