So, you’re ready to tackle Snowdon. You’ve done all of your preparation and selected a route you’re comfortable with, you’ve checked the weather for the day and have made sure you’ve got all of the correct equipment to make sure you’re safe and comfortable. You would think it would be a case of putting all of your gear into your rucksack and heading off but, without planning, a poorly packed rucksack can waste energy, cause excess strain on joints can make it difficult to access the right equipment when you need it and can cause you unbalance which, when you’re climbing a mountain can be dangerous.

On the contrary, a well packed rucksack can save you energy, take away strain on joints, allow necessary equipment to be accessible when needed and keep you balanced so, when you’re scrambling or climbing or just negotiating a tricky step, can help you keep upright.

There are 2 main factors to consider when packing a rucksack for hiking and they are:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Weight distribution

Making Sure Items in Your Back Pack Are Accessible

This means packing the rucksack so that items you are most likely to need access to or items that you will need in an emergency, are readily available. After all, there’s little point in packing a sleeping bag at the top of your rucksack and your first aid kit at the bottom.

When you’re packing your rucksack, be aware of the likelihood that you will need an item or, the urgency in which you might need it. As a good rule of thumb, you should keep your first aid kit in the hood of your rucksack where it is most accessible quickly if ever needed. Also, most backpacks come with a whistle built into the chest strap, but, if you have a separate whistle, it’s best to keep it attached to your shoulder straps so it’s very quickly available if needed in an emergency.

Depending on the weather forecast, you might want to put waterproofs nearer to the top in case of rain or, if the temperature’s likely to drop, you may do well to keep your additional layers, gloves and hat within easier reach.

This image below shows a good guide on where to pack items in your rucksack.

The Importance of Weight Distribution When Packing a Rucksack

The way your rucksack is packed has a big impact on your comfort while out walking. It’s tough enough hiking to the summit of Snowdon without having discomfort of an out of balance back pack.

When packing, it is important to try and keep all heavy items as close to your upper back as possible. By doing this, you’re keeping the weight of your load as close to the body’s natural centre of gravity as possible. If you have heavy items at the top of your pack, it can unbalance you and make you feel like you’re tipping over. Heavy items near the bottom of your pack make your rucksack feel like it’s pulling you down and cause you to use excess energy.

In addition to keeping heavy items at the centre and close to your back, you should try to keep the top and bottom of your rucksack as light as possible. This will reduce the feeling of toppling or being pulled down.

This image is a good guide on how to distribute the weight of items around your rucksack.

Correctly Fitting Your Rucksack

Now that your rucksack is packed properly, you need to make use of all of the fitting straps. It may seem, that on newer and more expensive packs, that there are an awful lot of unnecessary adjustable straps but they are all there to make the pack fir you as comfortably as possible without the load moving too much while walking. If you consider, manufacturers make these rucksacks for use by men and women of all shapes and sizes so, when you have your backpack on, make sure the straps are adjusted to keep the pack as close to your body as possible (without being too restrictive) and try to make use of the hip straps to ensure you literally take the weight off your shoulders.

Read our next article on what to do in a hiking emergency.