Guide: How to pack a backpack

Maggie Allen

Are you thirsty for the solitude of the wilderness, yet don’t know how to strap on a backpack?

Fear no more, for the Outdoor Program and hikers are eager to show anyone how to become a veteran backpacker.

The most essential items to pack that one might forget are a map, a compass, a flashlight, food, water, extra clothes, sleeping items, matches, first-aid, a knife, toiletries, whistles and a mirror.

“Also, always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back,” said junior Kali Stoehr.

“A person should only carry two pounds of dry food for each day,” said the director of the Outdoor Program, Brien Sheedy.

According to Allen O’Bannon, author of “The Backpacking Book,” simply follow the ABC’s of backpacking: accessibility, balance, compression and streamlined.

The weight should be distributed equally from side to side, with the bulk against your spine.

“Packing heavy stuff on top sets your balance off,” said Stoehr.

Attempting to make the bag as light as possible may be a challenge, especially when it shouldn’t be more than one-third of your body weight.

“A backpack is too heavy if it feels too heavy,” said senior Ranger Sciacca.

In terms of compression, make sure there are no empty spaces by simply cramming supplies into your pack.

“It helps to not use a stuff sac for my sleeping bag,” said Sciacca. “It saves a lot of space and compresses everything. You should still bring a stuff sac though, so you can store items inside it.”

“Fold and roll up clothes, stick them in Ziploc bags and get all the air out,” said first-year Brett Konen. “This is a great way to organize, keep things dry, segregate dirty and clean clothes and keep things compressed.”
Finally, avoid leaving anything on the outside.

“People sometimes have stuff dangling off of their packs, like tent poles or water bottles,” Sheedy said. “I’ve had to redo hikes to go look for people’s bottles.”

“Your waste straps should be at the top of your hip bone and really tight,” Sciacca said. “Then tighten up the two different shoulder straps. Adjust it as you are going; it should be different for when you are downhill opposed to when you are going uphill.”

Many beginners also fail on keeping their bags dry. Line the pack with a garbage bag, particularly a contractor bag, but keep it inside so it doesn’t rip. Instead of cotton or down clothing, bring wool or synthetic.
After everything is ready to go, the next question is where exactly to trek.

The Outdoor Program office offers numerous maps of trails around the area, such as to Mt. Adams or Ross Lake.

Sheedy’s favorite places to backpack are around the Wallowas and the Blue Mountains.

“The Wallowas are a gem; they’re under-utilized,” said Sheedy. “A lot of Whitman students aren’t aware of how amazing they are until they get above tree level.”

Sciacca recommends the Eagle Cap Wilderness or driving to the east side of the Cascades near Mt. Rainer.

For more information on camping skills and more backpacking methods, stop by the Outdoor Program and don’t be anxious to explore the great outdoors.