Co-sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America Big Bend Chapter 96
and American Legion Sauls-Bridges Post 13
241 Lake Ella Drive
Tallahassee, Florida 32303-5572
HOW TO PACK A RUCKSACK
Richard White, Scoutmaster
# 1: WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION - Insofar as practical heavier items should be packed as low as possible. Weight distribution is always important, but it becomes even more important when hiking in wet weather and in hills and mountains where off- center weight distribution can contribute to risk of falls and injury. One way to help get good weight distribution is to strap tents and bedrolls UNDER the pack frame. However, anything placed in the beneath-pack position must be completely secured in such way that it cannot swing back and forth (back injury can result from such swinging) and it must not hold the bottom of the pack frame away from the hiker's back.
# 2: TOTAL WEIGHT - The BSA Venture Backpacking book recommends a maximum weight of 1/5 the individual scout's body weight, but that seems somewhat conservative to me. Everything is relative in backpacking. I have carried up to around 3/5 of my body weight, but that was an infantryman's combat load as well as normal stuff needed for hiking and living in the wilderness for an extended period of time. I think that in most circumstances a scout can probably handle up to 1/3 his body weight without serious difficulty. But realize that equipment, once put in a pack, is expected to stay there through the completion of the hike. Consumables, on the other hand, are used up on the trail. I recommend considerable caution about loading up with heavy equipment. If some portion of heavy consumables are carried, their use can be managed so that most of them are consumed first, lightening the load. Equipment, on the other hand, never goes away unless you jetison it to reduce weight. Any scout I catch doing that may find a few large rocks added to his load. You don't jetison equipment. Period! If you don't really need it, don't bring it. Figure out in advance how much you can really carry and do not exceed that amount.
# 3: LOOSE ITEMS - Loose items will be hard to find and may unnecessarily increase the bulk of the pack. All clothing should kept to a minimum and should be tightly rolled. Clothing and other groups of similar items can be placed inside small plastic bags or "stuff bags" (available a camping supply stores). This will improve both waterproofing and pack organization so long as the bags are kept small. Large bags inside of the rucksack do not pack and unpack well and should be avoided. Hard and angular items should be kept away from possible contact with the hiker's back.
# 4: ACCESSIBILITY - Think about what items you will need the most often, in the biggest hurry, or in a bad situation. Don't pack your flashlight, water, snacks, matches, spare socks or toilet paper at the bottom of the pack where the entire load will have to be dumped to get at them. If your pack has external pockets or straps for hanging items, these sorts of items are the ones to put there; however, be absolutely sure that items attached externally to packs are both sturdy and well- secured. They are no good to you laying in a bush somewhere five miles back down the trail, or broken. In a wet climate, a good place for a rain jacket is draped securely over the outside of the rucksack. There is little point in wearing a rain suit while hiking in warm weather. You will over-heat and sweat yourself every bit as wet as the rain will get you. You might as well leave the rain jacket over your pack and stay cool.
# 5: PREDICTABILITY - Instead of just putting everything wherever you feel like it at the time, develop an overall concept of what goes where inside the pack and why, and stick with that concept time after time. Even if you don't carry exactly the same items every time, you should be able to find anything you have in the rucksack in the dark by touch alone. Doing that may seldom or never required, but the ability to do it may serve you well in adverse circumstances.
3 Dec 97 (Rev. 11 Jan 98)