7 Packing Tips for a 7-Day Adventure

I stare into my gear room, aka my basement, in fear and awe of the packing I need to tackle the night before my seven-day ski traverse of the Pickets Range in the Cascades. What do I need to bring? Will I forget the most important item and what is it?

With so little time to pack for the adventures like my trip through the Cascades, a week in Moab, the Sierras and maybe a trek in Nepal or South America with the family, I Google packing lists and the results nearly send me to a bottle of Jim Beam. In the midst of my panic attack, I almost forget the most important packing principle: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

Don't forget the essentials: shelter, food, and clothing.

After 30 years of backcountry travel, I still find the process challenging yet rewarding. I avoid system overload by using the Seven P’s to organize; Perfect Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

First, I use a baseline list to include my most basic needs – clothes, food, and shelter. I go through each day of my trip and write out my fuel needs and then add equipment for the specific activity. If my baseline weight is too heavy then I reassess.

The more weight you bring with, the slower you’ll travel and your chances for success may decrease. No matter the type of, whether self-organized or guided, you need to determine between what you actually need versus want.

I find the wisdom of Ray Jardine, author and Godfather of fast packing, incredibly useful at explaining why light is right. Jardine’s devotion to lightweight travel helps me wade through many packing lists, and distill what I need to thrive on a weeklong adventure.

Below are 7 tips to help you pack for your next adventure:

Winter performance layers and light weight pack.

1.    Carry fewer clothes

This will make a significant difference by helping shed weight. For some this is heresy, they need clean underwear everyday! Certainly clothes and shelter are the easiest to examine. Temperature and weather forecast determine should determine what layers you need.

For every trip I plan to hike/climb/ski I wear one set of lightweight performance layers and sleep in a light long sleeve shirt, long lightweight underwear and socks to avoid blisters and chills. This system works well for three to four days of backcountry travel. For four to seven day trips, consider additional clothes to account for changing climatic conditions.

Packing for dry warm desert weather conditions:

  • Polypropylene t-shirt
  • Long sleeve polypropylene shirt – lightweight and light colored for sunny days.
  • Two synthetic sports bras
  • Lightweight soft shell jacket
  • Shade hat or baseball cap
  • UV Buff
  • One pair of liner socks ­– Polypropylene or Capilene
  • Two pairs of wool/synthetic socks
  • Two pairs of lightweight synthetic underwear
  • One pair lightweight soft shell pants
  • One pair nylon shorts

Packing for higher altitude above 10,000’, and temps between 25-70 degrees and wetter weather conditions:

  • One Hard shell jacket with hood, waterproof, less then 15 oz and breathable, roomy enough to fit over multiple layers
  • One Down/synthetic jacket with hood. My Choice is the Brooks-Range Mojave.
  • One pair liner gloves – thin wool or polypropylene
  • Warm wool or synthetic hat
  • Balaclava
  • One pair medium wool/synthetic socks
  • One pair lightweight long underwear – Polypropylene or Capilene
  • One pair waterproof and breathable soft shell pants with full side zips
  • One pair warm gloves – Schoeller/Wind stopper or wool
  • One pair shell gloves or mitts if encountering snow, on alpine climbs.
  • Gaiters – Make sure they will fit over boots for snow, dust and mud

2.    Footwear

If you plan to climb a route with snow and glaciers then a crampon compatible boot with the necessary level of insulation is needed. For mid summer climbing on peaks below 10,000 feet/3,000 meters you can try non-insulated boots. High altitude, wintertime ascents require insulated or double boots.

3.    Upgrade to a lightweight sleeping bag/pad

You can drop at least a pound or more by using a ultra-light 800g down bag. I use the Alpini 30 for nine months out of the year matched with midweight dry thermal layers in colder periods. At 23 oz. paired with a Therma-rest Neo air or Exped air mattress your sleep system remains under 3 lbs. Waterproof treatment makes the issue of wet down versus synthetic a moot point. To counter any dampness, carry a 7 oz bivy sac.

Sleeping Gear for winter/early spring and high altitude (above 10,000 feet/3,000 meters):

  • Sleeping bag rated between -20º-0º F. Line the stuff sack with a plastic bag.
  • Sleeping pad: full-length closed cell foam (mandatory) and Therma-Rest Neo-Rest air mattress for extra warmth and comfort.

Sleeping Gear for late spring through fall (below 10,000’/3,000 meters):

  • Sleeping bag rated between 20º-40º F. Line the stuff sack with a plastic bag.
  • Sleeping pad: Therma-Rest or Neo-Rest air mattress.

4.    Buy Lighter Packs

“The bigger the pack the more you put in it,” this could be a quote from Lao-Tzu but it’s a simple truth. The biggest pack I carry for a seven-day ski tour is 4,000 cubic inches or 60 liters.

