If you are planning a camping trip by car, the amount you can pack will vary depending on your personal requirements and the size of your vehicle so for the purpose of this article, it is going to be aimed at packing advice if you are travelling on foot and carrying all your belongings in a rucksack.
Packing a rucksack might possibly take between 30 minutes to an hour, allowing for packing and repacking to ensure your rucksack is balanced and that you’ve got things in an order which suits you. Everyone will have their own individual camping ‘list’ to work from so the advice here is more of a general overview into how to pack as opposed to what to pack.
Separating your belongings into groups
A selection of plastic bags of different sizes is useful as is some form of colour coding, e.g. different coloured stickers.
Firstly, you should lay out everything you intend to take on your list where you can see it and begin to identify those things which you might need to lay your hands on quickly. Separate these items as they are going to go into the pockets of the rucksack and at the top so they’ll be going in last. Examples of these kinds of things might be your first-aid kit and wet weather gear.
With the rest of the gear, you should try to split it into groups which are logical to you. This could be all your underwear, socks, T-shirt and swimming gear together. Your washing kit, toiletries and towel might also go together. Or, you might use a system whereby you decide to pack all your clothes for each day of your trip. It’s entirely your choice but your ‘system’ should enable you to quickly find things you might need at any given time without the need to rummage through the entire contents of your rucksack.
When you’ve decided what works best for you, put the items into separate piles and then pack each of these piles into separate plastic bags and colour code them to make things easier.
What to pack where
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to pack your rucksack. At the bottom, you should pack anything light such as bags of clothes that you’ll not need immediately. Make sure you use all the available space including the corners. On top of this, you should pack any cooking equipment, cutlery, plates, shoes and such. It’s important to make sure that when you pack this section, there is nothing sticking out which could be uncomfortable against your back when you start carrying the rucksack. You can then pack those items that you need to have easy access to. These can go on the very top and/or in the side pockets. If you have heavy items, split them between the two side pockets to help with the balance.
If your rucksack’s quite small, you can strap some items onto the outside at the top. Things like your tent, its poles and sleeping mat, for example, can be strapped on externally to the top of the rucksack but make sure they are covered with plastic to protect them from any bad weather.
Trying out your rucksack
Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to try out carrying the rucksack. This is the time you should identify if anything’s poking you in the back and to see if the balance is right. It should fit snugly onto your back so you may need to adjust the straps before everything feels right. If this is your first time, it’s a good idea to practice carrying the rucksack on your back by going for a short walk around the block where you live. This will give you a good idea of your physical capabilities and the movement made by you walking for 10 minutes or so will certainly flag up any discomfort that you might need to make adjustments for.
Two final tips. You can never guarantee that straps or buckles won’t break or get lost and it’s wise to keep spare straps and buckles in a handy place in your rucksack which you can get out and use quickly should you have to. Also, practice changing buckles and straps at home as you’ll not want to try to master that if you’re on a hill in a howling gale with the rain pelting down.