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How to Pack Your Backpack for a School Expedition

school expedition

Ah, packing. For some, it’s a source of great excitement – this is where the adventure of travel truly begins. Organising everything you need for a school expedition and carefully arranging it into your backpack is all part of the fun. But, get it wrong, and things can quickly go south when you arrive at your destination. Nobody wants to discover that their last, precious spare T-shirt has got wet at the bottom of their daypack, or realise they left their book-for-reading-on-long-journeys in their hold luggage.

To make things easier, we’ve put together a handy packing guide, with some top tips so you can avoid these mistakes. Read on to find out how to pack your backpack for a school expedition. Remember, packing is a personal art – everyone does it differently. Use this guide to get you on the right path, then find your own packing style…

  1. Check your kit list

It sounds obvious, but when you want to know what to pack for your expedition your first port of call should be your kit list, tailored to your trip. You can read more about the best kit to pack for a school expedition in our previous blog post. From sleeping bags to toiletries, your kit list covers which items should – and shouldn’t – make the cut. Make sure you stick to the list, and don’t add on anything extra – packing light will be an advantage.

Your trip leader is there for any other questions. You can ask your leader about anything from what items to pack, to how to pack them. As well as supporting you in-country, your leader is there to help in the lead-up to your expedition, when packing will be a key consideration.

Hikers with daypacks
  1. Backpack, daypack or money belt?

As well as your backpack containing the majority of your gear, you’ll need a daypack for hand luggage, transfers and other journeys in your destination and for treks. Before you depart, make sure you know what’s going in each bag.

Things you won’t need until you’re in your destination, such as sleeping bags, foam mattresses and spare clothes, can go in your main backpack. Meanwhile, anything you can’t do without during your flight, trek or transfers – including personal medication, a first aid kit for the team, a water bottle and a spare layer – can go in a smaller daypack. Don’t forget to remove sharp items and liquid containers larger than 100ml from your hand luggage. As for valuables, it’s a good idea to stash these safely in a money belt.

  1. Use multiple dry bags

Keeping your gear dry is a must. While damp clothes and sleeping equipment are unpleasant, sodden books get ruined and wet electricals can break. Protect everything by using dry bags – but not just one, go for multiple. Using just one, large dry bag to line your backpack makes it much harder to find your things when you need them. Instead, divide your belongings into separate dry bags, so you’re able to locate and access your sleeping bag, spare clothes and whatever else is being kept dry much more easily. Anything that doesn’t need to be kept dry, like your plate and cutlery, can be left loose. 

Dry bags are tough and durable, and have the added perk of compressing whatever is inside them, meaning you have more space inside your backpack. If you can’t stretch to a dry bag, and are unable to borrow one, use heavy duty rubble bags – they last longer than your average bin bag.

Backpackers hiking up a mountain
  1. First in, last out – and save some space

The first things to pack into your backpack or daypack should be the last that need to come out. For instance, anything you won’t need until you’re setting up camp in the evening can go in first, at the bottom of the pack.

Spare clothes (excluding waterproofs), cooking equipment and food for meals are likely to be in the middle section. Anything you need easy access to – such as your head torch, hand sanitizing gel, water, sun cream, snacks and waterproofs – should be near the top, or in an easy-to-access side pocket.

Make sure you leave some space in your bag for team equipment, like the camping stove, safety gear and tent parts. If the team needs to carry their own gear during the trekking phase, you’ll need to leave enough room in your bag to take your portion and contribute to the group effort.

Backpackers on a Jungle Trek
  1. Consider weight distribution

This is particularly important on a trek, or if you’re going to be wearing your backpack for a significant amount of time during your expedition. Consider how the weight is distributed in your pack. Ideally, you want the heaviest things to be low down and close to your spine, so you avoid carrying all the weight on your shoulders.

If you get your backpack fitted correctly in a shop, staff should check that the majority of the load is taken in the hip belt instead of the shoulder straps. Transferring your pack’s weight from your shoulders to your hips allows your stronger leg muscles – not your weaker shoulder muscles – to do the heavy lifting. Keeping the load near the spine will also make the pack feel more stable, rather than tipping you backwards and off-balance.

Hikers with backpacks
  1. Ditch the danglies!

Finally, make sure that you remove any objects on your backpack that dangles. Anything hanging off your bag is likely to fall off or break, so ensure everything is kept zipped cleanly inside. Before your flight, do a final check of your backpack to make sure any loose straps are tied up and out of the way.

Written by Ellie Ross