Everything you need to know about packing your expedition rucksack
Your rucksack and the kit you take on your DofE expedition are very important, as you may be carrying them for hours at a time.
It’s also worth taking the time to plan and review your kit, and to practise packing when you’re training for your expedition, as it can make your expedition easier.
Eight tips for effective packing
Here are some important tips and advice to consider when packing your rucksack for a DofE expedition. Your DofE Leader will also help advise you on this during your expedition training.
- Minimise the load as your rucksack needs to be as light as possible. The first thing to do is look at the DofE Expedition Kit List and decide what’s essential and what items you could remove. For expeditions on foot, rucksacks shouldn’t weigh more than 25% of your body weight and all rucksacks must be weighed before departure.
- Practise packing your rucksack before your expedition. Practice expeditions and training walks are the best time to learn what to take, what to leave behind and ensure everything fits.
- ‘Last in, first out’ rule. Put items that you’ll need frequently at the top of your rucksack or in the side pockets.
- Pack heavy gear such as your tent closer to your back to help your balance.
- Pack all expedition kit inside the rucksack, apart from the sleeping mat if it won’t fit.
- Waterproof your kit, as it’ll add unnecessary weight if it’s wet. Spray Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof on your rucksack to add water repellency, increase fabric strength and protect against UV damage. Find out more about waterproofing.
- Line your rucksack with a Lifeventure Dry Bag to avoid items getting wet and damaged.
- Pack the same way each time, once you’ve figured out the best way to arrange your kit.
Where to pack your kit
It’s worth packing different kit in certain areas of your rucksack, for easy access when you need it and quick access to waterproofs when it starts raining.
Please note this is not every single item you should be taking on expedition – this will differ from person to person. Please read our Expedition Kit List and Expedition Kit Guide for further guidance.
Download our rucksack packing guide.
Sleeping bags, sleeping mats and spare clothing, although bulky, are often light. As they’re not needed during the day, they should go to the bottom of the rucksack.
Sleeping bag: a sleeping bag should always be inside a dry bag to protect it. Vango’s Latitude sleeping bag is a great lightweight option.
Spare clothes: push spare clothes to the bottom of the rucksack to fill the space available. Things like your Bridgedale HIKE walking socks or Craghoppers Atmos T-shirt can roll up small and easily fill gaps.
Sleeping mat: try to get all your kit inside your rucksack. However, if you have a large sleeping mat, you can tie it securely to the outside. Anything carried on the outside of the rucksack needs to be securely fastened and waterproofed. Vango Trek sleeping mats are ideal for expedition, as they’re durable and comfortable.
You and your team should divide up equipment like the tent, food, stove and fuel equally to spread the weight.
Tent: pack the tent vertically against the part of the rucksack that will be on your back. This will make it easier to carry, as it’ll keep the weight of the tent close to your body. Our recommended Vango tents are very strong and waterproof.
Camping stove: stoves should also be against your back. Trangia 25 and 27 series stoves are a great option as they’re easy to clean.
Food equipment: plastic or titanium camping equipment is good, as it’s easy to clean. Lifeventure Ellipse cutlery, plate, bowl and mug are recommended for this reason.
Put the things you need to access easily at the top of your rucksack.
Lunch: put your lunch and snacks at the top, so you can easily access them when journeying and prevent them getting squashed. Wayfayrer expedition food is lightweight, nutritious and a great option when journeying. Keep snacks in outside pockets so you can grab them on the go when you need an extra energy boost.
Waterproofs: pack your waterproofs last, so that you can grab them quickly if the weather changes. Craghoppers Ascent Overtrousers and Atlas Jacket are ideal waterproof cover-ups and are quick to put on and take off when needed.
Top pocket: fill the rucksack top pocket with all the things you might need during the day e.g. Lifeventure First Aid Kit, snacks or Lifesystems Mountain Sun Cream.
Balance the weight of the side pockets with liquids and place them vertically to avoid spillage.
Water bottles: place your water in the side pockets so it’s easily accessible and so you can drink little and often. Lifeventure Flip-Top and Tritan bottles are tough and easy to carry when on the move.
Fuel: put fuel canisters in a sealable bag in your side pocket. Trangia Fuel bottles have a screw top valve, which means they’re safe to carry.
- Read our blog about what to look for in a DofE rucksack to help choose the right one for you.
- Download our free rucksack packing poster for more advice and tips on packing.
- Use the Expedition Kit List or Interactive Kit List as your essential checklist to help you work out what kit you have and what you need, although remember that your Expedition Supervisor will have the final say on the suitability of the kit required for your expedition.
- Download our rucksack packing guide which features in this blog.
- Find more information on all your expedition kit in the DofE Expedition Kit Guide, and the full list of our recommendations in the DofE Recommended Kit List.
- Always show your DofE Card or digital DofE Card at our recommended retailers. You’ll get the best savings and help support young people doing their DofE. Find your nearest store.
- Ask your DofE Leader or Expedition Supervisor if you have any questions about your expedition and what kit you’ll need.