Enjoying some grub and in our spring layers.

5.    Carry Lighter Food

This can be tough as easy choices are instant oatmeal for breakfast and freeze-dried dinners but precooked bacon with powdered eggs weigh about the same as oatmeal with a lot more calories and flavor. Miso soup packs as an appetizer, rehydrates, and provides extra calories while reducing the size of dinner you need. Couscous along with a variety of sauce pastes with dehydrated vegetables and flat foil packets of tuna, salmon or chicken give you a large combination of dinners without breaking the bank and your digestive system.

Lunch should include a combo of nuts, chocolate, maybe a nut butter, and jerky or a dry meat alternative to keep consistent calories coming in without overdoing it with energy gels. Nuun water tablets pack a lot of electrolytes but not a lot of weight. For coffee people, Starbucks Via nails your need.

6.    Shelter

Floorless tents/tarps offer great cover, often weigh only ounces, and work great on ski tours when camping on snow and during mid summer on dry ground with limited bug problems.

The next shelter level includes single-wall tents or a mesh tent body to accompany your tarp/floorless tent.

Severe weather conditions such as persistent rain, wind, or snow demand tents with a rain fly, vestibule and ample space for your equipment. I use several different 4-season tents depending on group size. For two people, I prefer the B-R Invasion tent, which is ideal for light and fast trips in colder weather. I use Hilleberg hoop tents when travelling in larger groups and when staying in one camp for more than two days.

The 7 Day Picket Traverse Pack.

7. Carry necessary items that collapse down or perform dual functions

I use water bags and a steripen to avoid metal bottles that take up space when empty. I use flat wear bowls, which double as a cutting board. Titanium sporks and pots help lighten the load. For hot drinks I use a small thermos, which is essential for winter/early spring trips.

These packing guidelines provide a framework to plan for any activity. When switching from hiking to skiing to rafting, you only need to add the specific equipment and style of camping.


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Light is Right: One man’s list for mountain travel

Forrest MacCarthy recently completed an Alaskan Ski Race across the Brooks Range and posted his lightweight gear list here with his opinions on the gear’s performance. As we enter prime ski touring season in the NW I thought It would be good to highlight some of what I think works as it relates to this tested list.


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Spring Hazards bring May Disasters

Spring Hazards

Full disclosure or true confessions, I love the Cascades so much my wife considers herself a widow from Mid-March to Memorial Day. The Spring Equinox means longer days, a Lin Schredding the Nisquallysettling snowpack and longer tours. In the Northwest we look to the high alpine for long descents off the volcanoes, touring into the North Cascades and Olympics as road access opens up previously remote destinations. High alpine traverses get done under long sunny days so what is the catch? Avalanches, very dangerous avalanche conditions that surprise us when we were expecting to reap the rewards of a long winter. The factors that catch us center around our decision making and communication regarding our ability to actually see the transitional nature of the snowpack and our willingness to take more risk under warm, sunny skies.

Human Factors dominate because recent accidents in Washington and Colorado show high levels of education do not keep people from making mistakes. Errors that go beyond the actual hazard occur when trust creates the sense that everyone is thinking the same thing. People describe complete trust as not requiring communication, which does not

G. Grove_Shuksan Arm Slides

G. Grove_Shuksan Arm Slides

work in a complex environment such as a transitioning snowpack from winter to spring in challenging or complex terrain. The wide range of variables requires everyone to express both their personal and environmental observations. This free exchange of information keeps everyone engaged in risk management, which increases trust, not undermine it.

The other error educated and experienced people make (aka, the Confidence Curve) is not recognizing that their actual experience may not include extraordinary conditions that exceed what they have witnessed before. If you toured for 2-4 seasons and rode a variety of terrain, you may not have witnessed remote triggering, deep slab releases and surface hoar human triggered D 2.5 or larger avalanches. This relates to the confidence curve, which is reset when one actually experiences one of these events. One of these avalanches usually surprises us by exceeding what we anticipated the terrain could produce or that we triggered something that big and destructive. Hopefully this only results in a near miss or minor injuries and a brand new awareness of what is possible.

The Ides of March bring a whole new level of stress to the winter snowpack in the form of Solar Radiation. The heat of the longer days and more direct solar input into the snowpack add stress the surface as well as the mid-pack as melt water percolates into older layers and breaks down bonds. The initial period when the winter snowpack still holds variation of layers and temperature struggles with the rapid addition of heat.

Spring rain provides another dose of heat and stress to the snowpack and alters stability rapidly. Showers can arrive with warm air and transform lower elevation areas into dangerous isothermal conditions where the entire snowpack loses cohesion. New Snow Avalanches, Wet Loose Snow Avalanches, and Deep Wet Slab Avalanches (Climax slides) all occur due to the increase of heat from rain and sun.

