How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

Hey there backpack lovers and welcome to my post where we will check out some practical steps on how to pack a backpack for travel. Backpacks are a popular choice among travelers for good reason – they are reliable, easy to carry and allow you to be hands-free as you explore new places. However, packing a backpack can be more challenging than packing a suitcase.

That’s why I’ve created this guide to help you pack your backpack correctly for your next trip. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right backpack size to organizing your items efficiently so that you can have a stress-free and comfortable journey.

How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

So for those of you looking to travel with your backpack, let’s check out some tips on how to pack it below

1. Create a packing list

Creating a packing list is an essential step in ensuring you have everything you need for your trip, and for determining what you will need to place into your backpack. Here’s an elaboration on how to make an effective packing list:

  1. Start early: Begin your packing list well in advance of your trip. This allows you to add items as you think of them and make adjustments over time.
  2. Consider the duration and purpose of your trip: Think about the length of your journey, the climate of your destination, and the specific activities or events you’ll be participating in. This will help you determine the types of clothing, footwear and gear you need to pack.
  3. Organize your list by categories: Divide your packing list into logical categories to stay organized. Common categories include clothing, toiletries, electronics, travel documents, medical supplies and entertainment items.
  4. Prioritize essentials: Start by listing the essential items you absolutely need for your trip, such as clothing, underwear, socks and toiletries. These are the items you can’t do without and should be packed first.
  5. Consider the specifics: Depending on your destination and activities, think about any specific items you may need. For example, if you’re going to a beach, you might want to include swimwear, sunscreen, and a beach towel. If you’re going hiking, add appropriate footwear, a backpack, and a water bottle.

Check out these: Tips for packing a carry-on backpack

2. Choose the right backpack size

This is probably stating the obvious, but once you have created your list, then you can determine the size of your backpack. If you’re only going away for a weekend, you can get by with a smaller backpack (around 30-40 liters) however if it is for a week or two, you’ll need a larger backpack (around 50-60 liters). For longer trips, a backpack that’s 70-90 liters will give you plenty of space.

It’s also important to bear in mind the type of travel you’ll be doing. If you’ll be hiking or camping, you’ll need a backpack that’s designed for outdoor activities, with features such as external pockets for water bottles and compression straps to keep your gear secure. If you’ll be traveling in cities, you may want a backpack that’s more streamlined and designed for urban travel.

When it comes to choosing the right backpack size, it’s vital to try on different backpacks and see how they feel. Make sure the backpack fits your body well and is comfortable to wear. Look for backpacks with padded straps and a waist belt to distribute the weight evenly.

3. Roll your clothes

Rolling your clothes is a simple but effective packing technique that can save space in your backpack and keep your clothes wrinkle-free.  Here’s some tips on how to roll your clothes for travel:

  1. Choose the right clothes: Rolling your clothes works best with lightweight, non-bulky items like t-shirts, shorts and leggings. Avoid rolling heavy items like jeans or sweaters, as they can take up too much space and make your backpack feel lopsided.
  2. Fold your clothes in half: Start by folding your clothes in half lengthwise, so that the sleeves or legs are aligned.
  3. Roll from the bottom: Starting at the bottom of the garment, roll it up tightly, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go.
  4. Repeat with other items: Repeat the rolling process with your other clothes, stacking them neatly in your backpack.
  5. Pack your rolled clothes tightly: To maximize space in your backpack, pack your rolled clothes tightly together. You can use packing cubes or compression bags to keep them organized and prevent them from unrolling.

Rolling your clothes has several advantages when it comes to packing for travel. Firstly, it saves space in your backpack by compressing your clothes into tight rolls which means you can fit more items in your backpack without it feeling overstuffed. Secondly, rolled clothes are less likely to wrinkle than folded clothes, since they don’t have any hard creases. This means you can pack your clothes in advance without worrying about ironing them when you arrive at your destination.

Pack a Backpack for Travel - family with backpacks

4. Use packing cubes

Using packing cubes is another simple but effective way to make packing for travel more efficient and less stressful. Packing cubes come in different sizes, so it’s important to choose the ones that will fit in your backpack and hold the items you plan to pack. Consider using smaller packing cubes for items like socks and underwear, and larger ones for bulkier items like sweaters or jackets.

Before packing, I suggest you categorize your items into different groups such as clothes, toiletries and electronics as this will make it easier to decide which items to pack in each packing cube. Once you’ve categorized your items, pack each packing cube by category. For example, pack all your clothes in one cube, your toiletries in another, and your electronics in a third. This will help you find what you need quickly and avoid having to dig through your entire backpack to find a single item.

5. Pack your heavy items at the backpack’s bottom

Placing heavy items at the bottom of your backpack helps to distribute the weight evenly, keeping your center of gravity low and close to your body. This makes it easier to carry your backpack and reduces the risk of back or shoulder strain.

