Backpacks have come a long way since the 70’s, when hikers swore by (and at) bulky external frames and nifty side pockets were few and far between. Nowadays, there’s any number of high-tech packs that help you lug more gear longer, and farther, than ever before. But it's still critical that you know how to pack a backpack right.

If you're headed out for a beach vacation or a family reunion, there's nothing wrong with throwing your belongings in a bag and calling it good. But hitting the trail is different: You'll be carrying your pack for hours, days, or even weeks at a time, so balance and comfort are tantamount. Carefully loading up your backpack can even keep you safer: On tricky scrambles or exposed trails, a well-loaded backpack will help you keep your balance and prevent nasty falls.

Here, we'll cover some of the most important tips for getting your backpack ready for the trail.