Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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arlohike
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Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by arlohike » September 8th, 2018, 7:54 am

I hiked for a few years with only a small waistpack. This was just big enough for lunch, hat and gloves and a light rain jacket, and two water bottles on the sides, which is all I ever needed for winter day hikes of up to 20 miles. One thing I particularly liked about this setup compared to a backpack is that I could move things in and out of it without stopping.

Then after the Eagle Creek fire, I read about how 100 people were trapped above the fire and had to spend the night, and only 1 out of the 100 was equipped with the ten hiking essentials. I realized I didn't have to be lost 50 miles into a wilderness area to need emergency supplies, so I bought a proper backpack and stocked it with the ten essentials (I followed REI's list) and used it on every hike last season.

The problem I'm having now is that the backpack straps are rubbing on an old injury (I broke the same collarbone twice as a teenager) and causing a lot of pain on hikes 10 miles and longer. My doctor prescribed a topical anti-inflammatory, and I've experimented with extra padding, but haven't found a solution yet.

Then I saw a post where Don Nelson mentioned he usually only carries a small waistpack, and it got me thinking about minimalism again.

The backpack shown here is only about 1/3 full and weighs about 8 pounds. The bulkiest item is an insulated jacket, and the heaviest item is extra water. I'm mostly hiking within 90 minutes of Portland, so nothing really exotic, although I often hike in bad weather, and explore lost trails and old logging roads. So carrying most if not all this stuff seems wise.

What do you think -- should I reconsider what I'm carrying, or keep working on the problem of how to comfortably carry it? Maybe I just need a larger waistpack?
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retired jerry
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by retired jerry » September 8th, 2018, 8:01 am

a "space blanket" gives a lot of warmth for the weight and bulk. You'd want it on the outside for it to work optimally. Maybe have it instead of insulated jacket? Or a thinner insulated jacket?

would a different pack have the shoulder straps located at a different spot? What about a sternum strap?

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Aimless » September 8th, 2018, 8:14 am

As a thought, possibly combine a fairly small backpack with your waistpack, putting the heaviest items, like water, in the waistpack and keeping bulky lighter items like a fleece jacket in the backpack. I always carry enough on my day hikes to be certain I can spend an unscheduled night in the woods, not necessarily in comfort, but at least in safety. Exactly what that entails depends on the season and the weather forecast.

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jdemott
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by jdemott » September 8th, 2018, 9:07 am

I hesitate to suggest changes to what you carry since there are a lot of different possible conditions within 90 minutes of Portland during the course of a year. What you carry has to make sense to let you survive an unplanned overnight stay.

Does your old injury affect just one shoulder? Maybe a sling style backpack would work, with only one shoulder strap. I haven't used one, but I think there are a few available that are bigger than waistpacks.

If you're happy with a waistpack style, why not try to make it work? Put your bulkiest items (jacket and raingear) in a stuffsack and attach it to the bottom of the waistpack with straps. There should be room for everything else in a waistpack.

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maobie15
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by maobie15 » September 8th, 2018, 9:57 am

I've hiked with a few acquaintances over the years and they always seem to comment on and poke fun at the fact that I carry the 10 essentials every hike. However, I know that if I get stuck out overnight unplanned, I'll be safe and not even that uncomfortable. I keep all of my 10 essentials in a stuff sack so I can easily move them from pack to pack. I feel like having the essentials doesn't necessarily have to take up a lot of space and so if you can fine tune your system, you might be able to still fit it in a waist pack.

To lighten my load, I always carry a small water filter so I don't have to pack in a ton of extra water. I usually have what I'll need on my hike (so I don't have to stop and filter), but instead of extra water, I've got my LifeStraw or Sawyer Squeeze.

I had a friend who used a lightweight sponge to put extra cushion under the pack straps and that worked well. It was cheap (so she didn't care if it broke/ripped or she lost it) and was well padded. Maybe experiment with a pack with better padding or add extra?
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Waffle Stomper
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Waffle Stomper » September 8th, 2018, 10:27 am

arlohike wrote:
September 8th, 2018, 7:54 am
What do you think -- should I reconsider what I'm carrying, or keep working on the problem of how to comfortably carry it? Maybe I just need a larger waistpack?
By some people's standards I might carry too much. But when I do choose to lighten my load, I find waist packs uncomfortable when I include water and the 10 essentials. I do like Mountainsmith with the shoulder strap added. It makes the world of difference.
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Lurch
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Lurch » September 8th, 2018, 10:31 am

I would almost lean towards saying your pack is too small. Those 'lightweight' packs aren't really designed to be ergonomic, since they aren't really designed to hold much weight. Alternatively, you could also look at chest packs or vests.

If you're truly concerned about being stable in an emergency setting, (and this goes for everyone) you must practice! Don't let your first bivy with that gear be the time that your life depends on it. Plan a mock survival night, do a hike get back close to the trailhead and bed down. You have an easy bugout and car if needed, but you'll learn a lot about what gear you need vs what you have. Also, if we want to be serious about it, you can't do this in perfect summer weather if you're a year round hiker. The times you need shelter and fire are the hardest times to make them.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Aimless » September 8th, 2018, 10:42 am

The times you need shelter and fire are the hardest times to make them

Er, just don't make any practice fires right now, until fire restrictions are lifted.

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Chip Down
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Chip Down » September 8th, 2018, 10:51 am

arlohike wrote:
September 8th, 2018, 7:54 am
Maybe I just need a larger waistpack?
That was my first thought. I guess you know how uncomfortable that can get with nothing to prevent the constant drooping down your hips. I'd couple it with a single support strap over your good shoulder. I think the bigger models tend to come with anchor points, because manufacturers know people will want to do that. The asymmetry is a bit of a concern, but it won't be holding that much weight.

Comment on an unplanned bivy: Considering the extremely remote possibility of that happening, I don't advise carrying more than absolutely necessary. Assuming you're trail hiking, there's little that can go wrong. I can hear the collective sighs and eye rolling, but think about the news stories of hikers being rescued. How many of them involve experienced sensible hikers who stayed on trail? Almost none.

I went through an ultralight phase. I used to drop supplies on my way up as soon as I knew I could get by without them, and pick up on the way down. These days I find myself almost always doing loops, so that's not practical. Anyway, my pendulum has swung to the luxury side again.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Aimless » September 8th, 2018, 11:08 am

Situations that develop into search and rescues don't always involve one big mistake caused by inexperience. Occasionally, a "sensible, experienced hiker" will make a series of misjudgments, each one seemingly small and not necessarily a dangerous decision until it is viewed in retrospect. Pile a few of these misjudgments on top of one another and add a last piece of bad luck, and you're in deep trouble.

Not carrying sufficient food/water/clothing/gear to survive a night out is just one misjudgment that will rarely be enough in itself to cause a problem. To many experienced hikers, confident of their ability, ditching the extra weight looks like a good idea, not a bad one. If so, just be sure to bring a supply of good luck with you. You might need it.

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