How I Pack My Backpack

From my understanding there are two ideas of thought one needs to consider when packing their pack:

  1. Pack based on how the weight rests on your back.
  2. Pack based on what you need least to most, where the things you need the least would be on the bottom and things you need the most, on top or in the various outside pockets.

Going off the first thought, I learned mainly from word of mouth throughout my journey that:

  • Men should be carrying their heaviest item by their shoulders, typically at the top of your pack.
  • Women I have heard should be carrying their heaviest item in the core, or middle of the pack.

In my case, my heaviest item was my food bag.  Generally, the heaviest item will be your food bag for a thru-hike.

The second thought will be more personalized to your specific needs.  Below, I will be giving the run down of how I packed my bag for my thru-hike.  I would like to note, that this was the result of constantly adjusting and re-adjusting my pack over the stretch of 2000+ miles.  That being said if my system doesn’t work for you, take some time to alter and test for yourself to better fit your pack for your needs.

Storage Options Available with My Pack:

Body (49 Liters):

The largest, main compartment on your bag.

Side Pouches (2 – 2.5 Liters each):

As the name suggests, the compartments on the side of your pack.  I tended to call them the cup holders of my pack.  They are also good to use as stabilizers for stowing your trekking poles, umbrella, or ice axe.

Mesh outside pouch (8 liters):

Center pouch on the outside back area on your pack.  This is where you would typically store your items that you can get wet or even a place to put items that you wish to dry.

Lid/Brain/Chest Pouch (3.5 liters):

Storage on the top of your pack.  There was an option to use this as a chest pouch, so that is what I did.  I did not need all the storage, but the location of this pouch was immensely convenient.  This was an optional purchase with my pack.

Shoulder Pouch (1 liter):

This is a pouch attached to one of your shoulder straps located at least for me right on top of my heart.  This pouch after readjusting myself over the hike became very much optional.  I did not need the extra space, but the placement was convenient.  This was an optional purchase with my pack.

Backpack Belt Pouches (2 – 1 liter each):

The compartments on your hip belt of your pack.  This was an optional purchase with my pack.  Normally backpacks will include these pouches, but with Zpacks, this is not the case.


Bottom to Top how I packed the body of my pack:

  1. Inside an unscented trash bag, I put my sleeping bag (not compressed, taking shape of the bag) and my clothing bag which is a roll top dry bag consisting of
    • My puffy (winter down||synthetic
    • Extra pair of wool socks
    • Extra pair of toe sock liners
    • Long sleeved shirt – depending on the weather
    • Knit hat
    • Non-cotton briefs – depending on the weather
    • Leggings (my version of rain pants)
    • Gloves
    • Garmin Satellite Communicator
    • Plastic bag with my electronics:
      • Short USB to Micro-USB cord
      • Flash drives (I would send these home on occasion with pictures in case my phone broke on my travels)
      • Male Micro-USB to Female USB converter
      • Power bank
      • Wall charger
  2. After I have rolled down that trash bag, I next pack my sleeping pad pushing to down toward the back of the pack.
  3. My tent next along with my stove + stove accessories on the same level next to each other. Accessories include:
    • Fuel
    • Lighter
    • Waterproof matches
    • Measuring cup/bowl
    • Insulating cozy
  4. Lastly my food bag inside of my bear bag which would also contain my medical and some toiletry supplies such as:
    • Medical:
      • Neosporin Ointment
      • Iodine tablets
      • Ibuprofen
      • Alcohol Prep Pads
      • 2nd Skin Gel Squares – part of blister kit
      • Leukotape – part of blister kit
      • Bodyglide skin lubricant
    •  Toiletry:
      • Tooth brush/paste
      • Contacts
      • Invisalign


  1. 1 – liter each side of a Smart/Life Water bottle filled with water.


  1. Rain Jacket (though b/c it zips into itself)
  2. Sandals
  3. Plastic Gallon sized zip bag containing:
    • Toilet Paper
    • Trowel
    • Biodegradable unscented wet wipes (you’d have to pack these out if you brought them)
  4. Sometimes bag with trash if I know I’ll be seeing a trash can soon.
  5. Hammock – Though I stopped carrying this on my thru-hike.


  1. Since I placed this on my chest, this was a great place to keep my phone and my earbuds, especially while listening to music or an audio book.
  2. I would also typically keep my lunch here for the day.
  3. Spork


  1. Scissors
  2. Lighter
  3. Hand Sanitizer
  4. Headlamp


  1. Left
    • Glasses and hard case
    • Water filtration system
  2. Right
    • Bars of food. I think I could put a max of 7 in there.
  • You want and try to balance your weight in your pack. Try not to have one side heavier than the other.
  • Take along trekking poles to reduce strain on your body and add points of contact for assisted balance.  If your going on a trip longer than 3 days, I recommend trekking poles.
  • For a full list of the gear I brought with me on my travels of the Appalachian Trail see my “Pre-AT To Post-AT Gear” page.
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