What’s in my pack? continued…


Home for the night

Personal items.


After I’ve settled on the perfect location to call “home,” and the tent is set up, my sleeping bag spread out to re-fluff itself, I clean up and change into my “clean” camp clothes.  If there is ample water this entails a sponge bath with a bio-degradable soap – currently, I’m a big fan of the Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash, Pocket Soaps.  They are little, dry leaves of soap that come in a tiny, super light plastic case.  They take up no space, are nice to your skin and are biodegradable.  One or two leaves to a half liter of water, and my 8″ x 10″ microfiber towel/cloth and I am clean!  After a sweaty, dusty trail day I like to wash up, as much as possible.  It helps prevent pack sores, chafing, rash, etc., and keeps your sleeping bag clean.  If I’m in a dry camp and don’t want to use the extra water, I carry a few fragrance-free baby wipes, preferably with aloe.  These will get the sweat and most of the dirt off until I arrive at another campsite with water.  Usually, I try to plan out ahead of time, if my campsites will be dry, or not and try to pack just enough wipes.  They are pre-moistened, so weigh a little more than the soap leaves.  Once I’m all nice and clean, I put on silk weight base layers, clean/dry socks and whatever insulation the weather calls for.  None of this is particularly heavy and really does feel good at the end of the day.  It’s worth the extra few ounces, to me.


Icky Water

Collecting and filtering water is usually next on my list of camp chores.  I carry a large 6-liter container to collect the unfiltered, “Icky” water.  I’ll then carry this back to camp, where I can sit comfortable and filter to my heart’s content.  Last summer I switched filtration systems.  I’ve used an old Pur Hiker set-up for years.  It works, but it’s heavy and slow and I have to sit there and pump the handle, and if the filter gets any sediment build-up in it, this can be a slow process.  My new, Katadyn Gravity Camp system requires no pumping, weighs about 10 oz (they say 12, but I get only 10 on the scale) and filters water fast! Fill it, hang it, open the hose clamp (it works like a giant IV bottle) and in a few minutes, you have 6 liters of clean water.  The cartridges are back-flushable and compact.  I rigged up a cheesecloth pre-filter for mine, and was able to filter Colorado River water for 5 days – it was running very red/brown when I was there – with no problems.

Clean Water


After cleaning up and changing clothes, and securing a supply of drinking water, I usually settle into my evening routine of setting up the kitchen and getting dinner ready.  After a “happy hour” of some sort of electrolyte drink (sometimes mixed with a shot of something fun) and a handful of salty, snack mix, I choose a “dinner ball” from my food bag.  Some of my favorites include Mountain House’s Biscuits and Gravy, Lasagna and/or Spaghetti.  I’ll add a packet of Tobasco sauce or some grated parmesan cheese “product” for extra flavor.  I also carry small (sub-film canister) containers of salt and pepper, as well.  That’s it for my pantry…

Happy Hour! The bar is open

The meal prep is pretty simple: Open the dinner ball, place it in the insulator/stove cover I made out of reflective double insulation, pour in the appropriate amount of boiling water, re-tie the plastic bag and wait 10 minutes.  The insulator works to keep the food hot, and when not serving that purpose, covers/protects my JetBoil stove when it’s in my pack.  It weighs less than 2 ounces and cost about 50 cents to make.

“Kitchen” and “Living Room”

After dinner, doing the dishes entails crumpling up the empty plastic bag/dinner ball, wiping any food residue off my spoon with an alcohol swab and letting things dry.  I’ve taken to “washing” dishes with alcohol wipes, as they are very small/light, the alcohol evaporates and leaves no flavor, you waste zero water.  In the desert, that is everything.  After packing away the kitchen, rehanging the food bag and making sure I’ve left no micro trash out, I drop the back of my chair a bit and relax.  I have a Big Agnes Cyclone chair that I’ve been using for several years, now.  I know, chairs are just a luxury item, and you don’t need one.  No, I need it.  There is nothing like being able to stretch my legs out and lean back after hiking all day.  It weighs less than 6 ounces, works with any 20-inch pad and is quite comfortable considering how simple it is.  Depending on h0w many miles the day covered, I’ll stay up and star-gaze. Or, crawl into my nest.  I may listen to some of whatever audio book I’ve got on my iPod Nano, or take in the local sounds – river, frogs, creek, trees/wind.  Sleep isn’t too far behind.



What’s in my pack?

My tent.

As I said before, I sleep in a tent.  Once upon a time, a well-known archaeologist, on a rock-art documentation trip, woke everyone up at 3 am.  She was screaming in pain, all tucked into her sleeping bag, on her groundsheet, after a night spent sleeping under the stars.  What happened? An inch-long scorpion decided to investigate the interior of her sleeping bag, and when the archaeologist rudely rolled onto it, it stung her on the shoulder.  This story disturbs me.  I don’t want it happening to me.  I sleep in a tent.


Yes, I know: tents are heavy, bulky, unnecessary, obscure your view of the night sky, etc.  They also offer privacy in crowded camping areas, shelter in foul weather and, most importantly (to me) keep uninvited creatures from visiting in the middle of the night.  Since weight is something I try to minimize I searched around and settled on a very comfortable, stable and lightweight, single person tent – the Seedhouse 1 SL by Big Agnes. If I leave the included tent pegs at home, it weighs in at around 2 pounds.  I cut my own footprint out of a piece of Tyvek 1443 R – it’s a soft, pliable form of Tyvek used to make kites and painters coveralls.  It is sewable, water-resistant and extremely lightweight.  I’ve also sewn a basic bivy sack out of it, and it works quite well.  But, I digress.

Tyvek footprint


Sleeping under the stars.

Once my little tent is set up, my 800 fill, 20 degree sleeping bag, made by the now-defunct GoLite company, goes in.  I love this sleeping bag, it’s warm and fluffy and weighs under 2 pounds.  This rests comfortably atop a Klymit Ozone pad, with a built-in, and comfortable, pillow.  The Ozone is a couple of ounces heavier than the, now very popular, Neo sleeping pads.  It’s also 100x quieter!  I’ve learned that the slightest motion on a Neo initiates a crinkling/crunching/crackling noise, reminiscent of the failed “SunChips” bags that made so much noise.   There is something about the sound of a crinkling potato chip bag, in the middle of the night, that sets my teeth on edge, like fingernails on a chalkboard.   And that’s just if there is one nearby, forget my trying to sleep on one.

Fifteen years ago, I was fine sleeping on a Z-Rest pad.  Super light, high R-value (thermal resistance), and it folded neatly on itself.  As my joints aged, I progressed to a ProLite self-inflating.  It was better, but not much.  To that, I added a closed-cell pad underneath.  Still, not quite right.  I have finally settled on the Klymit.  So far, so good.  Sleep is important to me.  I admire those that can just throw down a tarp and their sleeping bag and go into a coma for 10 hours.  I just can’t do it anymore.  Simply put, I need a cushioning layer between me and the ground.

Once I’ve selected the proper, level, clear site for my nest, I’ll move on to choosing locations for the “kitchen” and “living room.”  This includes appropriate places to hang/store my food, a stable base to set my stove on, and nice place for my chair.  A place to call home…