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How do you pack?
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

How do you pack? on 12/04/2012 21:49:28 MST Print View

Someone reminded me of the age-old mantra: pack your heaviest items next to your back!

It got me to thinking... what's my heaviest item? Food is reasonably low-weight, and my tent is only 2lbs. My sleeping bag is probably my heaviest base-weight item at 3lbs in the winter. All of my gear seems, vexingly, to be the same density.

The absolute heaviest item I carry is my water! But this is always in an outside pocket, for obvious reasons. So, for the most part, I haven't cared HOW I pack my pack. Am I wrong?

So, how do you pack your bags, frameless and/or framed?

Next to back:

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 12/04/2012 21:57:02 MST Print View

First I stuff my sleeping bag down at the bottom, then extra clothing (beanies, longjohns etc).

Then food bag, then stuff a possible jacket next to food.

Carry tent on outside of pack in center pocket, carry a trekking pole (for tent setup) in water bottle pocket. 1 water bottle in each side pocket.

My pack is 27 liters, has a top lid where I can stash trail snacks, rain gear, first aid etc. My pack with shoulder strap pocets (Zimmerbuilt) weighs about 22 ounces.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: on 12/04/2012 22:06:49 MST Print View

I too prefer the "shove everything into the one big hole" approach. Faster, easier, AND more space efficient than wrestling stuff into all different stuff sacks.

Very similar to the above, except I prefer to pack for inclement weather so I don't have to worry about weather changing...

1. Line the pack with a giant garbage bag (mine is 32-gal contractor's bag purchased @ Wally World)
2. Fold deflated sleeping pad and slide in flat against the pack back - for added cushioning against my back
3. Stuff sleeping bag, then clothing, misc. gear, food, etc. - with one stuff sack housing small bits and pieces

Twist and garbage bag shut, then close up pack and cinch tight.

4. Finally, attach tent to the outside of the pack -- for easy access (esp. if raining).

My pack has a few outside pockets. I like to put in there the day's lunch and snacks, a small first aid kit, and shell jacket.

Todd T
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: How do you pack? on 12/04/2012 22:23:14 MST Print View

Like the OP, I find everything weighs about the same these days. The way I pack stems from how I want to access stuff.

Depending on the length of the trip, the food bag is often the heaviest thing, but by golly it's going right on top 'cause I need to get to it for lunch breaks. The tent's going in the front mesh pocket so it's accessible without opening the pack when setting up in the rain. Sleeping bag and clothes bag go on the bottom because they fit nicely next to each other.

Weight/balance just doesn't enter the equation.

dale stuart
(onetwolaugh) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
packing on 12/04/2012 22:24:13 MST Print View

I load sleeping bag (compresion stuff sack, compressed to 12" length - horizontal, gives pack bottom structure), then tent (The one),food sack (Ursack),clothes, POE air pad, cooking kit (beercan/esbit) verticle on top of sleeping bag. Down jacket across top of verticle components to tie it all together. About 2400 CU IN MYOG pack.
My water is 2 - 24oz sport drink bottles attatched to my shoulder straps. (I think they offset weight on back nicely)
My gear loading is more for pack rigidity, while keeping weight center and middle of back.


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: packing on 12/04/2012 22:39:44 MST Print View

It's not weight per item that's important, it's density - weight per volume

I have mattress burrito style around pack on the outside.

Loosely put in sleeping bag

Dense items go between sleeping bag and mattress, next to my back - food, tent, water, fuel.

Throw in other stuff where convenient

Insulated vest and rain jacket on the top

Should dense items go lower down or higher up? Maybe for easier carrying you want dense items higher up but for more stable when you're bushwacking or whatever you want dense items lower?

jason quick

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
My packing style at the mo. on 12/04/2012 23:07:22 MST Print View

At this point in my set up, I use two zpacks large rectangular dry bags and one zpacks stuff sack (which came with the tent).

My lower zpacks dry bag contains:
sleeping bag
spare clothes

My middle dry bag contains:
ditty bag
ziplocked food stuff
cooking gear
down insulator jacket

Top layer stuff sac contains:
hexamid tent. **This sometimes goes on the outside of my pack.

