Monday, August 29, 2016

Making a List

The polar explorer Roald Amundsen famously declared that "Adventure is just bad planning." After once taking off for a backpacking trip without stove fuel I've taken this advice to heart. A major part of my planning for any backpacking trip is dusting off my trusty spreadsheet and going through all the items I need, step-by-step.

My backpacking spreadsheet, part of the way through trip prep.
Over the years I've refined this list into a variety of categories, and adopted a color-coding strategy to show me the status of all the various and assorted items I pack for a trip.

Know the categories

One of the secrets to staying organized on the trail is having a variety of stuff sacks (light nylon bags with drawstring closures) to hold similar items. For example, all my extra clothes go into one stuff sack, my stove and cooking gear in another, food in yet another, and so on. 
Stuff sacks in action. Pickle Branch Shelter, VA, 2011.

This system makes it easier to find the items you need when you're on the trail, and makes both setting up camp in the evening and packing up in the morning a lot easier. One of my favorite packing hacks is the "camp bag." This is a clear plastic gallon ziplock that holds all the things I may want in my tent or next to me at night in a shelter. Things like my headlamp, book, journal, earplugs, and so on. Set up my tent, toss in the sleeping bag and pad, and the camp bag and I've got all the essentials with me right away.

Color coding

Over the years my color coding system has evolved to let me know the status of all my gear. Items in yellow  have been pulled out of storage and placed in my staging area (the downstairs pool table). Once I've highlighted something in green, I've put it into the pack. Items in red need to be purchased, and those in purple aren't going on the trip. For example, I'd pack a ground cloth for a winter trip, but I'll save the weight if the weather is warmer. 

Double check

My final step in packing is the "double check." After all my gear has been packed and marked green, I'll pull everything out of the pack, reset the spreadsheet to blank, and repack all the gear. It's not only a good check, but it gives me an extra opportunity to experiment with how I'm stowing the gear and make any last-minute reevaluations of what I'm taking, based on recent weather forecasts and more.

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