Strategic Packing: Weigh Your Options

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, June 1995

Strategic Packing: Weigh Your Options
By Sara Corbett

"When you don't have time to plan, the easiest thing to do is to overpack," says Bethel, Maine-based Outward Bound instructor Jim Dowd. "And a backbreaking load of life's little unnecessities can trash your weekend."

Beyond the basics, says Dowd, there's plenty you can leave at home or replace with lighter or more multipurpose alternatives. "A lot of people try to reduce weight in the wrong ways," he explains. "They drill holes in their toothbrushes and pit their plums--and then they tromp into the woods with big hatchets on their backs." Here are Dowd's secrets to loading the smart-but-svelte pack.

Rob yourself of space. Choose a weekend-size pack with a volume of about 3,000 cubic inches. "If you have a monster pack, you'll fill it," says Dowd. "A smaller one will make you practice triage."

Forget the tent. If you're not expecting serious storms, forgo the tent in favor of a tarp (which you can wrap around you if a light rain falls) and mosquito netting.

Keep the first-aid kit simple. "You just need the basics for boo-boos," says Dowd. He suggests carrying five Band-Aids, a few gauze pads, a small tube of iodine, a sheet of moleskin, aspirin or ibuprofen, tweezers, and a small elastic bandage.

Just point and shoot. "Some people presume they're Ansel Adams out there and bring a half-dozen rolls of film and gigantic, fancy cameras," says Dowd. "But are you really going to take more, or better, pictures than you would with a trusty pocket model?"

Bring botas. "You can't roll up a water bottle when it's empty--it takes up the same amount of space as one that's full. Bota bags let you stash a jacket or pack out garbage."

Floss a little, stitch a little. Dental floss can be something of a camping wonder. "Use it to sew up a pack strap," says Dowd, "or to get granola out from between your teeth."

Leave the library at home. "You can find consolidated field guides for most areas," says Dowd, "so your complete Peterson set should stay on the shelf. I bring a fat Tom Clancy novel-- it's lightweight, you can use it as toilet paper, and you won't feel bad about burning it when you're done."

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