WHEN I WAS A SCOUT, in the 1950s, we backpacked to all of our campsites. We usually had to “hike” only a few hundred yards. But sometimes, it was several miles, and if we packed our rucksacks wrong, we suffered. The Boy Scout Handbook detailed how to do it right.
Soft packs began sliding toward extinction when tubular aluminum frames appeared. Why? Because frames carried well, even when you packed them wrong. And if stuff didn’t fit inside, you could just tie it on top.
Well, soft packs are back—albeit ones with internal frames—and they’re reviving the art of packing. Here are some pointers that’ll help you and your Scouts pack perfectly every time.
Pack in horizontal, not vertical, layers. Why? Because your pack should follow the spinal curve of your back. An unyielding upright (folded tent poles, rolled sleeping pad, etc.) spoils the s-curve. Also, packing goes easier if you place loose items in stuff sacks. Sacks that reach wall-to-wall across your pack will maximize pack space and eliminate small gaps that are hard to fill.
Pack in reverse order. Generally, you should pack this way because it’s the order you’ll need things—food on the bottom, tent on top, etc. Exceptions: Place heavier items near the top (keeps weight closer to your back) when hiking groomed trails. Set heavy items near the bottom for better control when bushwhacking.
Keep It Dry
Everything should be waterproof. Unless you’re hiking where it seldom rains. You can buy pricey waterproof bags or use this simple “sandwich method.” These tips, below, come alive in the illustration above:
- Place the items into a nylon stuff-sack. The stuff-sack need not be waterproof.
- Set the stuff-sack into a plastic bag that’s about twice as long as the stuff-sack. Twist and gooseneck the bag, and then fold it in half and secure it with a rubber band or bungee.
- Place this unit inside a nylon stuff sack. Note that the waterproof layer (the plastic bag) is sandwiched between two abrasion-resistant nylon bags. Use this method to waterproof anything that won’t tolerate moisture. Check plastic bags for leaks each day; use duct tape to patch them.
- For boating, when there is a possibility of capsizing, place a large waterproof plastic bag (the thicker, the better) inside your pack. The bag should be at least 18 inches longer than the pack. Next, place another bag (this abrasion liner need not be waterproof) of equal size inside the first. Use this method to pack your things, and you’ll never have to eat damp oatmeal.
Follow This Order
Pack from the bottom up, as follows and shown above:
Food: Ensure it’s odor-proof and watertight. Place each complete meal for your patrol/crew in a color-coded fabric bag. Label the contents of each bag such as “green” bags for breakfast, “blue” bags for lunch, and “red” bags for supper.
- Sleeping bag, “sandwich packed.”
- Foam sleeping pad.
- Stuff-sack containing spare clothes, toiletries, headlamp, etc.
- Camp shoes and small items (in plastic bags).
- Tightly roll the abrasion liner, and then set your tent on top. Place the poles alongside the tent if they’ll fit.
- If not, set them on top of the sealed, waterproof liner, just under the pack flap. You’ll need to make a “secure pole bag.” Run the closing straps of the pack through the nylon security loops before you buckle them. This will prevent the poles from sliding out of the pack if you capsize. The compression of the pack flap will keep the two bag liners tight.
- Pack items such as rain gear, wind shells, and sweaters under the pack flap so that you can get to them quickly.
Note: The tent, which could be dirty or wet, is packed between the abrasion and waterproof liners so that personal stuff packed below won’t get wet or dirty. Also, line outside pack pockets with zipper-lock plastic bags.
You now have an abrasion-resistant, watertight unit.
SHARE YOUR ADVICE FOR WATERPROOFING A BACKPACK, BELOW.