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EDUCATE

HOW TO | A LESSON IN PACK PACKING By Anne McGowan Development Communications Coordinator

Pack packing is taught at the start of many NOLS courses. Trip Davis

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s NOLS alumni, you know you should keep your sunscreen and water bottle or hydration system close at hand while backpacking, but what about your ultralight sleeping bag or weighty cook pot? Do they belong at the bottom, middle, or top of your pack? Former NOLS field staffing director and senior instructor Marco Johnson knows all the tricks for packing your pack in a way that emphasizes the ABCs of pack packing—accessibility, balance, and compression—and he walks through them in an easy-to-follow video. For step-by-step instructions, check out Marco on YouTube (search “nols how to pack a backpack” on YouTube).

For a quick refresher, follow these tips: • Squish your sleeping bag into a compression stuff sack, making it as small as you can, and push it to the bottom of your pack. You won’t need it until the end of the day, so the floor of the pack is a good place for it. • Follow up with a fuel bottle: its weight will help balance your pack, and keep-

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ing it below your food keeps rations from being ruined by leaked fuel. • Your sleeping pad and rolled-up camp chair go in next to protect the fuel bottle from possible puncture. • Stuff as much food as possible into your cookpot, close it, and place it in the pack so it’s flat against your back. This helps ensure balance, and your pack’s padded back piece should eliminate any discomfort from the cookpot. Stuff additional food that doesn’t fit in the pot into empty spaces in your pack. • Remove your shelter from its bag and use the shelter to fill any other dead space at the bottom of your pack. (My instructor used a technique she called Ninja fingers: hold fingers and thumb together, keeping them straight and stiff, then use them to jam fabric into empty spaces in your pack). Shoving your shelter deep into the pack also helps waterproof your sleeping bag. • Wrap your warm layers ( jacket, hat, gloves) inside your rain gear and store them in an outside pocket. This keeps your warm layers dry

and readily accessible. • Sunscreen, first-aid kit, trail food, water bottle, lighter, knife, compass— all the things you want to be able to access easily—should be stored in outside pockets, at the top of your pack in its “brain,” or in the pockets in your pack’s hip belt. • Last of all, place center poles for your shelter in an outside pocket and lash them securely. Marco, who has 635 weeks in the field and swears by the ABCs of packing, points out these tips come in handy whether you’re packing a backpack, a sea kayak, or horse-pack panniers.

Anne McGowan Anne grew up camping and hiking with her family. A Wind River Wilderness - Prime grad, she left newspaper publishing to write about all things NOLS.

NOLS Alumni Magazine - The Leader Spring 2018  

The Leader is the alumni magazine for NOLS, a nonprofit global school focusing on wilderness skills, leadership, and environmental ethics.

NOLS Alumni Magazine - The Leader Spring 2018  

The Leader is the alumni magazine for NOLS, a nonprofit global school focusing on wilderness skills, leadership, and environmental ethics.