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You've just shelled out the money for a new backpack and have planned an adventurous back country hike at your favorite destination. Your tent is set up in your living room. The rest of your gear is piled on chairs and overflowing onto the floor. The kitchen table is cluttered with zippered bags full of homemade trail mix, endurance bars, powdered drink mix, and other foods you'll be sick of by your third day on the trail. You have a check list in hand that begins with the ten essentials for survival and find yourself staring into the empty depths of your new pack. How are you going to fit everything in there? Where do you begin?

The way you pack your backpack can have a profound effect on the success of your trip. For maximum comfort on the trail, you will want to pack the lightest items on the bottom. So grab your sleeping bag and extra clothing first. Heavier items like stove fuel, food, and extra water should be placed on top. According to "Mountaineering, Freedom of the Hills, 6th ed." these heavier items should be packed slightly lower for rougher terrain, allowing for optimum balance. Make sure the weight lies close to your back.

All of those exra pockets outside the main compartment of your pack should be filled up with items you may need to quickly access. Place an extra water bottle within a quick grasp. Other items you may want to easily access include maps, sunglasses, rain jacket, knife, flashlight, and any of the other ten essentials. I like to keep my water filter handy, also, in case my water supply should run low before I get to camp.

Once you have everything packed and checked off your packing list, try on your pack. Walk around the house, making sure it is adjusted properly and the weight rests correctly on your frame. Then glance around your living room and make sure you didn't forget that extra pair of socks accidentally shoved under your couch! Now you can throw that new pack in the back of your car and head off into the adventure of a life time.