Firstly, you’ll need to consider how long you’re going for.
If it’s only a night or two, you’re unlikely to need as much food or as many changes of clothes as if you’re heading out for a month-long epic.
Your second challenge is to ensure you have the right kind of equipment with you for the conditions that you’ll be facing. If it’s going to be cold, bring warm gear. If it’s going to be wet, bring waterproofs… you get the picture. Make sure you have enough consumables with you too. It’s a bad idea to run out of gas for your stove or batteries for your head-torch. Don’t go crazy though! The more you have, the heavier the pack will be. Think twice about whether you really need that extra thing.
Your next step is loading up your pack with everything you’ve selected for your trip.
After a few trips you won’t think twice about where different things go and how to make life easy for yourself, but when you’re first starting out it can feel like a 3D jigsaw puzzle. Your pack is built to carry a plenty of weight, but the way you load it up makes a big difference on how comfortable it’ll be. Keep heavy things close to the middle of your back and the light, compressible things further away or higher up.
When packing, you want your pack to look tall and thin, which keeps the weight in the right place on your body. Using the pack’s compression straps helps ensure that you don’t end up with a short and fat backpack.
Remember to maintain side-to-side balance as well – a pack that leans over to one side can be uncomfortable on your spine and shoulders. Make a point of getting as much gear inside the pack as possible; odds and ends strapped all over the outside of the pack wreak havoc with balance, especially if they are free to swing around. Finally, the top pocket often becomes a “glove box” for loads of small items that add up to significant weight and often make the pack very top-heavy – be careful!
Your last bit of customisation is all about access;
Make sure you can easily access the things you’ll need quickly. It’s not fun unloading your entire bag in a sudden torrential downpour because your waterproof jacket is right in the middle of your pack!
Once it’s all loaded up and you’re feeling comfortable, have a try wandering around with it on your back. Stomp up and down some stairs to replicate being on the hill. If you feel it’s not quite right, have a play around with the fit until you find the best solution for yourself.