Bergen Packing 101

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Full Member
Sep 4, 2009
uk mainly in the Midlands though
Bergen Packing 101.

The other day I was asked by a friend on how to pack a bergen/rucksack for a long trip where he would be walking into a location and setting up for a week. After I told what I did and how I did it he said why not put up a post about it cause he found it useful. A little background of me is that I have been long distance walking both home and abroad for a long time and although my kit is sometimes getting less and lighter basic principles haven't changed much. I am also use to tabbing with the kit I have on my back so balance and weigh and comfort are very important for that. One of the main ideas is try to keep your weight as high as possible so it can be spread over your shoulders and back and hips rather than lower down which can cause stress to your body. You also want to keep the weight as close to your back as possible so you do not over balance if going up or down hills also try to make sure the the pack is also balanced sideways so not more pressure is one on side of your body that the other cause otherwise this will hurt too.

I hope this helps people out and please feel free to comment on it.

All contents inside a canoe/bergen liner or a large heavy duty bin bag to keep the items secure and waterproof (especially if you have to do an unforeseen river crossing or typical British summer weather :)


1. Brown
2. Light Blue
3. Light Green
4. Orange
5. Dark Blue
6. Dark Green
7. Red
8. Grey Blue
9. Purple
10. Grey


1. Top Outer Pocket – Brown

Waterproof top if not just under lid
Spare map/compass (in waterproof case)
Head torch/torch
Cylume/Lightstick with at least 1m of spare light cordage or Strobe
1 Black bin bag (large)
Spare lighter/match safe
Bergen cover (if you have one and it is not used)
Gloves and warm hat
Small First Kit (not the main one, emergency items only if not on person)

The items here are one that you may want very quickly for emergency or due to weather changes without opening up your rucksack/bergen.

2. Under Lid Pocket – Light Blue
If you have a pocket under the lid:

Spare Batteries for all your devices
comfort kit (hip flask is mine)
book in waterproof bag (staves away boredom)
wash kit if small and not in main bag
repair kit ( black nasty/duct tape, sewing kit, electrical tape, zip ties)

If you don't have an under lid pocket then put contents in a ditty/waterproof bag and put near top of main part of bergen.

3. Top of Bergen (either above or just below snow-lock but under lid) – Light Green

Waterproof Jacket (if not worn or in top of bergen)
Waterproof trousers/Gaiters
Collapsible Water bottle 2 litre minimum ( I carry a 3 litre bag or bigger but not always full)

The water bottle when full will be useful for main water needs but remember that 1 litre of water weighs 1 kilogram and so if carrying 2-4 litres your weight is going to be higher.

4. Top of Main Compartment – Orange


This needs to be in a separate bag if possible divided into each meal/day. This will probably be the heaviest item in your bergen if on multi day/week trip.

5. Near Top Main Compartment – Dark Blue

Stove kit
Spare long term fuel if necessary ( see the need for extra bags )
Wash kit + Small towel
Main First Aid kit (a more comprehensive and full kit but try to keep it lightweight) ( I use a mountain or mountain leader kit here it is for group kit cause I am trained for it)

Each Item is best if in its own bag to stop cross contamination. Keep all containers upright to prevent spillage.

6. Middle Main Compartment – Dark Green

Warm Fleece/Jacket
Spare clothing (to be worn) (i.e. socks, underwear, T-shirts)

Use the clothing to level out parts of the bag and to bulk out the rucksack so as to try and keep the main weight as high as possible on your back.

7. Bottom Main Compartment – Red

Sleeping Bag/Underblanket
Bivi bag

Here is where to put your sleeping bag or underblanket (if using a hammock). It is best if you keep your sleeping bag already in its bivi bag. The sleeping bag can be kept in a black bin bag or dry sack if you want but I would advise that it may be better to keep it loose so as to fill up the bottom of your bergen and to make sure that there is even space and no air pockets for item to fall down into and so keeping the bag more balanced and stable when walking.

8. Very Bottom of Main Compartment – Grey Blue

Emergency Clothing

This is kept in its own bag at the bottom of your bergen it is to be used in emergency or last day when travelling home. The items I keep in my emergency clothing kit is a pair of very light weight walking trousers, a smartish walking short sleeve shirt, 1 pair of very lightweight socks. If you are travelling back from a long walk/trip or ending your walk near a pub it may not be best to enter in a filthy state so a quick wash and refresh can be good :)

9. Side Pocket 1 – Purple

Tarp/Shelter kit
Brew Kit
Stove and small amount of fuel (if not in main bag)
Sheath knife
Folding saw
Water bottle (1litre)

This kit is stuff that you may want to easily use with out going into your main bag and also kit that will be used early on in the set up of your camp. If you do not have a lid pocket the contents of that part of the kit can go there.

