View Full Version : Pack volume/methods/strategies.

2007-01-02, 13:23
What items do you try and keep compact?
What items do you allow to take up more space?
Where in you pack or on your body do you carry stuff?
If you carried a small hobo stove, where would you carry it?

My clothes don't take up too much space because I tend to keep my heavy sweater on and everything else tends to be very packable, and usually finds a place inside or outside the pack as an afterthought. My sleeping gear and shelter I have mixed feelings about. It tends to take up a lot of volume but doesn't really require the backpack to be all that strong, unless I use the backpack or stuff bags to compress it. My current preferance is to carry all this stuff in a lightweight but high volume backpack of a simple trash can type design with just one opening on the top. I am a great believer in blue foam pads but they do take up a lot of volume and they can be awkward even though they are not heavy. My current thinking is to have them the same width as the backpack is in height, and have them cut up into pieces to fit around the sides and back on the inside of the backpack. For my small daypack which is big enough for daytrips in winter and short 2-3 day excursions in summer I am able to fit two pieces of 16"x24" for 16"x48" overall, which is not big enough really. I would like the daypack to be bigger and lighter but I like its simple design.

My navigation/water/cooking/firstaid/repair items I would prefer to have in a small pack in front attached to the backpack by the shoulder straps and a waist strap, but not a hip belt as long as I keep the total weight down. The total weight depends mostly on how much food I carry. In winter I might avoid a hip belt by using a sled instead. I like two water bottles, one on each shoulder strap or on the sides of the front pack. The other items, particularly the cooking stuff, I have not been able to workout a suitably compact arangement for. I burn wood fuel where I hike, and this makes the nesting and packing of the stove a little more complicated. I carry a few items in my pockets, usually on a lanyard, but I would also like a place for them in this pack also. My gut currently takes up some of the space where this pack would go, but I would like to replace my gut with a front pack in due course. The main things I like about this approach is it allows the straps to be worn looser and when I stop I can sit on the backpack and access everything I need in the front pack, and also get at everything in the front pack even without stopping. The limitation is once you are carrying much more than 25 pounds I think your spine is better off if you put everything on your back with a slight lean forward to put more weight on your hips, but I don't thing a traditional backpack makes sense if you are only carrying 15 pounds, especially a traditional backpack that might weigh 5 pounds alone. As food goes, the food I carry is usually fairly dense, like honey, and raisins/nuts, but some of it is a little less dense, like oatmeal, and skim milk powder. I would like it to be evenly distributed such that the less dense stuff in in the backpack and the more dense stuff is in the front pack, in keeping with the overall theme. I think on average my food takes up about 1-2 litre per day, and about 1-2 pounds per day, with more dense food chosen for longer trips, especially in winter.

As far as backpack dimensions go, the simplest daypacks seem to go from the small of your back up to your shoulders, but to extend down further they need to curve out with you spine, and so you would need to add some complexity and the weight of a hip belt one you intend to carry more volume or more weight on your back. If the simple daypack extends upwards it tends to angle back, which is OK because it allows you to tilt your head back, but eventually the weight up there is cumbersome, even if it is not that dense. It is debatable whether it might be better to leave this space for stuff to be added on the outside, or incorporated as additional volume on the inside. I am hoping to keep the weight and volume and complexity down by using the front pack. I have used a large fanny pack for this and it worked well but I thinkg it was heavier than it needs to be and some of the paddding and strapping was redundant with the backpack. I am aiming for a backpack of a simple box shape, large enough to fit a 72" blue foam pad, perhaps two in winter but in winter I might have a sled. I like a 28"wide pad in winter, to avoid condensation in contact with cold ground if I roll around, but I might get it down to 24". This makes for a pack 24" high, which I think I have room for on my back without getting down to the curve of the spine. The width I would like to keep narrow enough for cross country skiing, which is 14" for me I think. To do the 72" in two lengths this means the pack would be 11" deep. The total volume would then be 24"x14"x11"= 3696 ci. One 72"x24"x3/8" pad would take up 648ci. I could carry 2-4 36"x24"x3/8" pads depending on the season. Anyhow, this still seems to leave plenty of volume, especially as it would probably bulge out some. Since the stuff in the pack would be low density I don't thing the back would need padding, but I could add some later and the pack could also serve as the pad for my lower legs. The front pack I am not sure of dimensions yet. For the front pack dimensions space is somewhat more limited, but there is a lot more space there than many people realize, unless you are doing serious climbing. I think the critical consideration for hikers is that it is important to be able to see your toes of your forward foot when you place it, if only out of the corner of your eye. This is not just so you don't trip, but also just to make walking easier. Uphill it is easy to keep an eye on your feet. It is when walking downhill that it might be harder to see where you are stepping if there is something in the way. Still, I think something as thick a 4" at the middle of your chest is not too thick, and this can increase to 6" or even 8" at you gut unless your gut has aready filled the available space. For width I would like to remain within 14" again, but when not cross country skiing I have found that you can actually carry a 28" wide sleeping pad there very comfortably, and it make a good elbow rest while hiking. I would like to try a front pack something like 12"tall, 6" wide, 6" deep, with two 4" water bottle holsters on the sides. This is a volume of 432ci, plus the two water bottles. Some items, might nest in with the water bottles or take their place. I am not sure how well everything I want would fit in there, and what subcompartments or pockets or fasteners might be handy. A lot depends on the dimensions of the stove and pots and first aid and repair kit and so on. It would seem however that it might be useful if some of these kits were square rather than cylindrical. The other alternative might be to carry the water and food in the square middle of this front pack and use the side hosters for stove and other kits in round tins. Getting back to the design of a woodstove/windscreen for such a system, and the various pots and firestarters and whatnot that go with it, I have not yet worked out whether it is better to have the stove collapseable or to have stuff nest inside of it.

