Four Hacks to Improve Your Next Backpacking Trip

1. Hike with a fanny pack

Seriously. It’s the best. Those little hip-belt pockets on most backpacks are great for a granola bar, but if you’re in the mood to hike continuously without taking off and putting on your pack all the time, the fanny pack is clutch – not to mention extremely fashionable.

I use mine to store the little things I need most frequently throughout the day: my map, warm hat, water treatment droplets, sunscreen, phone (my iPod/camera), and snacks. All of these can be used or consumed on a whim, without taking a break, or even while walking if I’m really trying to move.

2. Sleep on top of Tyvek

Tyvek is commercial-grade house wrap, but you can easily find it in small quantities online. It’s cheap, durable, lightweight, and waterproof, so it’s hard to beat as a ground cloth. It’s most useful if camping under a tarp, a tarp-tent, the stars, or any other kind of backcountry bedroom without a “floor,” but it can also prevent a leaky tent floor.

While the material is difficult to tear, which helps keep an inflatable pad puncture-free, it can easily be trimmed with a pair of scissors to custom-fit your sleep system. Tuck handfuls of leaves or some pebbles under the very edges of the ground cloth if heavy rain starts to run under your shelter and onto the material.

3. Pack your backpack with an eye toward weight distribution

Loading up your backpack is a game of Tetris. In addition to filling up the space efficiently, the objective in Backpack Tetris is also to position the heaviest, densest items so that they affect your center of gravity as little as possible while ensuring that the frame can transfer most of the load to your hips.

To accomplish this, put those weighty items right up against the pack’s internal frame, so that they are close to your back when you wear it. They should align with the area between the lower-middle part of your back and your shoulders. This trick will reduce the backpack’s effect on your mobility and the stress on your shoulders.

4. Tie down your shelter with the Trucker’s Hitch

Just look up how to tie it online or find a friend who knows. It’s worth it. Just like knowing how to tie a tie, having this handy knot in your repertoire will make you feel confident and ready to take on the world. When camping, use it to connect a tie-out line from a tarp or tent fly to a grounded object such as a stake, tree, or large rock.

The Trucker’s Hitch allows the line to be tightened very easily without starting over on a knot; there’s no need to yank up and reposition your stake or retie around a different tree while fine-tuning your shelter’s set-up. It’s quick and isn’t hard to learn.

Jesse Metzger

Jesse Metzger

Jesse Metzger, class of '19, manages content for the Catalyst's website. A former contributor for the Active Life section, he is a Film & Media Studies major with a minor in Journalism. In his free time, Jesse enjoys spending time outdoors, cooking, and playing intense games of bananagrams.

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