How to Pack a Bug Out Bag Backpack with Clothes [Complete Guide]

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Loading your backpack may seem like a trivial matter.

Who doesn’t know how to put their clothes in a backpack, right?

Well, everyone knows how to shove clothes in there but not everyone knows how to pack them properly!

There is a huge difference between packing random clothes to go over your friend’s house for a sleepover and packing for camping, a hunting trip, or bugging out.

So, we’re going to cover some of the coolest and slickest ways to pack clothes in a backpack to save you space, weight, and precious calories.

Have You Read? The Best Tactical Backpacks

Why is a Proper Packing Plan Necessary for Backpacks?

Consider this: You have a fairly small backpack that you want to take on a trip.

You look at the clothes and gear you have and suddenly, it doesn’t seem like you can take all your belongings for the trip.

Or, a severe weather event just happened and you need to grab your bug out bag and get out of Dodge.

But after you’ve made it to a safe spot in the woods, you realize that your bag doesn’t have a dry set of clothes for you to change into. The temperature is dropping, and chill is setting in.

Or perhaps you’ve been tracking the deer you just shot for hours.

You finally found it, but you’re exhausted from lugging around that heavy, uncomfortable hunting pack all day.

Do you really have the energy to bring the deer and all your gear home?

For these situations, proper backpack planning is crucial.

Properly packing clothes in your backpack can ensure comfort and even reduce fatigue.

Let’s learn how.

How to Pack a Backpack With Clothes?

Packing a backpack with clothes is actually an art form.

And today, we’re going to go over how to master this art.

Step 1: Folding Clothes

Let’s start with the obvious starter piece of clothing: Shirts.

The best technique is the army roll1, also called the ranger roll or marine roll.

  1. Just lay the shirt flat on a table and fold the bottom inside out, up an inch or two. Then flatten it.
  2. Now take the left third of the shirt and fold it to the right. Fold the sleeve back outward, folding it down toward the bottom of the shirt for long sleeves.
  3. Repeat on the other side so the two halves overlap, doing the same thing with the sleeves.
  4. Rotate the shirt so the collar faces you and start rolling it as tightly as possible. Pull out any big wrinkles that form and continue until you reach the end.
  5. Take the pocket formed when you folded up the bottom and pull it around the rest of the shirt.

There are variations on this technique but the end result is the same: A small, shirt burrito!

The next thing to roll up are your socks.

  1. Take one pair of socks and lay them flat, one on top of the other and offset down by about an inch and a half.
  2. Tightly roll up from the toes toward the top.
  3. Stuff the top of the uncovered section of the bottom sock over the roll to hold it all together.

Underwear is the next item on the list.

  1. Lay the underwear flat and fold the elastic band inside out, about twice the height of the band.
  2. Roll from the bottom upward until you reach the top.
  3. Stuff it into the elastic band.

Noticing a pattern here?

You can use this same technique with other clothes, such as pants and jackets. These non-elastic articles are harder to stuff into the “pouch” but it’s still possible.

When rolling up pants like this you want to zip and button them up and fold the waistband inside out two or three inches to give you more room. Roll up from the bottom.

Clothes that have been army rolled won’t be as crisp and neat as clothes folded more traditionally but you’ll save a surprising amount of space in your backpack!

Step 2: Storing Clothes in Your Backpack

best ways to compact roll store clothes in backpack

Now that your clothes are rolled up, it’s time to plan out how you’re going to store them in your backpack.

Perform a weight sort of all your items.

Do this by sorting them from lightest to heaviest, laying them out from left to right.

This will will not only help you plan on how to load up your bag but also help you visualize everything you need so you don’t miss an item.

Then organize your items into multiple rows based on how you’ll use your items and their weight.

From the top down2:

  • Bulky, medium-weight gear you may need but not quickly, such as rain jackets, first aid kits, and toilet supplies
  • Heavy gear such as spare boots, cooking supplies, and spare water
  • Bulky, light, and infrequently accessed gear, such as your sleeping bag and extra clothes

Smaller gear that you’ll need to access frequently or at a moment’s notice will go in your backpack’s outer pockets, from flashlight to tourniquet.

Less frequently used smaller pieces of gear such as personal hygiene items can go inside internal pockets.

And awkwardly long pieces of gear such as a survival axe can be lashed to the outside of the pack.

This strategy of putting your heaviest gear in the middle, above your squishy clothes, balances the backpack to reduce fatigue.

Your clothes also serve as shock absorbers for the heavy stuff!

Step 3: Loading Your Backpack

The final step is to put the clothes and everything else into your backpack.

If you’re planning on spending more than one day outdoors then it’s a good idea to have a dry bag the same size as your backpack’s largest interior space to store everything.

It’s also a good idea to put many of your clothes and pieces of gear into small dry bags or Ziploc bags. This will further help protect your stuff from leaking water or fuel.

You can reuse these small plastic bags when putting away your dirty socks.

Load your backpack from the bottom up, thinking about how you’ll access everything as you go.

Also, don’t forget to store items inside other items whenever possible to maximize space usage.

Your spare boots are an excellent place to store small items you’re not going to use immediately.

As a bonus, they’ll help protect them from getting knocked around, too!

Storing clothes in backpack go bag tips suggestions

How to Fit Everything into Your Backpack?

Much like any art, bag packing takes some trial and error.

Though backpack sizes are often given in liters, it’s difficult to accurately judge the how much space everything will take up without some practical experience.

While we have an excellent guide on what to store in your bug out bag, not everyone needs everything. Load up your bag at home and determine for yourself what’s necessary and what’s wasted weight.

Don’t be afraid to cut out iffy items. Just make sure not to leave emergency supplies at home!

Spend some time packing and unpacking your bag at home to make sure you can fit everything in your bag.

And be sure to test your load under practical conditions.

Yes, go hiking and camping with your go bag!

Here’s some other info to keep in mind:

Make use of all the available space.

As obvious as it may sound, you need to take advantage of every nook and cranny of your backpack. This may take some experimentation

The final thing to take care of is to use the outer pockets and lashing points properly.

Many backpacks have outer pockets specifically for storing water.

Also, you can buy extensions and ties to attach bulky items to the outside of your backpack.

Finally, experiment with unconventional techniques.

For example, you may want to store your rain jacket wrapped around the top of the backpack. This will give additional water protection, give you easy access to the jacket, and keeps it from taking up space inside your pack!

Cautions for Packing Your Backpack

There are a few cautions that you should take while packing your backpack:

  • Remember to pack everything you need. Don’t just think you have your GPS in your backpack. Confirm it is actually in there
  • Don’t mix clothes with liquid items. Store them separately, or at least in an additional waterproof container
  • Always have a way to waterproof your backpack. Even deserts get rain sometimes!
  • Protect your electronics and other vulnerable items from damage with cases or, to save on space and weight, store them inside soft gear
  • Backpacks are specific. Don’t use a school backpack on a camping trip!


Shoving clothes into a backpack is easy but it takes some planning and practice to load them into your bag as efficiently as possible.

But by using the army roll and taking your time, you can fit a week’s worth of clothing into a surprisingly small space.

With the right pack and a good packing technique, you can enjoy the outdoors without your bag dragging you down.

And always remember to bring an extra pair of socks!



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