My logic is that the top dry bag is the bag I access most during the day, for cooking or which I'll probably need to don some insulation anyways (if I am stopping for a meal or tea break), which is why my insulation jacket is found in there also. So this works well. Even though my tent sits on top (however often on the outside), it takes up miniscule room, and is easily pulled in and out. Plus, it will be the last thing to be packed after 'packing up camp' in the morning. The bottom dry bag is purely for camp set up in the evening. All up, I think my dry bag configuration weighs in at approx. 3.5 ounces...which is more than acceptable for me.

For dry or warmer camping, I simply use a zpacks pack liner, and chuck the whole lot in...roughly in the same order as I would if using dry bags.

Edit: Typo

Edited by jase on 12/04/2012 23:10:21 MST.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

My Packing Mantra: Screw it! on 12/04/2012 23:23:33 MST Print View

I like to put my tent in first, just so I can curse my bad luck when it begins to rain. Then on top, I put my spare clothes, followed by rain gear, food, and then my sleeping bag on top so I can curse my bad luck when it's time to eat lunch.

I should mention that this is on Day 10 of the trip, where I stop caring...

I lived out of an E-Vent dry sack (Size M-14L) that was strapped to my bike rack for a 30-day trip. I had a hydration pack with a camera in it, a frame bag for all my food (only needed to carry 2 days max) and a floppy little front bag for bike stuff. This set-up actually worked, but the packing and unpacking became a nightmare by the end of the 30 days.

I lost two straps for my hammock (eventually re-purposed the straps that held the E-Vent sack on), and took about 3 minutes longer than my friends every time we packed up.

The Kicker: Luckily, I still had an amazing, life-changing time. My backpack is like every other space I occupy; constantly disorganized, illogical, inconvenient, but beloved and well cared for. Maybe someday I'll get a system down (after thru-hiking?) but for now...

My packing mantra is "Screw it!"

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: How do you pack? on 12/04/2012 23:27:02 MST Print View

For trips up to about a week (7-8 nights) I use a Murmur at ~8.5 ounces.
I generally plan on two internal bags.
The first is a eVent dry bag for my sleeping bag and sleeping cloths (long johns, down sweater, wool socks) and goes in the bottom. Pulled inside out, it doubles as a pillow when stuffed with the pack and rain gear.

The second is a dry bag for food and goes upright near the center. It is also a dry bag and doubles as a bear bag. Food is usually figured at a bit more than a pound per day(~1#2,) soo, for a week long trip I often take about 8 pounds. Food is my single heaviest item. It varries in composition...

My tarp is about 8'x10' and is a shaped tarp. I have also had it up as a short (~5') lean-to. Rolled tightly, it goes next to my food bag. My pot goes on top of the tarp. The spoon, stakes and lid slip down along my back (hooks first.)

I also bring a small rock sack or ditty bag for small stuff: 2-3 bandaids, ~5' of duct tape, water treatment, a pair of 2016 batteries, an eLight for any night hiking, 35' of bear line, 10yd of some fine spectra cloths line(30# fishing line,)a small notepad, pencil, lighter, pills, leatherman micra, etc. This packs below the tarp.

The pad is a custom torso length NightLite. It is about 53" long. This *just* fits into the pad pockets outside the pack. This doubles as a frame for carrying the pack. The ~2" thick padding makes a *very* good frame for loads up to about 30 pounds, but I don't carry that much.

The SVEA 123 & cup go into the left hand pocket along with the wind screen.

A 12oz PET bottle of fuel goes into the larger front pouch, along with my rain jacket, fleece, fishing rod & reel, a couple spools of leader, a small flybox and small point&shoot camera.

My right hand pocket *just* fits two .5 liter gatoraid bottles.

Total weight is between 16-23pounds, depending. If I expect to use a lean-to somewhere, I will add a neoair. I use the NightLite to level what I can, so, both go. Lean-to floors are *hard*.

I use a Miniposa for longer trips. Really, this just provides extra space for food, though. I have gone as long as three weeks out with the Miniposa and came back with a couple days of food. There was plenty of room in that pack. The longest with the Murmur was around two weeks at about 26# to start. It was full at the start.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: My Packing Mantra: Screw it! on 12/04/2012 23:27:58 MST Print View

I put everything in pretty much the same place all the time.

Food on bottom. Tent on top of that. Pillow on top of that. Alcohol to the left. Canister at bottom right. Water above that. etc...

