The ABCDEFs of Packing a Rucksack by Geoff Harman

Geoff Harman has travelled and worked around the world from working on an American summer camp to teaching English in Thailand. For those who have worked with Geoff or been lucky enough to be led by him, they will all agree he has lots of stories to tell. On elf the most experienced instructors within the BXM Expeditions instructing staff, Geoff has been working with young people for over 20 years and he is passionate about broadening minds and deepening understanding. A qualified Mountain Leader and Rock Climbing Instructor, some may not be surprised Geoff is also a primary school teacher. Geoff is laid back , entertaining and an outstanding instructor, to say he has a lot of tips to share is an understatement. 

A is for Accessible – Where things are packed within your rucksack depends on when it will be needed. If you won’t need something until the evening it would make no sense to put it at the top of your rucksack. Similarly, something that will be needed all day or in an emergency shouldn’t go at the bottom. I put my sleeping bag and travel pillow at the bottom of the main compartment. On top goes my “night time” bag (spare clothes, wash kit, torch), then food bag (dinner and breakfast), stove/cook set (in a bag), warm kit bag, with lunch bag and two one litre water bottles at the top. I don’t have side pouches on my sack, but in the top pouches go first aid kit, hat and gloves, sweets, note book and pen, wallet and phone (the last three in small waterproof bags). My waterproof jacket and trousers go in a separate zipped compartment at the bottom of my rucksack, accessible when it rains. Also consider packing things together that will be needed together – e.g. if you put your lighter in with your stove you won’t spend ages looking for it when you come to cook! 

B is for Balance – You shouldn’t be packing much heavy enough to make this a massive issue but you should consider weight distribution. If all the heavy stuff goes on the right you will walk lopsided. Similarly, if all the weight goes at the top you will have a tendency to fall over. 

C is for Compress – Many sleeping bags come with a compression sack. Used properly it means your sleeping bag will take up less space. Similarly, if you chuck things in higgledy-piggledy, you may find it hard to fit all your kit in. 

D is for Dry – Packing your kit in small reusable waterproof bags keeps things organised. It also keep things dry! Personally I go for lots of little bags (they are quite cheap now) rather than one big bin liner (which rip easily). 

E is for Everything on the Inside – The only thing I have on the outside is my tent and sleeping mat. (And some other instructors tell me those should go inside too!) Anything you have swinging around/attached to the outside is liable to get wet, dirty, damaged or fall off. 

F is for Fuel Below Food – On a BXM Expeditions trip you will almost certainly be using gas canisters and this will not be relevant. However, the day may come that you go camping and use a liquid fuel. In the UK this may be methylated spirits (meths) but overseas it may be kerosene or even petrol. There are all sorts of safety issues to consider with liquid fuel, but if you pack it above your food and it leeks, your food becomes inedible (and anything else it soaks becomes flammable!).