Thursday, December 13, 2012

Staying Organized

In backpacking, staying organized on the trail usually means using multiple color and style stuff sacks to keep your stuff organized.  I learned that trick in 1971 while packing for Philmont and have used it for decades.  In ultralight backpacking, that usually means using various-sized zipper-type plastic bags or odor-proof bags to store tools, food and "smellables" along with a stuff sack or two.  With fewer bags, I've had no problem finding anything yet.
Red Mesh Stuff Sack - My "pocket items".
So why is the top bag sitting in my day pack a bright red mesh stuff sack?  Because that bag holds my "pocket items".  The items I will carry in my pockets for the trip.  When I arrive at the trail head and before getting out of my car, after spraying the bug spray on my legs, and slathering sunscreen on my face, I fill my pockets and leave the empty red stuff sack in the car.
This stuff sack keeps me from the panic of looking for my "pocket items" at the last minute, and allows me the time to organize them at the end of the previous trip.  It is so much better than reaching for my knife on the trail but not finding it.
Weight-wise, I add this amount to my clothing, hat and shoes for total "carried weight", like with skin-out weight.
So, just what goes in my pockets?
Pocket knife
Bug spray
Sun screen
Liquid hand sanitizer (very small to small sized, trip dependent)
Moist towelettes (2 or more in small zipper-type bag)
Compass/thermometer (or a more detailed compass for navigation, trip dependent)
Small wallet for essentials (packed that day)
Car key (house keys left at home)
Snacks (packaged that day)
Pocket items.  Missing is the sun screen, it is on the list to be replaced.
I also carry money in the stuff sack for trail head parking fees.
For pockets on the trail, I wear a long sleeve nylon fishing sport shirt with big front pockets and a pair of nylon trail zip-off pants with leg pockets, and side and rear pockets.  Everything has a particular place.  For example, when I need to check the compass direction I reach for my left chest pocket.  My knife is always in the right side hand pocket, and so-on.
Rewind to the 1980's...I used to wear a photographers vest in place of a day pack for my hikes.  It was quite convenient.  My poncho went into the back pocket, I carried a water bottle on a strap over my shoulder, and my camera gear and everything else found a home in the vest pockets, of which there were several.  I wore this vest through the early 1980's to the mid - 1990's on occasion until I moved on to a choice of backpacks, hydration packs or a waist pack.  It was a nice warm layer on cool days but not too hot except on the very hottest days (I'm talking about hiking in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Georgia).  I must have been a character to see hiking along with my stuffed vest, hiking boots and heavy camera gear.  But I'm still using the same pockets to hold the same things some 30 years later.  My, how life has changed and how it hasn't.
Back to the present...At home at the end of a day hike, I remove my water bladder and any other water bottles and wash and dry them, make a list to replace anything I've used, get a clean handkerchief and then empty my pockets, putting all that back into the red mesh stuff sack to be ready for the next trip.
Of all my organization tricks, this one seems to serve me the best.  It allows me to add water and food, grab my day pack and go quickly.
For backpacking trips, I expect things to take longer to be organized, but my "pocket items" are already done.  I just move the stuff sack from one pack to the other.  The bright red color helps me to make sure it is there before I cinch the top and go.

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