Call me ADD I guess

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Re: Re: My Packing Mantra: Screw it! on 12/05/2012 07:31:22 MST Print View

Like Jerry, I put the same stuff in the same place, every time. Unlike Jerry, I do it in an external-framed pack...but the concept is there. My "places" do have something to do with weight placement and balance, but with variations based on utility and convenience:

Bottom center, outside pack bag: Tent, stool, camp shoes
Outside Pockets: Left Low -- First Aid and Latrine; Left High -- water and water filter; Right High -- water and lunch food; Right Low -- stove/cook rig with fuel; Center: ditty bag, rain cover, cord, headlamp.
Lower Compartment in Pack Bag: sleeping bag and cell phone
Main Compartment: clothes and sleeping pad in bottom, fishing rig and kite vertical along sides, mess kit, food above that (if no canister) and then rain gear on top, or rain gear on top of the mess kit layer and then the canister on top and under the cover. Where more water is required, it's at the "food level" in the pack.

I have no issue, whatsoever, with the "torso collapse" that Ryan Jordan defines and Dave Chenault discusses in a current review of frameless packs, due to a solid frame structure that maintains stability and position as long as I do my part and balance the load laterally. I also bias weight toward my back, where possible notwithstanding my ditty bag cantilevered off the outside rear of the pack pretty much. The most dense/heavy part of my load is always the food and water, which ride as high and forward as possible.

On extended trips, where the food and fuel weight are higher, the weight apportionment is very apparent and effective (including the "effect" of beating down my joy under the weight of excessive grams, ha ha!). With a light weekender load, in warm, dry weather and no bear canister country, it's not as apparent or important.

I find that packing the "same stuff in the same place" enables me to easily maintain pack balance without thinking, reduces my tendency to lose things or forget where I've put them and simplifies my ongoing process to lighten and economize the gear I carry. It's faster to pack, and much faster to access gear, when I know right where it's gonna go or be.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
My Pack... on 12/05/2012 08:33:06 MST Print View

Current pack is a (heavy) Osprey Aether 60.

I start by loose stuffing my Mamot Pinnacle into the bottom inside of a contractor bag. I continue by adding the pillow/sack that contains spare socks/sleeping clothes/EB Downlight hoody.

On top of that I have a sack with food and a sack with my mess kit (ti pot, canister, cheapo chinese stove, spork, cozy).

The front pocket contains my rainjacket, a small tyvek ground sheet/mat, and my TT Notch.

One side pocket has a 1L Nalgene, the other has a cut-up plastic lab bottle that acts as a scoop and funnel and hold aquamira and my steripen.

The lid pocket holds first aid/HBA, TP, and snacks.

I also have Zimmer hipbelt pockets added for trail mix/gels on one side and phone/incidentals in the other.

My current pad (also heavy, older thermarest) is in a sack strapped to the front/bottom.

Trash bag eventually goes under the lid, on top of the food/mess. I also quick stow my driclime/whatever under the lid when stripping layers.

-Mark in St. Louis

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
What gets used on 12/05/2012 09:13:57 MST Print View

For our G-Lite 50s, we put the stuff we are going to use once we get to camp in the bottom of the pack...Sleeping bag and pad, followed by the tent and bear can. Then we wedge our extra clothes around that.

On top of it all go our fleece and rainshell--because we might want those while be are hiking, and don't want to dig around for them. IN fact, on a cold morning, we'll start out wearing the fleece, then just tuck it into some shock cord on the outside of the pack so we don't have to open up the pack on the trail.

lunch and water go in the outside pockets. Camera, compass and whistle in our pants.

Yep, we got a whistle in our pants

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
How do you pack? on 12/05/2012 11:03:34 MST Print View

Principle: the heaviest item should be next to my back and just above my center of gravity (which, for me and many other women, is below the waist).

The heaviest item when starting out is obviously my food bag, so no problems early in the trip. By the end of the trip, though, it's more of a puzzle! Once the food is mostly gone, my sleeping bag (plus base layer used only in camp) and extra clothing bag (other than rain gear) are the two heaviest, and they're close to the same. However, the sleeping bag goes in the bottom because things pack better that way. The extra clothing is on top so I can access it during the day. Shelter, water, snacks and rain gear are in the outside side pockets (mostly in the side pockets). The rest consists of a bunch of smaller items of fairly comparable weight. The densest item is my fuel canister, but by the end of the trip that's almost empty, too. As a result, the last couple of days there's no heavier item to put next to my back.

This phenomenon is a good argument for compression straps on the sides of the pack, to pull a not-so-full load closer to my back. Unfortunately, my pack's straps are on the front.

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/05/2012 11:05:44 MST.