When preparing for a backpacking trip, I have found that not only is deciding what specific pieces of gear I need to carry vitally important, but that in order to have a good experience, I also need to take the time to plan where I am going to carry each specific piece of gear. Of course most of the items will go into my backpack (and believe it or not, there is a correct way to pack a backpack), but not everything will go into my actual backpack. Some of these pieces I will actually carry, or even wear. It is some of these items that I want to discuss in this post…
Over time, I have (obviously) sunk farther and farther into the “finer” details associated with backpacking. It started off with me simply wanting to lighten my load, so one of the first things I began doing was making out gear list. Fast-forward a few iteration’s later, and both my gear as well as my list’s have become both more refined as well as more detailed. But a truly pivotal point came when I started adding in a “Location” column to my list’s. This single, yet simple column has allowed me to start planning out my packing strategy in advance.
As I alluded to above, I have found that in order for my trips to be more successful, I need to know where everything I bring is located, whether it be in my pack or in my pockets. But more than just this, I need things to be where I need them, when I need them. To effectively accomplish this takes a bit of preplanning (which my gear list allows me to do), as well as some good ole’ experience.
Over time I have found that there are a few things that I prefer to have on my person at all times, rather than in my pack. This is for a couple of reasons.
- Some items I like to be able to access quickly, such as my map, camera, towel, etc… For me, this does not mean stopping to take my pack off and then digging through it to locate and use these items. I want to be able to simply grab them when I want to.
- If for some reason I were to become separated from my pack (bear took it, floated down stream, feel off the side of a cliff, stolen, etc…) I will still have some “essential” items on me that I still have access too.
Of course though, I need to be conscious of the amount of gear that I stow in my pockets too, after all, I don’t want to be walking down the trail simply trying to hold my britches up! So, after a number of trips, I have scaled down the items that I like to keep on my person at all times. Here is a list of those items:
- Map. I usually can be found on the Appalachian Trail, or in the GSMNP. Another words, on maintained trails. For these trails, I generally either take smaller, printed profile map, or I will print off/copy a section of a larger map and take what I need. By doing this, I typically end up with a small, lightweight map. This makes it very easy to simply stuff it in one of my pant’s pockets.
- High Gear Axio Max watch. I wanted a watch for one real reason, and that was for the altimeter. (This is my first experience with a watch with an altimeter reading, so I feel that it is impossible for me to compare/evaluate this watch.) I understand that this watch determines the altitude as a direct result of the barometric readings (or vice-versa), and with use, I have also found that if a storm’s a coming, this watch will act up… meaning it is not 100% reliable (although I don’t consider it 100% reliable in it’s best state). Regardless, I enjoy simply matching my current altitude with the reading on my elevation profile map to determine my whereabouts. (Again, this method is for on well maintained trails… not for off trail navigation!)
- I have started wearing a paracord bracelet on the opposite wrist that I wear my watch on. I like having this extra cord for whatever reason may arise in which I may need a little extra cord, or a buckle of some sort. As well, by wearing the bracelet on my wrist, I was able to drop up to 1 oz from my BPW since I did not have to “pack” extra cord!
- Lightload towel. I keep this in one of my front pockets and is simply a daily use face towel…
- I also keep my Wa-ben cuben fiber wallet in my back pocket. This is actually my EDC, and yep it has all the same contents whether on a hike or at home. This wallet is quite thin, and I do not over stuff it with junk. It has what I consider to be essentials loaded in it. I prefer not to use a Ziploc bag or what-not with a few cards in it and to just use my regular wallet. Besides, my trips are always less than a week-long, so really, what is the point? If I were to be thru hiking, that would be different… Plus, the back pocket on my pants have a zipper, so I can safely keep my wallet on my person while hiking without fear of losing it.
In one of my cargo pants pockets, I also keep a mini Ziploc bag with a couple of different items:
- A bottle of Germ-X. This is great to have close by after potty breaks!
- A bottle of Dr Bronners. This is good to have at hand if I want to actually wash my hands or face. You never know when a good water source might be around the next bend (although I am sure not to “bathe” with soap in the water source).
- A tube of Carmex for those cold or windy days when my lips are chapped. This is handy to have as I would be using it fairly often.
- A tiny bottle of Bleach. This is my back-up plan for my Sawyer Squeeze filter. Also, at camp I have started using it to do some of my laundry with.
In the opposite cargo pants pocket I keep a simple lanyard with a few good-to-have items:
- Small button compass. This is actually one of those cheap REI thermometers which includes the tiny compass as well as a wind chill chart on the back.
- Photon Micro Light. This is a tiny light that packs a huge punch! One night when unexpectedly hiking out of camp (at midnight) I found out that my e+LITE was not all that I had hoped it would be, and this little guy actually lit the way for me and my son to make it out! This light is a winner in my book…
- REI Tri-Power Whistle. A whistle is a very important piece of kit to have on hand at all times. This whistle is loud, but it does have a pea, which may not make it the best whistle for winter…
- Exotac polySTRIKER fire steel. I enjoy using a fire steel for lighting my alcohol stoves, as well, it is an excellent last resort for making a fire.
- Ka-Bar Mini Dozier knife. This knife is all that I need. I can whittle some kindling with it, open food bags or cut rope. And yep, this is the most that I have found that I really need a knife for when out on the trail…
- Last, but not least, I have a DIY lanyard that holds these few items together. The lanyard is made from about a 2 foot piece of Glowire (from Lawson Kline) and a clasp. (I did not tie the ends together so that if it were to get caught on something if I ever do wear it around my neck, it will simply break apart rather than strangle me!) This small piece of cord is also yet another piece of cord for one of those just in case situations…
So, these are the items that I have been carrying in my pockets, or wearing on my wrists, for the last few hikes. Having these key items in these certain areas have allowed me to be able to access them fast when I need them, and I do in fact know where they are when the time arises. I like this method for these particular reasons. As well, it is a quick way for me to do a check before breaking camp, or a nice spot I stopped for a quick snack or a lunch. I just pat my pockets and can pretty quickly tell if I have everything or not.
So, I am curious, what items do you carry in your pocket’s?
Thanks for reading!