Final question to ponder? When carrying hot water in cold weather, as I sometimes do, like in a wineskin or flask, are there some parts of the body it is better to carry hot water next to. Are there some parts of the body to avoid. I have found it comfortable to have water on the sides, in front. On the other hand I have found it uncomfortable to have hot water, or cold water, against the kidneys or the solar plexus. This would favour the idea of a front pack with the water bottles on the sides and general items in the center. You really don't really want anything too solid against your solar plexus however. The design of a wood burning stove depends a lot on how and where you intend to pack it, for easy access, but also comfortable carrying. Another argument for simple alcohol stoves perhaps, but I would still end up making a few wood fires, which leaves the question open as to the best outfit for a small wood stove, even as a backup. Also, not sure where I would want to put my hatchet, when I carry it. I guess you always need a spot for something extra.

The other thing that throws a wrench into the works is packing a bike if you combing biking with hiking. The bike seems to have even less volume available, and forces you to divide things up evenly in both weight and volume, and split it side to side rather than back to front. Perhaps the backpack and frontpacks need to be split down the centre, and then clipped onto the bike somehow, left and right.

2007-01-02, 20:27
Jak here is a nice stove real flat and the price is right i got one not fire it up yet but i will as soon i get off my -----


2007-01-02, 21:45
Jak the e mail i sent you i just tried it with the can deal not so good but hear a better one for you. The hand soap burns 12 mi. the Sterno 10 mi. that was a teaspoon full on both this set works great i use a tea candle tin to put the steno and soap in it not a boil but dam hot about 6 oz. water
http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d52/oops62/th_handsoap.jpg (http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d52/oops62/handsoap.jpg)

2007-01-03, 12:02
Hand soap eh? Interesting. I tried burning some bacon fat last night in a tealight tin. It was slow but hot and seemed a little better behaved than canola oil, but not as well behaved as beeswax. It's a good option though in winter when it is nice to take a pound of bacon into the woods. I am still working on a lantern/stove that can also serve as a wood stove. I think I just need to use one of those coleman lantern replacements and find a way to pack it. Then maybe something underneath and something on top.

2007-01-04, 06:52
These days the only bulky piece of kit I take is my trusty old favourite Kelly Kettle. For my money this is still the most efficient wood burner available, and it suits my boil and rehydrate cooking technique. But it is hard to put a positive spin on the space it takes in my pack, and for this reason I generally use it on shorter trips of up to five days.

I've been carrying a Starlite 05 for a year or so now, and my tent (Tarptent Rainbow) fits nicely in the long side pocket, and with this pack the sleeping pad provides back padding and support - it has its own pocket. So yeah, that kettle is the only awkward thing I have left. Too bad - I really like the thing.



2007-01-04, 13:14
Hi PKH. Happy New Year. I usually carry my Kelly Kettle in the mesh pocket on the back of the backpack, but if it is just the daypack it is either in it or on it. I should make a mesh pocket for my dayback. I agree that it seems akward, but I haven't come up with a wood burner yet that is less awkward. It seems if you make something more compact you might deal with less awkward volume but more awkward mess. If you make something really simply then you might have less awkard volume and less awkward mess but you then deal with awkward boil time or tippiness issues.

How do you deal with snow melting when you use the Kelly Kettle? I am usually able to avoid melting snow because there always seems to be enough open water about, which is probably your case also, but what do you do as a backup? I'm thinking three rocks and a metal mug or a corked flask would be enough, as long as I carry either a metal mug or a corked flask, then pour the meltwater into the Kelly Kettle for the final boil. I figure if it gets more involved than that, like wind screens and whatnot, then I might just leave the Kelly Kettle home. Or have you been able to melt snow in a Kelly Kettle?

