I have noticed that preparing a backpack for a 1-2-10 day trip can take up to 3 hours. I would like to cut this time way down.

Concerning this, I have had several ideas:

  • Have a the pack outfitted with the equipment needed for a 2 day trip in the current season. When a trip is planned, add the extra items. Ready.
  • Pack backpacking gear in logical subsystems. For example, Fire starting kit, Water carrying system, Cooking equipment, Extra clothes pack. When a trip is planned, pick the appropriate modules, put them in the sack. Ready.
  • Put all equipment on open shelves. When a trip is planned, quickly pick the required items and stuff them in the backpack. Ready.

Those work, but to a far lesser extent than I would have liked. How can I speed up significantly the equipping of the backpack at home, just before a trip?

  • 1
    I'd better make spreadsheets for any kind of a trip (maybe even with some duration-dependent logic) and use them as a todo list to pick equipment from your organized shelves. Though I don't understand why your first approach doesn't work, can you explain a bit more, please?
    – Steed
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 10:15
  • @Steed, They all work to an extent. Problems with the first one include: 1) For longer trips, a larger pack is needed, involving moving all the equipment 2) I use the backpack also when biking in or around the city, so it has to be light AND include bike-specific equipment. 3) The same heavy survival kit, which I bring when going in the wild, is not quite suitable for 1 day hikes. Why would I need extra food, extra knife, extra bandages, space blanket etc.
    – Vorac
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 10:20
  • I have stuff in transparent boxes of size/type of stuff. The things that slow me down are getting batteries, fixing 1st aid kit, camping food. Choosing maps.
    – QuentinUK
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 12:31
  • 1
    During summer I'm out almost every weekend. Simply by the routine of going often it takes me perhaps 30 minutes to pack my stuff.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 22:52
  • Yes, checklist + routine. Takes me only 30 minutes.
    – Samuel DR
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 7:47

1 Answer 1


It takes me about 40 minutes to pack for an overnight or longer trip, and this includes making and packing sandwiches for breakfast and lunch.

The biggest advantage is that I know exactly what I need, where it is, and how to place it in the pack. This is mainly the result of going on hikes nearly every weekend year-round, and learning what I use and don't use, and what I find that I'm missing in certain situations. A lot of gear never leaves the pack unless it needs replenishing or for routine maintenance (I check and refill all of my different kits about once a month, unless I use them. This also allows me to adjust them for a more localized climate window.)

Biggest factors in my packing time:

  1. piling -- I pile everything I'm going to take on the floor in logical groups, next to my pack. This allows me to assess whether it's too much, what size pack I need to use, and make sure that I have everything I need.
  2. clothing -- knowing exactly what I'm taking and where it is helps reduce the time. I generally have a separate wardrobe for technical hiking gear, which allows me to keep it separate from the rest of my clothes.
  3. food and cooking gear -- again, it helps to have in one location, know exactly what you're taking, and have it all pre-filled (stove fuel, food, spices, etc.) I try to pack any cooking ingredients for the trip the night before or earlier. Simpler recipes are easier to pack (e.g. rice, a bit of oil, nuts, and spices take all of one minute to pack, premixed in a reusable ziplock (except for the oil, of course)).
  4. overnight gear -- again, one storage location, one packing pile on the floor. This includes the sleeping bag, sleeping pad, compression sack, and possibly a tent.
  5. kits -- this includes various kits, like first aid kit, backcountry ski binding repair kit, stove maintenance kit, backpack maintenance kit, emergency shelter kit, etc. I keep these as "kit-in-a-bag" systems, so they're always ready, tabulated, and packed. Some of these stay in the backapck between trips.

And finally, to emphasize the point: the biggest time saver is knowing what you don't need. The less you have to pack, the better it fits, and the faster it is to collect and review it. The second biggest time saver is knowing how to pack what you're taking in the pack you're going to use, so maybe spend some time packing it with different sets of things so that when you're packing for a trip you already know exactly how to pack the stuff you're taking, as well as that it fits and that it's not too heavy.

Occasionally I will actually try different packing orders in my packs on a dead evening, just because it helps me later.

  • +1 for "knowing what you don't need." The less you have to pack, the less time it takes.
    – Corey D
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 15:34
  • Considered making an answer, but almost everything I would say is in here. For the modular kits, I recommend gallon zip-loc bags, or smaller size zip-loc bags where appropriate. In one of my medium-duration kits, for example, one of my gallon zip-loc bags has a saw (which barely fits in the gallon bag), a large magnifying glass, a small pot, some granola bars, two bottles of extra water, and a couple of bic lighters. It doesn't need other fire-starting tools because those are in a small zip-loc bag that goes on all trips. A few bags, a few larger objects, good to go. Zip-loc bags are great.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 1:02

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