Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Full Sized Pillow

The packing is the hardest part.

As we prepare to embark on my first bIkepacking trip -- just a single overnight, a test run of sorts -- I'm dredging my memory for the packing lessons gleaned from the many bAckpacking experiences of years past. Starting with my first Conservation Corps end-of-the-trailwork-season-trip into Yosemite at age 17, I've learned how to pack better, how to whittle down the huge pile of stuff you think you can't live without to a much smaller pile of true essentials.

Every time you go on a trip like this, it feels like you have to figure it out all over again, reinvent the wheel, rewrite the list, re-tweak the system. Even in car camping, where there are practically no limits to what you can take, it helps immensely to have a decent, organized system for packing. Compare:

old system
From dirt & dogs

new and improved system
From dirt & dogs

Distilling those years of packing lessons, I'm remembering a few choice nuggets of wisdom.

1. Let the dogs carry what they can.
From dirt & dogs

2. You won't wear those extra two pair of shorts so don't even bother taking them. You'll come home in the same pair you left in, wore every day, and slept in, only they'll be 46 times filthier.

3. Always carry a couple of Q-tips. Aside from the sheer, exquisite luxury of getting desert sand and dead gnats out of your ears in the evening, you may need to use them for bartering services. For instance, if, say, you've taken along this great instant, no cook, just add water chocolate pudding mix and it turns out to be not a thick, lovely, smooth, creamy dessert but clumps of coagulated, flavorless, gelatinous brown matter floating in bubbles in your water bottle, you can usually get someone to drink it for you for the price of a couple of Q-tips. (We do not just dump that kind of crap on the ground when leaving no trace!)

4. Most importantly, no matter what else is eliminated for being too heavy or too bulky or inessential, TAKE A FULL SIZED PILLOW.

I'm quite serious. A good night's sleep -- or a crappy one -- makes such a difference in your overall experience. And you're carrying a gargantuan pack anyway; the addition of a light, fluffy, compressible pillow is nothing in relation to a pack twice the size of your own torso. Look at that pack:
From dirt & dogs

The pillow, which weighs practically nothing, is strapped to the top on the outside of the pack (not taking up essential space inside for TRUE essentials). You barely even notice it. No harm done. And everyone is completely jealous when you set up your bed and settle in comfortably for the night with a smug grin spreading across your softly-cushioned face instead of groping around, as they are, for rocks and shoes upon which to lay your weary head.

As I start the elimination process otherwise known as packing for this weekend's bikepack, I'm grateful to have a cute little under-the-seat bag to put everything in, on loan from our bikepacking friend Mike -- as well as his expert advice.
From dirt & dogs

The packing dilemma is easily resolved by someone with his knowledge and expertise. As all good advice is, Mike's was clear and concise, not bogged down with technical details:
From dirt & dogs

"Well, um, if you start by packing the red pumps *first*, and then the pillows, everything else should just ‘zip’ right in there…"

Maybe I'll eliminate one of the pillows.



  1. I just finished reading backpacking for dogs. I'm wondering if the terriers went with you?

  2. They did and they had a blast! Zillions of photos and story to come verrry soon!

  3. I had to chuckle at that first picture. A little "But where am I supposed to sit" look.