Also, what do you carry water in with the Kelly Kettle. I still tend to favour at least one wide mouthed Nalgene bottle, because I like to carry hot drinks on the trail and the water out of the Kelly Kettle is boil hot, too hot for a PET I am thinking. So I figure either 2 Nalgene,; 1 Nalgene & 1 PET; or 1 Nalgene & 1 Wineskin. For winter I would like to go with 1 Nalgene & 1 Wineskin & 1 Metal mug that the Nalegene nests in. The metal mug is somewhat redundant but gives me something to eat oatmeal out of when drinking coffee or tea out of the Nalgene, and something to melt snow in if I need to. The wine skin is for the extra capacity but also as a hot water bottle while sleeping or hiking. It is not so much to keep me warm while hiking but for me to keep from freezing while I hike. For a while I was taking the swiss corked flask instead of the Kelly Kettle because it packed smaller, but I have abandoned that because it got too messy and the inside of the flask too foul.

So when carrying the Kelly Kettle:

Kelly Kettle = 900ml
Metal Mug = 500ml
Wide Mouthed Nalgene = 1 litre
Wine Skin for extra water = 1.5 litre

Spring/Summer Fall:
Kelly Kettle = 900ml
Metal Mug = 500ml
Wide Mouthed Nalgene = 1 litre
Maybe a couple of small PETs instead of wine skin.

I am still trying alternatives to the Kelly Kettle, but haven't really found one yet that I really like. Sometimes I just leave it home and the the rock & windscreen thing. I would at least like a small stand for the Metal mug, other than rocks. Ideally it would also work as a candle lantern/stove when just simmering tea while reading at night, but that can get complicated and redundant fast also. It might be best to have a tealight lantern, simple mug stand and wind screen, and Kelly Kettle as 3 separate items, each kept simple and beautiful in their own way.

What do you think?

2007-01-04, 18:32
Jak here is a nice stove real flat and the price is right i got one not fire it up yet but i will as soon i get off my -----


Does that Small wonder Stove have a grate? Or does the wood (whatever) just sit on the ground?

2007-01-04, 19:53
Yep its got a grate but no holes just side holes

2007-01-05, 10:42
I've been wondering about a grate or bottom of the stove myself, wondering if it might be better to have one or always use some bark or whatever is available, even on snow. I was thinking one solution would be to have a bottomless stove but have a tin with a tight fitting lid that you fill with stuff to make char and use that as the bottom of the stove, so it insulates the fire from the ground while at the same time makign char for the next fire.

2007-01-05, 15:59
I've been wondering about a grate or bottom of the stove myself, wondering if it might be better to have one or always use some bark or whatever is available, even on snow. I was thinking one solution would be to have a bottomless stove but have a tin with a tight fitting lid that you fill with stuff to make char and use that as the bottom of the stove, so it insulates the fire from the ground while at the same time makign char for the next fire.

JAK - I've found that for when and where I use one, a grate on the bottom, especially with holes for draft, increases the efficiency a lot. I use top down burning exclusively and getting that updraft through the grate is really needed.

Also, I find that the grate just makes things kinder to the ground. Along that thought, I found that using one of those flame protector pads that the plumbers use is really good - non-asbestos only. Wouldn't care to carry an asbestos pad around in my pack. Mine is 9" x 12", black. Insulates the ground and makes use in snow even better. A few twigs on the snow, the pad then the stove and you're good to go. When done, shake it off, fold it back up, insert in plastic bag and pack. Weighs about 8 oz. You could cut that in half by cutting the pad in half with scissors to 9" x 6" or whatever dimensions you want.

2007-01-08, 19:03
my pack is a golite gust. waaay much room. plus i added two side mesh pockets and an elastic/web grid.

i'm big on my whole kitchen fitting inside one pot. don't like it all over the place, so i guess that counts as 'squishing'.

i'm not big on squishing my down bag or underquilt. i have a WM Caribou that fits inside the bag i used to use for a TNF Thunderhead, so it's about half again as big as it needs to be. but the bigger stuff bag makes for a nicer pillow. the underquilt goes in the JRB sack it came with. i don't jam it down as tight as i could. just enough to get it shut.

my bag, underquilt, extra clothes, rain gear/umbrella, kitchen, hammock, and foodbag go in my pack. i have a larger 2l bladder that goes on the very top, inside, if i use it (usually filled at the last water stop before a dry campsite and so no carried too far, hopefully.)

