If you have decided to do el Camino and have a clear idea of the equipment you will need to start your grand adventure, you have arrived at the real challenge: how to fit everything you have under the bed inside your backpack.
Don’t mistake this for a task that can be done at random. You have to keep in mind that our bodies are not meant to carry heavy loads on our backs for so many kilometers or so many hours. If you are careful while packing your backpack, you will ensure that despite carrying weight, you are in the most natural and comfortable position possible. A bad positioning of equipment in your backpack can lead to injuries on your back, shoulders or neck, and can force you to overexert yourself causing you to waste energy and get tired quickly.
When you get ready to pack, you have to keep several factors in mind and divide your equipment accordingly. The first factor is the weight, the second is the frequency of use (during the journey) and the third is the order of use.
The heaviest and most rigid objects should be placed in the bottom of the backpack in order to achieve a low center of gravity and put most of the weight at your hips. By doing this, you will have better balance and will diminish the feeling of weight thanks to the strap on that area of the backpack. These should be objects that are used infrequently during the walk, such as backup shoes, flip flops for showering, toiletries, camera and phone chargers, etc.
Medium to lightweight items should be placed in the center part of the backpack. Usually, people put all of their clothing here. It is also the area where order of use comes into play. If you know that certain articles aren’t going to be used until your arrival at a hostel or until the next day, you should put them lower, even if they weigh less than others. For example, if you haven’t just done laundry the day before, you should put dirty clothes under the heavy items since you won’t need to access them until you go to wash them.
Lastly, you should put the lightest and the most frequently used items at the top of the backpack. These items could be a raincoat, a jacket, gloves, or the cover for your backpack. This way, the top of the backpack won’t be too heavy, with a center of gravity that is too high and pulls you back, causing back and shoulder pain as well as the uncomfortable feeling that you are carrying too much weight.
As much as possible, you should not pack heavy items in the back of the backpack, since beyond the fact that your center of gravity will be displayed, causing a feeling of heavy weight, your movement will create a constant swaying that could eventually cause chaffing in your back and shoulders.
Remember, the total weight of the backpack should not exceed more that 7 or 8% of your bodyweight.
I hope this advice has been useful and will help make your backpack feel much lighter.
Translation: Carolyn Montagnolo