6 packing hacks from an outdoors expert, to save you space and time

These insider tips will revolutionise how you pack your hiking backpack

Marie Cheng as part of Jack Wolfskin Wolftrail hike team
(Image credit: Jack Wolfskin)

When heading off on a backpacking excursion, getting the packing part right can make a major difference to the success of your trip. You've invested in the best hiking backpack for your trip, but how do maximise that space to ensure it works as efficiently as possible while you're away? 

T3 caught up with Marie Chenge (opens in new tab), a DofE Supervisor and Trainee Mountain Leader, to pick her brains on how to pack for multi-day hiking trips. Marie is a Jack Wolfskin ambassador, and part of a team of female hikers who embarked on a long-distance hike as part of the brand's United We Hike (opens in new tab) campaign (above, in the red bobble hat). Read on for some insider packing tips, including some gems of wisdom that hadn't even occurred to us before.

1. Organise using dry bags

Marie's #1 tip is to pack dry bags. "Not only will they keep your kit dry, but they’re great to help you organise your pack as they also compress to make everything smaller." She uses separate dry bags for socks and underwear, gloves and beanies, and base layers, as well as another for dirty clothes. That system helps keep things organised, which can save on repacking time. "When you're having to unpack and repack on a daily basis, like on some of the expeditions I've been on to Morocco and Tanzania, it's a lot more organised in your tent!" Head to our best dry bags guide for some recommendations.

2. Pack once, then pack again

All packed and ready to go? Stop, unpack that bag, and start again. Really. "Take everything out after you’ve packed once and really question if you do need everything in there," advises Marie. "Sometimes the answer is yes but often I see a lot of people overpack. And when you’re carrying your own stuff wild camping, every gram counts!"

3. Opt for synthetic rather than down jackets

Down may be cosy warm, but it does not like the rain. So if you're heading somewhere where the weather is unpredictable, stick to synthetic stuffing. "The weather in the UK is very wet, so synthetic down jackets work a lot better than down in case you get wet."

Marie Cheng as part of Jack Wolfskin Wolftrail hike team

Marie Cheng as part of Jack Wolfskin Wolftrail hike team

(Image credit: Jack Wolfskin)

4. Thin layers > thick layers

The layering approach is well known amongst outdoorsy types, but Marie has an extra tip that's worth factoring in. "Over the years, I’ve worked out that having more layers that you can take off and put on, rather than one massive big thick layer is much more effective," she says. "You will get warm going uphill, but will need to put on extra layers when it’s windy or you stop for breaks, for example."

5. Make sure you won't freeze in an emergency

While packing light is often the name of the game, don't overdo it. "Depending on the terrain and nature of the hike, I was always advised to pack enough in your bag to make sure that if for any reason you or someone else got into trouble, there is enough in there to keep you warm till help arrives!"

6. Leave essentials in your backpack after a trip

Finally a quick tip that'll make your life easy for your next excursion: unless you need the items, avoid unpacking kit at all. "The staples just stay in my duffle bag for my next adventure!" smiles Marie. 

Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.