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Packing Posted on 09.22.2011 by greg.kuchyt

“Grrrrrrrit, Grrrrrrrrit, Grrrrrrrrit”, I pause for a second and consider how odd it seems to be sitting on the floor in my gear room wearing shorts, with the ceiling fan on, sharpening my front points and the pick of my ice axe. Usually this is an activity reserved for the months between Dec and March. Yet, it’s August right now. I remind myself that the next couple weeks are going to be filled with things I’m not necessarily used to and finish sharpening things.

Packing is a necessary evil. It’s both enjoyable and downright miserable…sometimes at the same time.

What I’ve learned over the past couple of years though, is that packing is a learned art. The more I pack for trips, the better I get, the quicker it goes, and the less painful it becomes. It seems almost as if I am developing a template packing list that gets refined for the trip’s objectives, climate, and the season. Desert climbing in the fall? The essentials become down hoody for the mornings, the 20 deg. sleeping bag,  and lots of athletic tape to protect your hands from jamming. Sport climbing in the Southeast in the spring? Sunscreen, cut-off t-shirt, and shorts. Wait, maybe I should start writing this down and start a business as a packing consultant for adventure travelers…


About 3/4 of *my* gear for two weeks in Wyoming

Regardless, the process of preparing for a trip is all encompassing. Packing everything you need to live self-sufficiently for a few weeks ends up being a lot of stuff, even when you cut it down to the bare essentials. Inevitably you always forget things or remember things at the last minute. The day of departure is always a roller coaster ride of “oh shit, I almost forgot that” and “damn it! I forgot…” after you’re a couple hours into the travelling. For better or for worse, this is all part of the experience.

While so many aspects of packing and travelling are bitter-sweet, there is one truism. The worst thing you can do to a trip to complicate the packing and travel process is involve air travel. For the modern climber (or adventure traveller in general), nothing quite complicates the packing process like modern airline baggage policies. The packing process becomes a delicate ballet of dividing all the necessary pieces of gear between all the travellers and then splitting it up amongst the carry-on (usually the climbing pack) and a checked bag. As a climber it seems it’s always a super close call as to whether you will make it under the 50 pound bag limit.

Even with the added frustration of air travel, once you make it to your destination and manage to touch some real rock or get the first views of mountains, all the stress and frustration melts away and it all feels worth it. If you’re lucky you avoid any complications travelling (less likely if you’re unfortunate enough to have to fly) and maybe you’ll even figure out how to refine your packing system a little bit too. Inevitably, your time in the mountains will go by too quickly and you’ll find yourself packing once again, but this time with a lot less energy or aim. Although, you’ll probably be considering how you’ll pack differently for the next trip.