any wet gear (tarp, raingear, socks) goes outside, under the elastic, as does a 9 x 14 blue foam sit pad. this pad can also go over the top of the pack if it's raining (under the strap that holds the roll-up top closed).

fuel bottle and water bottle(s) go in side pockets.

everything else goes in the single outside pocket that came on the Gust: first aid and repair kit are in 2 ziplocks inside a small stuff sack. cord, bug juice, headlamp, headnet, and other larger items just go in loose. TP goes in a ziplock back. other little objects (knife, aqua mira, photon, spare lighter, compass (if not in use)) go in a small mesh/no seeum netting bag. most everything in there can stand a little wetness, so i don't worry about it unless it's an all day rain, in which case i might move some items (headlamp, mostly) inside where it's definitely dry. a wet headband is nasty.

if i carry 'comfort' or 'special project' items (axe, saw, books, camera, binos), they go inside, mostly down in the spaces between softer objects... my pack is definitely not crowded or 'packed tight', so there's always room for more stuff.

2007-01-08, 19:30
As most people have heard me rant before...
EVERY item in my pack I try and go ultra compact on. Multi-day kayaking
is hell on your packing strategy in a small boat. Convention goes right out
the window. If there are 4 cubic inches between my pot lid and the stove,
well then im jamming a granola bar in there... you know how it goes.

it makes for terrible organization... but really really small pack volumes.
I can do about 3 days in the volume of a standard plastic grocery bag.
And not crazy BPL UL style. no spinnaker in my pack :biggrin:
Just good comfort and alot careful decisions.

2007-01-08, 19:58
I take it you mean a fairly low volume river kayak, or do you mean a ocean kayak on Lake Superior? I've found a lot of volume to spare in my sea kayak, even though its a pretty small sea kayak, 16.5' x 23.5". But I like to keep in centred in a big drybag in the front end of the cockpit between my feet and knees. Plenty of room for extra blue foam pads in the ends however, and under my butt. If I was going for weeks I would probably put lots of food in the ends also. But I can see river kayaking how it would be a challenge to keep the volume down. Also biking/hiking. I think there is even less volume on a bike if I am not mistaken, unless you go really wide, which introduces a lot of windage on the road and clearance issues in the woods. I've tried to think of a way to combine hiking and biking and paddling in one trek but it always seems to involve staging stuff ahead of time. I you have a camp where the kayak is its not so bad because you can bike there and then paddle out, but then there are not to many places you can then leave a kayak and then hike up a peak or something like that. Of course there are always portages, and we all know how much fun they are eh.

I think my packing style is probably closest to Seeker's.
I am still working on a front pack idea though, and a stove of course.

2007-01-11, 13:42
Hey Jak,

Sorry to be so slow in replying, been rather busy lately.

I usually stow my Kelly inside the pack, my outside pockets being fully employed. This is not a total waste of pack volume as I always manage to find something - generally food - to stuff in the kettle.

I haven't had a need to melt snow Jak. In my neck of the woods there is seldom a problem finding open water. Most of my winter camping is in Kejimkujk, which is cut with many streams.

As to additional water carriers, in familiar territory I lug a single nalgene style wide mouthed bottle, stowed in a side pocket. The only time I carry two bottles is in strange country where I am unsure of my water sources. What I do once in a while is cut the top off a two litre plastic milk jug and use that for hauling water around the campsite. This is very light and I generally stuff it with food and carry it inside the pack. This is extremely handy at times.

There is just no way getting around the bulk of the Kelly kettle, but I love the thing for its superb efficiency. The draft in that chimney is wonderful to behold.

I have been reading with interest some BackpackGeartest reviews of a wood burning stove called the Wildwood I. Current production models of this snap together/snap apart stove weigh about 17 ounces, but the manufacturer states a 6.8 ounce stainless steel model is forthcoming. This stove takes up very little space, and from what I read, seems to be quite efficient. This is something I intend to keep an eye on.



2007-01-14, 10:22
I was at Keji once, in summer. Really nice area for both hiking and paddling, and skiing in winter I'll bet, though not this winter. No trouble finding open water this winter eh. We drove up to Poley Mountain yesterday for my daughters ski lessons and the only snow we saw was what they managed to make on the hill. But what really struck me was the Kennebecasis river being open all the way up to Sussex! Might be a good winter for paddling.

I also use a Nalgene with the Kelly Kettle, as I don't think PET can take the heat. Thanks for the tip on a 2 litre milk jug for water. Make a fairly decent bailer also. The Wildwood II is out now. It is square for some reason. The hexagon shaped Wildwood I was rather beautiful, though heavy. Cheers.

Thread on Wildwood I,II.