Thursday, August 20, 2009

In defense of a finely tuned daypack...

You may have read my previous post of the Algonquin hike, when I had a wardrobe malfunction on the way up the mountain. Of all the comments from fellow hikers, the ones that got to me the most weren't the sarcastic ones. It was when they looked in astonishment and exclaimed how "lucky" I was that I had duct tape and cord to fix those boots. Yeah. It really did bother me a bit, because it implied that my repairs were by chance - as if I fell into some fortune that allowed me to repair my equipment and continue on. It may come as a surprise, but I DID pack my own daypack that morning, and the duct tape and cord are part of an essential kit that I carry for just such problems. It would take forever to regale you with all my experiences and anecdotes that have led me to carry all that I do. You'll have to take my word for it now and email me with questions if you like further explanation.

Here's a list of what I carry:
  1. Daypack: 2000-3000 cu/in with a thick waist belt and shoulder straps. I prefer a panel loading design with accessory pockets and lashing straps to keep everything organized.
  2. Shell Jacket: a waterproof, breathable parka to keep rain and wind at bay
  3. Insulating jacket: a polyester fleece jacket that will keep you warm even if soaking wet, to be layered under the shell parka.
  4. Clothing extras: a wool or poly fleece hat, spare pair of socks, bandannas, gaiters if the trail is muddy or snowy, gloves.
  5. Water: I use a 3 liter hydration system, and bring at least 2-4 liters extra. In the hot months on a strenuous climb I plan for at least 1 liter per two miles. I also bring along a water purification system to be able to treat more water as we go.
  6. Food: trail food should be high in calorie - especially in carbs for energy - and you should have more than enough to get through the day. You should also plan on enough to ration you through at least another full day in case something happens and you are forced to spend the night. Trail mix is an obvious choice, but beef jerky, power bars, cheese, pepperoni, summer sausage, all make great trail food.
  7. Headlamp/Flashlight: inevitably, you will find yourself needing to start in the early morning hours or end up losing daylight at the end of a hike. A flashlight is nice, but a headlamp is incredibly more convenient. Remember, the forest canopy will add about an hour of darkness to both sunrise and sunset.
  8. Trail book and map with compass: It doesn't take long to learn how to use a compass with your map, and your map is useless if you don't know which direction you're facing. Mine come with me regardless of how well groomed the trails are.
  9. Personal items: things like bug repellent, hand lotion, lip balm, sun screen, purel hand sanitizer, tissues.
  10. Medications: In a medium sized pill bottle I carry a few doses each of these medications - motrin, excedrin, sudafed, and regular tylenol for aches, pains, sinus headaches; pepcid complete tabs, gas-ex, and imodium for stomach problems; Benedryl for allergic reactions
  11. Hiking/Trekking poles: like ski poles, most are adjustable and have a smaller basket to help with mud. You'll be amazed how well these things will save your knees and allow you to move quicker. Granted, I look like a hiking praying mantis with them, but they are a joint saver. And they can be used to splint a broken leg or hold up a temporary shelter if need be.
  12. Essentials Kit: the magical bag! I will break down the essentials kit below...

The Essentials Kit is a grouping of various sub kits all kept in a small stuff sack:
  • First aid kit: very basic, it has bandaids, gauze pads, mole skin, an ace bandage, some antibiotic ointment, alcohol pads
  • Emergency overnight kit: a tube tent, a pair of space blankets, matches in a waterproof container, firestarter sticks, an emergency whistle
  • A basic repair kit: a length of nylon cord, a backpacking roll of duct tape, safety pins, a needle and spool of black thread
  • A leatherman or swiss army knife
  • Water Treatment system: I currently have a Steri-pen ultraviolet water purifier, but have also used a couple of other small micron filters. If you can stand the taste of iodine, you can carry potable aqua tabs.
  • Toilet paper: for when nature calls while out in nature. remember to bury it...
So that's it. When all is said and done, my pack is 20-30 pounds for a long day hike, depending on how much water and food I'm carrying. Yup, it's a lot and probably overkill, but you never know when your boots are going to fall apart, or something. I can say that everything on that list has been used on the trail, with the exception of the emergency overnight kit. That kit was set up because of one hike where a knee injury slowed us enough that we were almost forced into an emergency camp out on the mountain (an earlier Algonquin climb, ironically). Nothing like getting caught out in the woods when the night time temperatures were dropping into the 20's. So, when it comes to packing your daypack, the best thing you can do is follow the Boy Scout Motto - Be Prepared.

Happy hiking,



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