10. Side Pocket 2 – Grey

Roll mat
Walking poles etc..

This side is used for my roll mat and walking poles if I am using them. If you are not I would divide the contents of my other side pouch here to balance the bergen up.


Dec 31, 2009
Excellent post Pete, I pack in a very similar way. It took a lot of trial and error before I was finally happy with it.
I wish I'd read a post like this years ago, it would have saved a lot of experimentation.


PREPER......... :)


Jan 16, 2011
Cairns, Australia
Nice clear entry pete, cheers. What size bag do you use?

I like putting the roll mat on the inside of the main compartment so that it kind of hollows out down the middle. Gives the pack good shape, helping it shed rain etc. Only problem is with my 45L pack a full sized closed cell foam mat takes up a lot of space.

I've always packed my sleeping bag as small as the compression sack gets it, but I think im gonna give your method a try (will help keep the loft in the down too)


Jan 18, 2008
So what is the item that has to be loosely packed in a ripped bin liner and tied to the bottom of the bergan to bounce against your **** with every step like all the DofE type groups that I see on a regular basis? Also, should I fix mugs/billies etc to the outside and, when traffic approachs, ensure that my group splits equally to either side of the road thereby minimising the gap available to pass though? Glyn.

Lee Wright

Mar 9, 2009
Nice guide, some stuff similar to how I do it, some will be changed now! Especially like the idea of leaving the sleeping bag inside the bivvy bag and I'll definitely be doing that in future!


Jan 22, 2011
Great post, thanks.

Just out of interest, what food would you be taking with you for a week stay? Or would you be planning on being near a shop?



Full Member
Sep 4, 2009
uk mainly in the Midlands though
Totumpole: with reference to what size bag it depends on how long I am away for and what I require on the expedition or journey so I can use anything from a expedition 120litre bergen to a 15litre day sack. the basics never change. I have sleeping bags from extremely small light weight season 1 bags or poncho liner to expedition bags for artic conditions which are cumbersome but light. and if I am going away for a month then a few more items are needed.

The sleeping mat can also be inside to sort shape, it is a good way especially if using a very light weight bag which is very light and does not have much built in stability such as the Go-Lite bags.

WoodMan - we have all been there and seen it done I was lucky I was taught better at a very early age:)

Yomperalex - Depending on what I am doing I would generally talk some lightweight (dried rations), a couple of boil in the bags or some light fresh stuff that would last such as some noodles, rice, oats. Gorp (Good old peanuts and raisins) with added chocolate or boiled sweets make good snacks. I used to have a mix of boiled sweets, opal fruits, biscuits (which would be partial crushed) with some dried fruit and mixed nuts. it was a taste and texture explosion in your mouth that is never the same taste or bite with each mouthful. If you are near a shop and what to carry less you can but I would always carry a little extra food as you never know if you are going to get stuck in a place due to fog or an accident. on a long walk there is nothing better than a stop off at a pub and have a nice meal and maybe a pint. Near to hand I carry one of the lynx bullet deodorant for a quick spray before entering stoips funny looks and being asked to leave before I get my first pint down my neck. :)

Hope that helps:)


Full Member
Sep 4, 2009
uk mainly in the Midlands though
Food is one of the hardest problems to figure out but there is help. If you can lay your hand on this book:
You can find it in most local libraries (or they can order it for you) it is one of the best books all round for planning and any form of expeditions. It has nutritional guide and suggestions on how to plan your food requirements for any trip. I always keep one wet (boil in the bag) in case of emergencyies but I do use it in my plan.
Last edited:


Feb 27, 2005
Saudi Arabia
For my sleeping bag, I got myself a drybag with a valve for extracting the air.
this means I can vacum pack it :D
Once the air is squashed out it can still conform to the bottom of the pack, but takes up a similar volume to a bag in a compression sac.
The only difference is, it's malleable.


Aug 9, 2004
Rotterdam (NL)
For my sleeping bag, I got myself a drybag with a valve for extracting the air.
this means I can vacum pack it :D
Once the air is squashed out it can still conform to the bottom of the pack, but takes up a similar volume to a bag in a compression sac.
The only difference is, it's malleable.

Same here, I got this one: Mountain Epuipment dry bag, with air valve, 50 ltrs (heavy duty, non-silnylon), the same Stuart uses for when out and about in the jungle, snowy Canada or Kalahari desert.

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