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How to pack and adjust your backpack like a pro

How to pack and adjust your backpack like a pro.

Guides | 6 Minutes read

Fjällräven Global Event Manager Calle Hård af Segerstad and skilled outdoor enthusiast Sofia Johansson know a thing or two about trekking backpacks, and they’re sharing their expertise in how-to videos.

Did you know that a backpack was Fjällräven’s first product? As a matter of fact, it was the product that launched the brand. Tired of flaccid, sagging and poorly built backpacks, Fjällräven founder Åke Nordin went ahead and built one himself. It was so well-constructed that experienced foresters and reindeer herdsman requested their own when they tried Åke’s. 

Today, backpacks are still the beating heart of Fjällräven and the vast range is designed for a variety of uses and conditions. Each backpack is purpose-built for peak functionality and longevity. 

But even the best backpack cannot deliver a perfect experience however, if it is not packed or worn correctly. So, Fjällräven Event Manager Calle Hård af Segerstad and Sofia Johansson, engineer and skilled outdoor enthusiast (@fjalldrottningen), have offered to share their expertise with you. 

How to pack your backpack

According to Calle and Sofia there is a golden rule to proper packing: keep the centre of gravity as high up and as close to your back as possible. This prevents having to bend forward to compensate and prevent slippage and tipping.

Both also adhere to a tidy approach. As Calle so entertainingly puts it: “I don’t like my backpack to look like a Christmas tree.” You will only see a water bottle and trekking pole on the outside of Calle’s backpack. For Sofia, it is just a water bottle. 

Working from the inside of the backpack outwards, Calle and Sofia do have packing tips that work for both novice and seasoned trekkers alike. 

Main compartment

In essence, the main compartment is for larger items that you do not need on an hourly basis. Starting from the bottom, Calle first packs a water-tight bag. This is full of the things he does not want to get wet, like a sleeping bag, a mat and extra clothes. In the middle of the backpack you will find a three-person tent (yes, three!) with poles. On top of that goes his insulation jacket and basecamp shoes. Finally, on the top goes two pack bags filled with spare food, a first aid kit and rain gear. 

Front pocket

Calle and Sofia place items in the front pocket that they use during longer breaks. Here, Calle puts his water filter, meal for the day, cooker, fire steel and seat pad. Sofia likes to put her rain gear here for easy access, as well as gloves and a beanie. She also puts her first-aid kit here and always ensures her fellow trekkers know where it is in case of emergency.

Top pocket

Calle uses the top compartment to store three critical items: a map, a compass and toilet paper. Sofia uses it for her camera and toiletries. 

Outer compartments and pockets

There are a variety of pockets, compartments and clips on the outside of Fjällräven backpacks. Each is ideal for keeping items you want frequent access to. Calle for instance, uses outside pockets for things like his trash bag, water bag, rain cover and trekking pole.

Hip belt pockets

Both Sofia and Calle use hip belt pockets to store snacks, so that they can maintain their energy levels throughout a long trek. For Sofia, that means nuts and chocolate, as well as wet wipes for cleaning her hands. Calle stashes his collapsible cup, beef jerky and favourite dried mango snack here.

Their final packing recommendation: divvy up the load if you are travelling in a pair or with a group. While Calle carries the tent and cooker in the bigger backpack, Sofia can use a smaller, 38-litre backpack. Packing strategically avoids doubling up on gear. It also means that Calle and Sofia can swap backpacks to ensure no one is fatigued from carrying more, for longer, than they ought.

Backpacks

Selection

Abisko Friluft 35
KAJKA 85

How to adjust your backpack

Creating the perfect backpack fit is all about adjusting and readjusting. And then readjusting some more. You cannot do any of these steps too much. 

  1. Adjust the length of the backpack to suit your back length. 
  2. Tighten the shoulder straps. They should be centred on top of your shoulders, following their natural curve.
  3. Secure and tighten the hip belt. This should be sitting on your hip bones. If it isn’t then your backpack is either too long, or too short, and you will need to readjust. 
  4. Secure the sternum strap for a close fit.
  5. Tighten the top straps. At the outset of your trek, there should be as little space as possible between the backpack and your back. Calle aims for no gaps whatsoever.

Backpack adjustment does not end when you start a trek either. It continues on the trail, and Calle actually suggests adjusting your backpack every 30 minutes to ensure no part of your body is overworked. A fact that is inevitable when you are carrying 10 or 15 kilograms. If your shoulders are sore, loosen the shoulder and top straps so the weight of your backpack rests on your hips. You can tighten these when your legs or hamstrings become tired. Ensuring comfort and reducing strain on your body is the reason all of the adjustable strap options exist, so use them to your heart’s content.

Other than that, there is no right or wrong way to pack a backpack. A lot of it is a matter of practice and personal preference. As Sofia says: “There are many ways to pack a backpack, but it is really important to find your own way. So, try out your gear and find the way that suits you.”

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