Loading Your Pack
A well packed backpack can be the difference between pleasure and pain when you're out in the wilderness. It is worth spending some time at home loading your pack with the gear you expect to take on different trips just to see how it fits and how the comfort level of your pack changes when your packing is configured differently.
As a general rule it is best to avoid attaching gear on the outside of your pack, instead packing everything inside of your pack protects your gear from damage and water. If you’re going to bother carrying it all that way, you want it to work when you need it.
Tips for Effectively Loading Your Pack
Pack your sleeping bag in its stuff sack at the bottom of your pack
You will not need to access your sleeping bag throughout the day and the soft bulk of the bag comfortably sits across your lower back. Note that packing your sleeping bag deep in your bag will not necessarily keep it dry, in wet conditions a pack liner or waterproof stuff sack may be necessary.
Pack heavy items against the frame of the pack
This ensures your centre of gravity is close to your back. Stoves, fuel, food and similar items are ideally placed here. Try to keep the weight central so as not to overburden one side of your back.
Keep your tent accessible
Your tent should be arranged near to your back at about shoulder height or lower and without too much gear on top. Having your tent be easily accessible is convenient when you stop to set up camp, especially if it's raining.
Utilise all available space
Pack small items such as underwear or socks inside other items or fill the space between bulky items. Gear which is needed frequently or quickly should be easy to access. Lid pockets and back pockets are perfect for snacks, gloves, cameras, map, compass, first aid kits and rainwear. Remember that pockets are the least waterproof areas of the pack and use dry sacks to protect your gear where necessary.
Keep your rainwear at the ready
Ideally stuff your rainwear into an accessible pocket. If your rainwear is too bulky to fit into a pocket it should be tucked under the lid of the pack where it can be quickly retrieved.
Avoid attaching equipment to the outside of your pack.
In the bush, it is easy to damage or lose gear from the outside of your rucksack by snagging it on dense scrub. If you are traveling using a travel-pack, gear which is hanging off the outside of the pack is an easy target for thieves, and can be damaged or lost during baggage handling.
Lash skiiing or mountaineering equipement to their designated areas
Skiing or mountaineering equipment is exempt from the rule above. Skis are best carried on a pack by lashing them to the sides with compression straps or straps in plastic lash tabs. Secure them tightly to the pack, as they are prone to shift about while walking. Alpine packs often have patches of reinforced fabric on either the lid or front panel, which are designed for attaching crampons. Face crampon spikes towards each other to limit any damage to the pack fabric.
Keeping your gear dry
Neither canvas or nylon packs are totally waterproof. While the fabrics can be quite water repellent, water is still able to seep through the seams or zippers in wet conditions. You can improve, or recondition the water proofness of the fabrics by applying water repellent products however often sealing the seams of a rucksack, either in the factory or at home, is difficult and not always effective.
The good news is that there are several other relatively simple ways to improve the weatherproofing of your pack. Some popular options are listed below.
Waterproof Pack Covers
Pack covers are like shower caps for your pack with an elastic hem which hugs the body of the pack leaving only the harness exposed. (So you can still carry it.) This system is great for travel packs as you don’t have to use a pack liner inside.
Waterproof Pack Liners
Pack liners are simply large bags made of lightweight highly waterproof fabric with tape-sealed seams or welded seams to keep them waterproof, and a roll down top to prevent seeping. Pack liners are placed inside the pack to act as a lining. Look for a liner that extends higher than the actual body of your pack to maximize the available space once you have rolled the top down.
Another option, which works for both travel packs and rucksacks, is to use a collection of waterproof dry bags. These are smaller versions of the pack liner described above. An advantage of this approach is that by using different coloured stuff sacks, you can easily organise and locate gear within your pack. Stuff sacks are also effective at keeping dust and sand out of your gear. Using this method in conjunction with a pack liner or cover will greatly increase your chances of keeping your gear dry in the wettest of conditions.