Timing becomes an important part of your travel plan as the South/Southeast aspects heat Breithorn Summer Wet Loose Slideup in the early am and can begin shedding by 10:30-11 and continue around to the southwest aspects by early afternoon. In the Rockies, spring storms bring warmer, denser snow that adds larger loads to fragile snowpack creating the threat of large avalanches like the Sheep Creek slide at Loveland, CO.

High alpine descents and traverses require good timing and a reasonable weather window to avoid increasing avalanche hazard preventing you from returning to the valley safely. Icefalls occur on glaciers, a result of glacier motion. They are triggers for large and deep avalanches as the ice can weigh thousands of pounds and fall great distances onto slopes below. It can snow in the alpine zone (above tree line which varies from the coast to the Rockies) year round. White outs increase the hazard with loss of visibility so trip planning is essential for high alpine adventures.

Options and several exit routes become a necessary part of your planning. I often look at my objectives and select several on both sides of the Cascade Crest to use the rain shadow to give me a bad weather option if the weather looks warm and wet.

The equipment necessary to tour in the spring includes several items that help manage the melt/freeze surface conditions.
• Ski Crampons-allow you to engage the skins on firm crusts and continue to skin versus continuing on foot.
• Boot Crampons-allow you to climb in the early am on glacial terrain and firm snow safely.
• Ice axe-for terrain steeper than 35 degrees one axe is necessary to ensure you have a tool capable of swinging into ice or neve.
• Whippets-work and are optional as they do not completely replace an axe as stated above.
• GPS-recommended for long trips above treeline.

The avalanche danger exists well into spring and we all need to remain attentive to the same issues with our decision-making. We need to understand we will never know everything and trust improves conversation, not negate it.

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Mountain Fitness Model by Rob Shaul

A great breakdown of what mountain fitness looks like and how it differs from general fitness programs.

Mountain Fitness Model by Rob Shaul

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Resetting Goals-Recalibrating expectations when Mother Nature has other plans

Early Season Fever

Every fall in the NW the weather cools down, the precipitation picks up and the skis come out of thecloset ready for another season of adventure! Goals and dreams become plans for tours and climbs in my backyard and more exotic locales, partners sit down with beers and schedules made, plane tickets purchased. What happens when Mother Nature does not show up? Lean snowpacks, warm temperatures, shrinking glaciers can alter the best laid plans. Andrew McLean recently wrote about Redefining Challengein his blog as part of his personal avalanche avoidance practices. After counting 39 avalanche fatalities in North America I feel this topic needs a bit more detail to help us find options in face of less than optimal conditions.

I see redefining challenges falling under 4 distinct conditions/situations:
• Low Snow;
• High Hazard;
• Low Fitness;
• Post injury.
Ways to approach each situation requires us to look for:
• New Zones;
• New Risk;
• New Skills.

Cornice on the Exit Chute

High Avalanche Hazard might present the easiest solution; just avoid avalanche terrain. You can ride at the resort, go nordic skiing, play with your kids or discover a new area. Find a New Zone that you have not been to before that offers sheltered riding. Take an Advanced Touring or Level 2 Avalanche course to understand how to tour plan and evaluate terrain and snowpack with greater depth of understanding and use these skills to discover great tree skiing. This season I did this at Roaring Ridge on the East end of Snoqualmie Pass and enjoyed 2 dozen great powder days without another soul crossing my tracks or stressing about dangerous terrain since most of my runs were under 30 degrees and moderately timbered with new and old growth forests for 2,000+ vertical feet.

Low Snow can present High Hazard and just as likely as to leave hazards on the ground unburied. This falls under New Risks and requires one to develop a light touch to their riding. Your favorite spots may be un-skiable with only 2-4 feet of snow. Ground level risks take a more subtle appreciation of possibly injury due to a run in with a stump , log or boulder barely covered.

Staff Infection - Post surgery

Low Fitness/Post Injury require a similar approach since poor fitness may result in an injury just as likely as re-injuring by trying to comeback before a full recovery. New Skills often come from a new tack on reclaiming your fitness, such as yoga, crossfit and cycling. Patience, planning and discipline will facilitate long-term gains and recovery. I spent the last 2 years rebuilding my left shoulder from two separate incidents that erased two years of rock climbing. Athletes such as Beth Rodden , Steve House and Kelly Cordes have suffered from major injuries and each one has provided great insight into how they over came them through persistence and training.

I find the day to day challenge of progressing in my chosen path is not linear, number based or ranked on any list. It requires meeting the conditions on any given day and pushing the appropriate limit that the hazards permit, which means laps of vertical in the trees when persistent weak layers keep me off steep terrain or climbing 5.7s til my shoulders allow me to pull harder.

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