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How to Pack a Backpack for Overnight Hiking

The key to packing a backpack for overnight hiking is recognizing what you'll need before you need it.


  • Step 1: Stow your sleeping bag Place your sleeping bag in the pack first. This is the last item you will need during the day, so stow it away first.
  • Step 2: Stow your tent Pack your tent. Some packs have special compartments for tents. You may also be able to attach your tent to the outside of your pack. Another possibility is placing the tent in one of the pack's general compartments and storing the poles on the outside of the pack.
  • Step 3: Stow your bedroll Place your bedroll in the pack. If it has open-cell foam or closed-cell construction, store it on the outside of the pack. If it is inflatable, store it so it does not become punctured.
  • Step 4: Stow your cooking gear Pack your cooking gear. Be sure your fuel supply is stowed safely away from your bedding, tent, and above all, your food, in case there is a leak.
  • Step 5: Stow your food Stow your food. Keep the food that you will need when you set up camp in one place, and the snacks and lunch you will eat on the trail in another. Make sure you can easily reach your snacking items during the day.
  • TIP: Use a bear sack if you will be traveling where bears are prevalent.
  • Step 6: Carry a survival kit Keep a survival kit close to your body. The kit should include a knife, a flashlight, waterproof matches, a survival candle, a compass, an emergency blanket, water purification tablets, a survival whistle, a first aid kit, and emergency rain gear. Now you can hit the trail with confidence.
  • FACT: At nearly 15,000 feet above sea level, California's Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.

You Will Need

  • Backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Bedroll
  • Cooking gear
  • Food
  • Survival kit
  • Bear bag (optional)

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