Additionally, placing heavy items at the bottom of your backpack also makes them more accessible. This is because the weight of the items won’t shift around as much, making it easier to reach them without having to dig through other items in your backpack.

It is also possible that packing your heavy items at the bottom of your backpack also helps to protect your other items from damage. For example, if you pack your camera or laptop at the top of your backpack, they may be more vulnerable to bumps and knocks. By packing heavy items at the bottom, you can create a protective cushion around these fragile items.

6. Use compression bags

As with packing cubes above, compression bags are a great way to make the most of the limited space in your backpack when packing for travel. Compression bags – where the bags are filled then have excess air sucked out with a vacuum – also provide an extra layer of protection for your clothes and other items by reducing the risk of damage from bumps and jostles during transport.

When using compression bags, it’s essential to pack them strategically to make the most of the space. Begin by packing the items you don’t need access to at the bottom of your backpack, and work your way up to the items you’ll need most frequently. It is recommended to pack similar items together on their own and use larger compression bags for bulkier items like jackets or sweaters.

Pack a Backpack for Travel - man traveling with backpack

7. Keep liquids and toiletries separate

When it comes to packing liquids and toiletries, it’s important to keep them separate from the rest of your belongings to prevent spills, leaks and potential damage. Here’s some tips on how to handle liquids and toiletries during packing:

  1. Use a toiletry bag or a clear, sealable bag: Place all your liquids and toiletries in a designated toiletry bag or a clear, sealable bag. This helps to contain any leaks or spills and makes it easier to identify and access your items when needed.
  2. Use travel-sized containers: Opt for travel-sized containers to minimize space and weight. Transfer your toiletries into smaller, travel-friendly containers. Many stores sell empty travel-sized bottles and jars specifically for this purpose. Alternatively, you can purchase travel-sized versions of your favorite products.
  3. Secure containers tightly: Ensure all containers are tightly sealed to prevent leaks. Consider using plastic wrap or unscrewing the caps and adding a layer of plastic wrap over the opening before sealing them back on. This provides an extra layer of protection against spills.
  4. Place liquids in a separate compartment: If your backpack has a designated compartment or pocket for liquids, place your toiletry bag in that compartment. This way, even if there is a leak, it will be contained within the sealed bag and won’t come into contact with your clothing or other items.
  5. Pack them near the top for easy access: Place your toiletry bag near the top of your backpack or in an easily accessible outer pocket. This makes it convenient to take out for security checks at airports or whenever you need to freshen up during your journey.
  6. Check for leaks before packing: Before placing your toiletries in your backpack, check each container for leaks or signs of damage. This can be done by squeezing them slightly or pressing on the lids. If you notice any leaks or spills, transfer the liquid into a more reliable container or consider using a ziplock bag to contain it separately.

8. Bring a small daypack

A small daypack can be incredibly convenient when you’re on the go. Whether you’re out exploring a new city or going on a hike, having a smaller bag to carry your essentials can make the experience more enjoyable. You can easily carry things like a water bottle, snacks and a camera without having to lug around your entire backpack.

As you travel to a place where theft is a concern, having a separate bag to keep your passport, wallet and phone can give you peace of mind as you can keep your important items close to you and avoid the risk of losing everything if your backpack is stolen. You can also use it as a carry-on bag for flights, a beach bag or even as a pillow on long bus rides. It’s also great for day trips or short excursions where you don’t want to bring your entire backpack as well.

9. Secure valuable items

And finally, as you pack, ensure that you have the right security in place to protect from the elements, damage and theft etc. Firstly, invest in a sturdy lock to secure the zippers or compartments of your backpack. A combination lock or a small padlock can help deter theft and keep your belongings secure.

Next, avoid keeping all your valuable items in one place. Distribute them throughout different pockets or compartments in your backpack. This way, even if one area is compromised, your other valuables will still be safe. Some backpacks come with built-in hidden compartments or secret pockets as well which are great for storing valuable items discreetly, making them less likely to be targeted by thieves.

Pack a Backpack for Travel - man with backpacks


What kind of backpack should I choose for travel?

You should choose a backpack that is comfortable to wear, fits your body well, and is the right size for your trip. Look for backpacks with padded straps and a waist belt to distribute the weight evenly.

How do I pack my backpack so that it’s comfortable to wear?

Pack your backpack so that the heaviest items are at the bottom and close to your back. This will distribute the weight evenly and prevent your backpack from feeling lopsided. Also, make sure the straps are adjusted so that the backpack fits snugly against your back.


There you have it, my helpful tips for you to pack a backpack for travel. As usual,  let me know of your experiences here or of course any tips that you may have to add.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun


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