Keep your backpack free from snow and ice

Your winter pack takes up space. Most pieces of equipment, such as your tent, sleeping bag and personal items such as clothes, are thicker so they can provide more insulation and offer resistance from harsher weather conditions. This means that a winter backpack often needs to be a bit larger than a backpack for a similar trek during the summer. (Although we are not saying you need to buy a new backpack for each season - if you already have a large backpack it will work in the winter as well.)

It is a good idea if your backpack is relatively smooth and simple in design so that it is easy to brush off. Mesh netting in the back panel (which is often there for ventilation) is therefore less suitable on a winter backpack since it can catch snow, which then melts down your back. No matter what type of material the back panel of your backpack is made from, you should not place it on the ground with this panel down. Also, make sure that straps and buckles are free from ice and snow so they are easy to handle.

You can also use your backpack’s rain cover in the winter. Not only does it keep your bag free from snow, but it is often made from a safety colour that ensures you will be very visible.

Pack practically and conveniently

One specific packing tip is to pack in the order of your activities for the day based on how often you need different items when out on a trek. A thermos, snacks, reinforcement garments and a wind sack should be placed where they are easily accessible, while your sleeping bag and emergency clothing can be packed at the bottom of the bag. This tip is actually more important than the normal advice to “pack the heaviest items at the bottom”.

One thing that can be good to think about is how your backpack is situated on your back. The basic rule, which states that “the lower the centre of gravity, the lower down on the back”, is good for skiing, but a high centre of gravity is suitable when on foot. This is probably most evident when wearing a day pack, since its limited size means that it can be adjusted upward or downward by several centimetres. Large backpacks offer fewer opportunities to make adjustments since the bag more or less covers your entire back.

If at all possible, avoid hanging things on the outside of your backpack. These items will function as wind catchers and if you walk for an entire day in a crosswind, you will become very tired on one side. It is better to roll/fold up your ground pad and store in your backpack, which has the added benefit of guaranteeing it will be dry when you unpack it.