The care and use of load carrying equipment is more important than I think most people understand. You see when you are going into the bush and bringing with you the essentials for survival as well as a few creature comforts, you are in effect bringing your home with you. Everything you need is on your back, your food, water, shelter, medical supplies, fowl weather gear, sleeping gear, cooking gear…everything you need is on you. Which of course that means your back, shoulder, and subsequently your entire body is supporting the load. To maximize the effort, to not face some sort of mechanical injury, and to make life just more comfortable, you need to pack your gear appropriately. You need to find the right way for you, and each person likes to organize they load their own special way. So I have come up with some simple and basic guidelines when preparing for a backpacking trip that you can apply as you see fit.
First and foremost you need to find yourself the right pack. Now I am not going to sit here and tell you what you need, I have no idea what your body is like. I have no clue what will comfortable for you and what you need it for, only you do. But you want to make sure that the pack is large enough for you to pack what you need, but you also don’t want it so large that you end up loading it down with more equipment than you actually need. You need a pack that has good shoulder straps that will distribute the weight evenly and across your body. You are going to be carrying your life on your back, and it will be there all day. So you need to take the time and make sure you have one that is comfortable for you. So before you do anything else find that right pack.
Now once you have your pack and now you need to secure your gear inside said pack, think about what you are doing and what you are loading. Look at where each item you place in your pack is going. Is that going to poke you in the shoulder? Try and pack softer things like extra clothing and such, closer to your back physical back when the pack is on. This way you don’t end up having something hard jabbing you in the back for hours.
You also need to look at and consider the fact that your gear is going to shift while you are on the move. So take steps to make your load as secure as possible to prevent shifts in weight. So preventing this from the start is key, otherwise you can end up carrying your pack in an awkward manner due to weight moving around to much and this overtime can throw your balance off, make you sore and worn out in areas you normally would not be on your body and equipment, and above all you are putting yourself at risk for possibly injury.
Also you need to think about HOW you pack your gear and where you are placing it in your pack. Gear items that you need frequent access to like water, extra socks, first-aid, trail snacks, light sources, bivouac gear…you are going to want to have the items that you use the most often easy to get out and put back into your pack. There is nothing more frustrating and annoying than having to dig around and look for something in your pack because you forgot where you placed it, especially if it is something you need in a hurry. Consider the fact you might show up to where you want to camp even more exhausted than you previously thought and now its raining, near dark and you just want to get under cover and into your bag to sleep. So having your items organized in a quick and easy manner to deploy, you will save yourself a lot of headaches. It will help you with time management and when you are tired, sore, hungry and ready for sleep you will thank your past self for being so smart to organize your gear in a non-frustrating way. Basically you are doing yourself a favor and per-planning your moves throughout the day, and you are helping prevent yourself from leaving things behind. You are going to know that everything has a home and if something is out of place you will know in an instant.
This is something of course, that takes time. You are not going to learn exactly what you need unless you head out and train/practice. You are going to need to get first hand experience to find out what works for you, but from this basic overview you now have an idea of what you need to be doing. Everyone carries their life differently on their back, and its up to you to figure out exactly how you want to roll, but the basics remain the same. You want to make sure that your gear is comfortable for the long haul, you want to make sure that you maximize the amount of effort you are exerting by not doing more than you need, and you want to stay as frustration free as possible on the trail by having your gear easy to get to. All of these steps will help make you a better and more comfortable trail blazer, and it will help keep you from losing your gear.
All in all, how you carry your load is important, take the time to do it right and each time you will find yourself better for the experience. How you carry and organize your load carrying equipment is one of the single most important parts when planning a trip, it will set the tone and dictate your pace, comfort, and joy. So do yourself a favor, slow down, pay attention, and think before you pack.