Wild Camping Essentials: How to Pack a Rucksack

Wild Camping EssentialsOne of the hardest things about wild camping is getting used to carrying your home on your back. Deciding what to bring and what to leave at home is something of an art. It’s easy to overpack and find yourself struggling up every hill cursing your overly indulgent packing routine.

So where do you begin? What are your wild camping essentials and how can you pack them in such a way that your bag is lightweight and easy to carry?

Watch the Weight

When you pack your rucksack, you want to ensure it weighs no more than 20% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 100kg, your backpack should not exceed 20kg. This is a maximum weight threshold. Ideally, you want your bag to be as light as possible.

Unless you are wild camping in winter or carrying specialist equipment, achieving this weight bracket should be relatively easy. It’s worth remembering that every gram of weight will be carried on your back throughout your hiking trip. So be sure to only pack items that are wild camping essentials! 


For a backpack to be comfortable, it needs to be packed correctly. You want to place the heaviest items, such as the tent or cooking equipment, at the bottom of your bag. This allows the bulk of the strain to be transferred through your hips and keeps the weight within your centre of gravity.

Pack a RucksackNext, you should order your items by when you expect to use them. For example, a sleeping bag won’t be required until the evening, but a waterproof jacket might need to be accessed at short notice. Pack your items with convenience in mind.

Waterproof stuff sacks can help in this regard while also keeping your items dry. They make it easy to identify different gear items that are grouped together. For example, food, electronics, and clothes can all be kept separate.

Try to pack snacks and water on the outside pockets of the rucksack as well as maps, phones, or any navigation tools. These items will need to be accessible throughout the hike so avoid burying them deep within your bag!


Try to streamline all your equipment to make it fit snugly inside your rucksack. Take food out of large air-filled packets and place it inside zip-lock bags. That way, it will fit more easily into the pockets without jutting out or taking up too much space.

Go simple with your hygiene items. Buying a small travel deodorant or toothpaste can save you a great deal of space. Avoid lots of makeup and beauty products. It’s just not worth the extra weight on the trail. When you’re tackling a steep mountain peak, who cares what you look like anyway?

Use Straps to Your Advantage

Wild CampingDon’t just think about the inner compartments when looking at a rucksack. The whole bag is a vessel that can be used to carry items. More bulky equipment such as sleeping mats, tents, and tent poles can be tied to the outside of the bag.

Many hiking backpacks have straps and drawstrings for this exact purpose. Using the same strategy from earlier, you can tie heavier items such as the tent to the outer base of your backpack. The lightweight camping mat can then be rolled up and fastened to the outer top of your bag.

Perhaps the tent pole and pegs can be placed in the side pockets to distribute weight further. This will allow you to stay balanced whilst also saving space inside your bag for other valuable items.

Wild Camping Essentials

With your wild camping essentials, it’s worth looking at the gear in groups. First off, we have the sleeping set. This needs to be a tent or bivvy bag, a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat, and potentially a pillow.

Next is your cooking set. You will need a stove, a saucepan, a mug, a spork, a bowl, and a lighter. Of course, you also need food such as porridge, instant noodles, cup-a-soup, and dehydrated pasta. Snacks throughout the day are also essential.

On top of the clothing you are wearing, you want to carry spare clothes to sleep in, waterproof layers, a warm jacket, hats, gloves, sunglasses, and an extra pair of socks. You can probably get away with wearing the same t-shirt and underwear if you’re only away for one night.

Last, we have the miscellaneous items. That includes all electronics such as cameras, chargers, and any extra cables. Don’t forget your toiletries, navigation equipment, a small medical set, and perhaps an emergency blanket.

Equipped with this gear you should be covered for the most basic wild camping essentials. Once you have these items, you can check your pack weight and look at adding extra items. Just make sure you don’t get carried away!

Wild Camping Backpacks

The best way to buy a backpack is by going into the store to test it in person. If you buy online, you won’t know how the backpack will feel and whether it fits you. Many camping stores have a measurement guide to see what size rucksack will fit your back. Some stores like Osprey even do a manual adjustment to create a backpack that is custom fitted.

Wild Camping BackpacksLook at brands like Mountain Warehouse, REI, North Face, Osprey, and Berghaus. These household names are trusted in the wild camping world and have been producing great backpacks for decades.

Bag weights are measured in litres. For a wild camping trip, you will need to be looking at bag sizes above 30 litres to ensure all your wild camping essentials can fit in. Some bags are 60, 70, or even 80 litres in size. This is far bigger than what most people need.

Although it can be tempting to buy a bigger backpack, you will likely only fill the extra space with items you don’t need. A 40 or 50 litre backpack should be plenty big enough to carry all your wild camping essentials.