Friday, August 5, 2011

What do you carry in your day pack?

Hendrik Morkel wrote an interesting post on his blog about the essential items in your pack. If you don't follow Hendrik's blog I recommend it highly. My approach to gear organization & packing has changed recently so I thought it might be fun and possibly interesting to write a follow-up post to Hendrik's original question.

If you asked me 2 years ago what was in my day pack I would have chuckled. I typically pulled my gear together just prior to the trip. The process wasn't a particularly efficient solution but it worked for me. Occasionally, I'd find myself with too much gear or worse than that I'd forget something. Ultimately, day hikes are just not that critical so it was never really a problem. Now that we have a 2 year old and a 2 month old around the house, I have significantly less free time. I've noticed that this keeps me from getting ready for my longer trips until the dead last minute which can be a little stressful. I'm an analytical guy so after noticing that getting ready for trips was beginning to be no fun I changed the process. The biggest improvement? Keeping my base gear in a pack and ready to go. Simple & effective. So now the big question... What's in there, Don?

I keep the day pack loaded with the essentials to get through an unintended overnight.That strategy is more of an outcome of having the core prepared for packing for bigger trips but its a nice benefit. In short, there's minimal shelter, limited food, water treatment, first aid, fire starting capabilities and a few personal conveniences.

This is what I carry - revel in the brilliance
  1. Food - In this case, ramen with the spice pack replaced by miso, a block of dark chocolate, a pack of instant grits and some Starbucks instant coffee.
  2. Wet Wipes - Becoming a dad has taught me the wonders of these.
  3. Cook kit - My go-to kit is the Trapper mug paired with a Caldera Cone system (more detail on that below) & a few ounces of Heet fuel.
  4. Utensils - Ti spoon & free chopsticks because its just not proper to eat ramen with a spoon. ;) They're resting on a neoprene sunglasses case I use to protect my phone when its in the pack.
  5. Shelter - MLD tarp packs small and light. Perfect shelter from unexpected rain showers.
  6. Essentials - Mini compass, mini whistle & eLite headlamp.
  7. Stakes - To stake things.
  8. Water treatment - Aquamira Frontier Pro & rolled up 1L Platypus.
  9. Miscellaneous - MSR towel & 50ft of reflective line stored in my rock bag.
  10. First Aid - more detail on that below.
  11. Miscellaneous conveniences - more detail on that below
So first a little detail on the cook kit. I've spent a LOT of time over the past few years testing gear in the lab (read: kitchen) and out in the field. Jenny has discovered me on more than a few occasions to find me with alcohol stoves, fans, thermometers and spreadhseets taking over the kitchen. I used to default to my Snowpeak canister stove but I prefer my Trail Designs Caldera Cone system paired with the Trapper mug now. Its small, light, quiet & efficient. Who could ask for more? I keep a few ounces of Heet (yellow bottle) in an old contact solution bottle. (reduce, re-use, recycle, right?)

Trail Designs Caldera Cone & Trapper mug

My first aid kit is pretty simple and I assembled it myself. I keep it in a snack sized ziplock bag. Most commercially available systems are expensive and seem to have either too much or too little. Example: blister treatment. Most of the items in the photo are self explanatory. Let me know if you are interested in a little more detail.

I keep a few conveniences / essentials in a Granite Gear silnyl envelope. From left to right: firestarter packets, Rite In The Rain notebook, pencil (because pens always seem to dry up), mirror, suntan lotion & Dr. Bronners in mini-droppers, the greatest knife on earth & toothbrush / toothpaste.

Most important of all is to remember that there's no right or wrong answer. I had a lot of help putting the photos for this post together from Kate. When I asked her what her essential gear list looked like I got a radically different answer (see photo below). Ultimately, its all about priorities and experience.

So now the question is... What do you carry in your pack?

Kate and her essentials - Its a very princess themed pack but I'm still proud. She's chosing UL princesses at least!


  1. What do you have wire ties in your first aid kit for?

  2. Bike repair emergencies. Best place to keep up with them. ;)

  3. Hello,

    Found your blog via the GossamerGear blog!

    I had never actually put together my day hike weight... so thanks for posting this!

    A day hike for me is pretty XUL these days:

    Looks like my day-hike setup is: 9.875 ounces [0.038 lb / 17.49g] for BPW - and 3.64 pounds FSO.

    Clearly different set of goals and safety factors involved in how you and I go about day hikes - which is part of the awesome aspects of hiking!

    I am not really sure why you would need 5 zip-tie-outs for a day hike... you could carry 30 feet of cordage (even heavy and strong Dyneema cordage) - and it would weigh less and provide countless more uses for you. I almost never see anybody hike with zip-ties, more or less 5 of them. What is your thinking for having 5 zip-ties?

    btw, that is a really big thing of toothpaste for a day-hike :-D

    Again, Thanks for posting this!! Subscribed to your blog!

    John B. Abela

  4. John, thanks for the comment. I've been following your site for awhile now. My day hike kit is obviously massive overkill but it serves to get me prepared quickly for overnight trips so there's a logistical balance there.

    Zipties - that's mainly for bike repairs and moving my Garmin mount around. More of a convenience than necessity to be sure. I use the cord in my rock bag when I need a short length for a repair or task.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Keep the comments coming.