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How To Pack a Rucksack

Kids jumping over logs in woods wearing Regatta outdoor clothing.

You’ve booked the week off work. School is out for the holidays. It’s time to get packing!

If you’re heading out on an expedition with the children you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need, neatly packed away, in your easy-to-carry rucksack. But with the whole family in tow, squeezing everything in is no mean feat. Preparation is key. With a few rucksack packing tips under your belt, you’ll have everything you need, without being weighed down.

Green packaway rucksack by Craghoppers

Packing a rucksack starts with the bag

Before you get packing, it’s important that you’re equipped with a rucksack that’s large enough for the amount of time you’ll be camping. Here’s a rough idea of the size of rucksack you’ll need:

  • 60 litre rucksacks or larger – your go-to if you’re heading out on a self-supported trip, camping for a few days and nights or on a longer backpacking trip such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Expedition.
  • 20-40 litre daysacks – what you’ll need for a one night stopover on your own, or for a long day of exploring with the family.
  • Small activity backpack – great for the bare essentials if you intend on trail running or cycling for the afternoon.

Take a look at the varied sizes and shapes of our rucksacks and find the right fit for your trip.

Family walking in woods with dog.

Can you fit everything you need in your rucksack?

How to fit a rucksack for guaranteed comfort

Spend time making sure your rucksack is a comfortable fit that won’t strain your back or shoulders as you explore – you’ll thank yourself for it after a long day of hiking with your tent and cooking tools on your back!

All good quality larger rucksacks should feature large padded shoulder straps for extra comfort, as well as a padded hip belt for extra support to help distribute the weight of your belongings more evenly. If you’re unsure about the fit before you buy, look for a rucksack with an adjustable back length – this will help you to get the right fit first time, and ensure that the majority of the weight is carried through the hip belt.

That way, you’re not carrying too much weight through your shoulders, helping you to hike all day, free from back or shoulder ache.

Woman hiking in hills wearing a Regatta rucksack

Get more from your adventure with a comfortable rucksack.

Here’s how to pack a rucksack the right way

Now you’ve got the right rucksack for your trip, here’s the best way to pack a rucksack ahead of your expedition:

  1. Lay out all the items you plan to pack in your rucksack. This will give you a clear view of everything you need to take, and the items that are non-essential, helping you to narrow down your list and pack as lightly as possible.
  2. Separate the bulkiest and heaviest items. This could be your tent, sleeping bag and cookware. These are usually the items you’ll need at the very end of the day when you set up camp so they’re best placed at the bottom of your rucksack.
  3. Pack the bulky and heavy items at the bottom of the main compartment of your rucksack first. This will help you to carry the majority of the weight through your hip belt as you’re carrying your rucksack.
  4. Check that any bulky items or components are not sticking out as these may dig into your back, making the rucksack uncomfortable to wear.
  5. Now start adding medium weight items such as warm clothing to the main compartment of your bag. When packing a rucksack, it’s important to make the best use of the space you have, so try a few combinations of rolling your clothes and tightly folding them. You may find that one combination works best for the size and shape of your rucksack.
  6. Lighter items should be placed at the top of the main compartment of your bag. This could be your torch, map, and hat and gloves.
  7. Side pockets are ideal for items that you need to reach quickly. Use these for your first aid kit, your daily water supply and snacks to keep you going.
  8. As you pack the pockets of your rucksack, keep weight distribution in mind. Can you add two smaller water bottles either side so that the weight is more evenly distributed? Try your rucksack on as you pack the pockets to get a better idea of how the weight is distributed.
  9. If required, attach your sleeping mat to the outside of the rucksack to save on space. But avoid attaching items to the outside of your rucksack that you will need to keep dry!
  10. Now try on your rucksack. Carefully pull it on or ask someone to help you lift it on. Adjust the shoulder straps and hip belt to make sure you’re comfortable with the weight, before you set off on your outdoor getaway.

Man camping with a rucksack.

Rucksack Packing Tips

  • Setting off in bad weather? Invest in a waterproof rucksack liner or dry bag that will keep all your clothing warm and dry, ready for settling down in your tent for the night.
  • Avoid adding too many items to the outside of your rucksack. There’s nothing worse than losing vital equipment as you hike, only to find out that it’s missing as you set up camp!
  • Make smart use of pockets. Keep your waterproof jacket in a handy pocket that can be reached easily if the weather takes a turn.
  • Organise your food by day. Place each day’s worth of food in one large plastic zip lock bag. This will help you to keep track of what you really need day by day.
  • Get the kids mini rucksacks too! They’ll feel more like they’re part of the adventure and it’ll mean a few less items for the grown-ups to carry.

Now you know how to pack a rucksack you can enjoy your trip, equipped with everything you need for your family outdoor adventure!

Need to stock up on some camping essentials? Shop our camping collection for sleeping bags, tents, and camping gadgets.

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