A great hiking friend of me once told me I pack all my fears when I go hiking. I wasn’t sure what he meant at first. Surely being out on the trail filled me with joy and confidence rather than fear. Even though about half of my hiking is as a solo woman I haven’t experienced fear. He then referred back to a conversation we had had during our days hike.
I had been saying to him that I seemed to take as much gear for an overnight hike as a multi day hike, and that even on an overnighter my pack weight was up around 18kg. In fact on my first ever multi day hike years ago I ended up with a compressed nerve in my shoulder from an ill fitted and heavy pack of about 19kg.
I always worried about “What if…?” What if it rains ? I better take that rain jacket, even though the forecast is clear for the next week or so. What if I get cold? I better take my puffer jacket, even though here in Western Australia it’s rare to need one. I would justify this addition to my pack by telling myself it could double as a pillow because it packed into its own pocket. To date I have used my puffer more as a pillow than actually worn it. What if the clothes I was wearing got wet from rain? Better take another full set. Doesn’t matter that my gear is quick drying and in many cases body heat actually dries it!
What if I get hungry? I had better take some snacks. Even though i work out good calorific choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner, maybe I would still be hungry. I would pack dried soup packets, trail mix, nuts, lollies and chocolate just in case. But as I don’t actually snack whilst hiking, preferring to wait until we stop, I would usually bring it all home after, put it in the cupboard, and pack it again next hike. What if the nights were cold? Oh, better bring that thermal sleeping bag liner. What if my body is cold at night? Better bring the thermals and sleep in them. What if it’s sunny? Better bring my cap, sunglasses and sunscreen. Better bring a change of T-shirt too in case the first one gets damp and sweaty. What if my extremities get cold ? Better bring my beanie and gloves. Plus my fingerless gloves so i don’t get blisters from the hiking poles. What if my feet get wet ? Better bring extra socks. Light weight for warm days, thicker for cooler days and a warm pair for night. How many pairs am I up to ?
What if I get lost? Better bring the map, compass, download map onto app on phone. What if I get blisters on my feet, a terrible headache, injure myself or get bitten by one of the poisonous snakes we share the trail with? Better pack the first aid kit, after restocking with rolls of Fixomul, pain relief, bandages, sterile eye wash, bandaids and compression bandages for snake bites. What if I injure myself or get bitten by a snake while I am alone, in the middle of nowhere or unable to move? Better bring the personal locator beacon (PLB). This is actually a very sensible thing to bring and is the first thing I pack now. Guaranteed to find me within 5m 😊.
What about the unlikely event of a solar eclipse and my solar light doesn’t charge? Better bring a head torch too. What if the torch batteries die? Better bring extra batteries. While I am at it, better bring the portable charger for the phone so I can use the maps.
What about if I need to collect water from an unreliable water source? Even though I have my ‘Lifestraw’ filter bottle I will still bring tablets to treat the water. What if the great Aussie flies are bad. Better bring the head net. Great to sleep in too if mozzies are bad.
Of course there are the mandatory items – tent, sleeping bag, mat, backpack, water. Add to all this the little extras like hand sanitizer, foldable trowel to dig holes, toilet paper, zip log bag for used toilet paper and another for rubbish (“Leave no Trace”), buff to use as an air filter wearing over my nose and mouth (even though pollution levels are non existent), dry bags to keep everything dry, pack liner to keep everything dry, money in case I need to buy anything (just where I think I will find a shop I am not sure), tissues, lip balm, pawpaw ointment (good for everything from cracked nails to chafe), hand warmers (didn’t even use these in winter in Nepal), microfiber towel, and spare laces for boots (another sensible item to pack). Cooking gear, gas cylinder, lighter or matches, plate, bowl, cup, mug, fork and spoon.
Wow when you look at it that way all those grams soon become kilos.
https://videos.files.wordpress.com/xLGMQgJM/img_0398-2.movI have given this thought whilst packing for hikes this year. I usually pack once, weigh it, try the full pack on, unpack and remove some ‘extras’. Then repeat. By the 3rd packing I am usually satisfied with the weight of about 14-15kg for a 1-4 night hike. A bit more for longer hikes, given the extra food requirements. The good news is that the pack will get lighter as I go, eating the meals.
What do I unpack? Usually things for which another packed item will suffice. I unpack my inflatable pillow and use clothes in a dry bag or my puffer. I unpack all those ridiculous extra snacks that I know I won’t eat. I no longer pack a plate, bowl, cup. I only take a ‘spork’ to eat with and eat out of the cooking pot, or packet. I don’t drink coffee or tea so don’t need a cup. Refillable water bottles or hydration pack are all I need. I may unpack the rain jacket, but this is a difficult one as I hate being wet. Would have to be 100% sure of fine weather to unpack this. I unpack the extra clothes I don’t really need. Embrace the dirty, grotty clothes and wear them daily. Change into clean ‘camp’ clothes to sleep in and put the dirty clothes back on the next day. Wear the same woolen socks for 2 (or more) days. You know what ? No one else hiking cares what you are wearing or notices how dirty it is because they are in the same boat!
As a final note, apart from my PLB there are a few things I must pack. A natural curiosity of the places I am heading to. A desire to learn along the way (anything from a type of flower I see, the call of a bird I hear, a culture I experience). And most importantly, always pack a sense of adventure. This weighs nothing but will provide many memories to cherish and stories to tell.