What's in Paul's Pack?

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Camping Special, April 1997

What's in Paul's Pack?

If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for you
By Brad Wetzler

Here it is from on high: Paul Petzoldt's time-tested backcountry musts, altered and updated for the nineties backpacker. Of course, Petzoldt assumes you'll know to bring the basics, as pictured at right: sleeping bag and pad, backpacking stove, appropriate boots and clothing, basic foodstuffs, etc. So think of the following as the necessary extras.

The Medicine Cabinet

  • Sunblock and lip balm
  • Medicated foot powder
  • Insect repellent. "But," says Petzoldt, "I still prefer long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and a hat. I'd rather not put that poisonous junk on my body unless the bugs are biting through my clothes."
  • Comb, to help the camper "maintain a semblance of civilization"
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Sleeping pills, which are useful for mild pain and for "restless nights on the cold, hard ground"

The Kitchen and Pantry

  • Pot grips
  • Collapsible plastic water jug
  • Powdered milk, which can be added to everything from spaghetti sauce to oatmeal
  • Blocks of cheddar cheese. "As much as you can carry," since it's high in both calories and protein.
  • Popping corn. "The social aspect of popping corn around a fire makes the treat invaluable."
  • Dried fruit and peanuts
  • Peanut butter, aka "the staff of life"
  • A flask of Jack Daniel's. "Some outdoorsmen welcome an evening drink," quoth the sage in The Wilderness Handbook. Not to be mixed with pain medication or sleeping pills, of course.

The Utility Closet

  • Compass and topographic maps. Each camper should carry his or her own set.
  • Heavy string (for repairing tent flaps, backpack straps, etc.), duct tape, needle and thread
  • Large serrated knife
  • Small notebook and pen
  • Candles
  • Deck of cards
  • Five-weight fly rod
  • Book on flora and fauna. "Any of the Peterson field guides," says Petzoldt. "And H. D. Harrington's Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains is superb."

Photograph by Frank W. Ockenfels 3

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