tutorial – how to pack a backpack

by Besthike editor Rick McCharles

I’ve not changed my system much over the past 3yrs.

This works for me.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Leave a comment if you have an opinion.

An unusual item shown was a waterproof “stash” bag. When day hiking, I dump everything into that bag and stash it in the rocks somewhere, taking only the things I needed for the day in the pack.

That up to 50litre pack (.54kg | 1lbs 3oz), a Granite Gear Virga, was named by the Gear Junkie in 2007 on the list of Greatest Gear of 5 Years.

Using a therm-a-rest as a backpack “frame” was first suggested to me by Kraig Becker, of The Adventure Blog and Gadling.

George gave me my first Virga pack. Jane just gifted me my second. I purchased a new 3/4 length, 3/4 inch Therm-a-Rest (no longer available on the Cascade Designs website) as a “frame”. I’m good to go for the next 5yrs.

Granite Gear Virga backpack with Therm-a-Rest frame
Granite Gear Virga backpack with Therm-a-Rest frame


Critical for me is my pillow.


I wrap this pillow with a fleece top.

The waterproof orange bag is sold by MEC as a “Pack Liner”. It weighs only 86gms and fits up to a 40litre pack.

Most of the bag is filled with the folded, partly inflated 3/4in, 3/4 length therm-a-rest air mattress, no longer available.

Some loose clothing, down jacket and stuff sacks are added to the bottom.

Leave a comment.

19 Replies to “tutorial – how to pack a backpack”

    1. I use the Therm-a-Rest as a pillow, loosely inflated and stuffed with a down jacket. VERY comfy.

      And the NeoAir as the mattress.

      … I know, I’m no ultralight hiker.

      Before the NeoAir came out I slept on the Thermie.

  1. Rick, gr8 video! I’ve had the same pack for a couple years, can’t beat it. But I like the colors on the new one you received. Where can I get one like that? Thanks for any info.

    The Pilgrim.

    1. Hey Steve.

      I believe all the “new models” are the new colour.

      If you see the old colour, it’s old stock.

      Mine was purchased in St. Paul, MN by a friend.

  2. I started hiking about twenty years ago when I lived in North Carolina. I spent years hiking the Uwharrie and Appalachian mountains and really enjoyed it. Three years ago I moved to South Florida and wasn’t able to hike due to a back injury. Seven months ago I moved to Northern Illinois and was able to start hiking again. The prairie and hill hiking is completely different than the hiking I did in North Carolina, but still really fun. I have spent the past couple months hiking the forest preserves in the county I live in and the surrounding counties. I’m not use to the cold weather yet, and to be honest I really don’t want to get use to it. Thankfully, spring is almost here and along with it warmer weather…YAY! I’m looking forward to hiking the trails around here when the trees have leaves on them and I don’t have to wear four layers of clothing just to stay warm.

    I though I would share some of my equipment tips with everyone. I bought a good fitting pair of waterproof hiking boots, a small backpack for my day hikes, and a couple cans of tent waterproofing. For extra protection from the water I sprayed my boots from top to bottom with the tent waterproofing. Then I sprayed my backpack, let it dry, and sprayed it again with the tent waterproofing to protect everything inside my pack from the rain. Whenever I go hiking, from day trips to week long hikes, I always take along the following items. Some people might think that taking some of these items is being overly cautious, but you never know when you might get hurt or lost and being prepared can make the difference between a fun hike and disaster.
    1. I clip a stainless steel water bottle to one of the straps of my backpack and fill it with fresh water before every trip.
    2. I pack a first-aid kit in my pack. I make sure the kit has Tylenol, Advil, iodine, hydrogen peroxide, bandages(different sizes), ACE bandages, first aid tape, popsicle sticks (for splints), needle, thread, and tweezers.
    3. Water purification tablets, a couple extra bottles of water, and food. For food I pack a few apples and some dried fruit with nuts.
    4. Rain poncho
    5. Emergency blanket, the one that looks like aluminum foil… it really does keep you warm.
    6. A compass
    7. If you can get one, pack a map of the trail or of the surrounding area.
    8. A knife
    9. A coil of lightweight rope
    10. A small tarp. Along with the rope, the tarp can be used to make a make-shift tent if you have to unexpectedly spend the night in the woods.
    11. Water-proof matches, flint and steel, and a knife sharpener
    12. an extra pair or two of socks
    13. A flashlight
    14. Plastic bags. I have a roll of plastic bags that you can cut to size then tie off the bottom. The plastic bags are good to pack your stuff in to protect if from water even though your pack will be water-proof. I also use the bags to put my trash in and any trash I pick up along the trail. Remember, pack it in…pack it out!

    On my website, http://www.naturesfather.com, I have a day hike check list, long distance hiking check list, camping check list and my outdoor journal. I also have links to very good companies that sell all your outdoor gear needs at great prices. I also have from E-books up for FREE download!

  3. Dear Sirs,
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