These are some general tips for packing your backpack correctly. Using a system to pack ensures you will have a comfortable hike, and be able to get at the items you need without emptying your pack.
Organize everything with ziplock bags, and light weight stuff sacks. I usually put small items into ziplock bags with similar small items. For example [toothbrush, tooth paste, floss]. Then I put all of my items into 5 or 6 different colored stuff sacks. I use the following sacks
- One for food (I usually carry most of the food for both angela and I)
- One for clothes
- One for miscellaneous trail essentials (head lamp, compass, sunscreen, spare batteries … basically anything besides food I may want on the hike in)
- First aid kit
Start by lining your pack with a trashbag. This will keep everything nice and dry (which can be critical)
Pack your sleeping bag at the bottom of the pack On some packs, there is a zippered opening at the bottom of the bag, known as the sleeping bag compartment, for this purpose.
The bottom of the pack is also a good place for other items you won’t need until you get to the hut: long underwear being used as sleepwear, pillow case, extra layers you don’t expect to use on the hike, toiletries.
Your heaviest items should be placed 1) on top of your sleeping bag and 2) close to your spine. Usually these items will be: Food bag, and water bottle(s). Note your water needs to be close to your back yet readily accessible on breaks. I usually slip it into my hydration bladder holder. Stuff clothes and other stuff sacks around these items to hold them in place.
Near the top of my pack I put an extra layer, my shell jacket, and my micro spikes (near your back). At the very top I pack a down jacket.
Prepare your pack for efficient break stops.
Making good use of break time is essential. We wont take long breaks to avoid getting cold, and to keep an over all good pace. This means you need to be able to accomplish a lot of tasks while on break. In 10 minutes you need to eat, hydrate, put on sunscreen, change layers, and stay off your feet. This means thinking ahead.
These items need to be very accessible. I would pack them in the extra pockets on your pack (lid, front, on hip strap). I would keep anything that can be crushed / broken in the top lid or hip pockets. This will allow you to turn your pack over and sit on it when you are on breaks.
- First aid Kit (not a full kit but at least blister protection, and any medicine you may need)
- Sunscreen / lip balm
- Warm hat and gloves
- I either wear a hooded layer or keep a hat in my pocket. Putting on or taking off a hat is a quick way to adjust temperature without stopping
- I keep my mittons (or warm gloves) carabinered to my waist strap. I keep handwarmers in the mittons and cynch them shut. This allows me to easily get my hands warm if needed.
- Snacks (I keep these in the pocket of my down coat at the top of my pack)
- map & compass
When you are hiking you are usually quite warm. When you stop on break any sweat you have built up makes you chill easily. This process of chill / overheat will contribute to wearing you out faster. Therefore a good idea is to keep your down coat or another warm layer at the top of your pack. I put my snacks and other items I know I will want in the pocket of the coat. When we stop on break the first thing I do is put on my jacket.
Snowshoes & Poles
You need to plan for possibility (even probability) that some of the time you will need to carry your snowshoes. You should figure out how to attach your snowshoes to your pack in the comfort of your living room, not on the trail.
There are basically three approaches to attaching snow shoes. I have listed them in order of my preference
1) On the sides of the pack. Most packs have compression straps used to compress the contents of the pack. If you open them all the way you should be able to get your snowshoes under the compression straps and then re cinch them.
2) Under pack lid. You can set them sideways under your pack lid then tighten your pack lid back down.
3) on the front of the pack in a shovel pocket or secured with bungie cord. This is the least desirable as they will feel quite heavy pulling on your shoulders from this angle. They are also more prone to swinging around.