Stuffing a Backpack – Solo Overnight on Snow

I was going on an overnight on Mount Timpanogos and had originally planned on following snow to the top (read the story at the link on this blog). I think hiking and camping solo is an excellent way to work out kinks in your gear and camping skills.

You can learn a lot about how to pack your bag on an expedition by packing your pack a lot, and watching others with some experience do it. Here’s how I packed for my Timp overnight. I laid out all the things I thought I’d need. I’m going light and want to cover a lot of ground quickly. I checked the weather, and estimated I’d be camping at about 9,000′ where the forecast was for an overnight low of about 20 degrees F.

My Gear List:

I opted for a 30 degree ultralight down bag by Stoic. It has a half-zipper for weight saving, and it works okay for me. I also have an ultralight Montbell thin inflatable half-size pad. I’ll be using my backpack under my legs for insulation. I’ve also wrapped my lower legs in my puffy if it got colder, like on Liberty Ridge on Rainier, where I took a 15 degree bag and this same pad.

I have a Thermarest Sitpad (small inflatable seat) which I use for my knees and butt while cooking or building my tent, and for under my head as a pillow at night. Because I plan on hiking in Spring snow, I might get a bit wetter than the backpack will protect from, I am taking a silicone-nylon stuff sack for my sleeping bag, which is down and while it has a Pertex shell, it shouldn’t get wet if I can help it.

I have a Montbell hooded puffy jacket (really like it), a Patagonia fleece, and Mountain Hardwear Super Hero zip hoodie that I wear as a medium baselayer. My tent is a one person single wall three season Sierra Designs Baku. They don’t make it anymore, but it’s a decent tent for the weight and easy to set up. It will stand without staking, but it’s almost always better to, if you can. I have a couple different pair of gloves (to allow for wetness and coldness), headlamp, ice tools, GoalZero Guide10 and Luna, freeze dried food, a disposable microwave container with a couple packs of oatmeal and hot chocolate, my Jetboil, cameras, and Kitty (long story).


Packing the Backpack:

First of all, start with an empty backpack. Since my sleeping pad folds up so small, I put it into the hydration sleeve, against my back, which also protects it from puncturing somewhat. Then stick the tent poles and stakes in the bottom corners near your back. In general, try to keep the more dense items near your back, working up to the heavier items up top. I kept them in their little silicone nylon stuff bags, since they’re almost weightless, and keep sharp items from poking things they shouldn’t.

Stick the silicone nylon stuff sack in, open, and feed the sleeping bag into it. I had folded the sleeping bag into itself like like those collapsible kitchen measuring cups, just to make it feed in faster. Some people prefer pushing it in hand over hand until it’s all in the sack. Then I folded the sack down and pressed till it was wadded up in the bottom.

Next put the Jetboil in sideways against the back panel, and wad the tent in filling any empty spaces till level. Put the freezedried meal in pointing into an empty space, and wedge it in. The idea is to fill any empty space up. Put your water bottles in now, in the center, facing up. Some people prefer them on the outside edges, but I think if you have to do any vertical work at all, it can swing and put you off balance. Since I did have to ascend about 20′ of Class 4 cliff, I was happy not to have my pack flailing about.

I put my windbreaker in along the side, filling up around the water bottles, then my container of oatmeal in facing the outside. I wiggled it all round to fill up space and make it ride more stable. I anticipated needing my base and fleece layers before my puffy, so I put my puffy jacket in next wadding it up around the water bottles and pushing it down to fill space. Then the fleece and base layers. Before I push everything in tight, I put my ice axe and ice tool on the outside of the pack in the sleeves provided.

Snacks, Electronics and Crampons:

Finally, I put my snacks in a gallon ziplock bag and put that on top, and cinched the strap closed. I put my gloves, hats and electronics (including the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water Purifier) in the top pocket, and closed it. All done and ready to go. In my pants pockets I kept a hammer gel packet, a shot block packet, and my camera. In the waist belt pocket I put my cellphone and music player. I wasn’t sure if I’d have reception (I did when I stood in one spot near the tent), so I keep it off while hiking to save battery from hunting for a tower, and turn it on when I want to check.

I had a GoalZero battery pack for charging my electronics, which in this case was my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor. I like to use it to see how long and how fast and how far I’ve been hiking, as well as my altitude, since I had goals for each of those. The battery is good for about 10 hours, and if I had gone for the summit on day two, I would have needed to have it full that morning, so I did set it to charge overnight.

Anyway, just my take on packing for a solo overnight when you will climb and camp on snow. The only thing missing from this is the clothes I wore, and my crampons, which I stuck on top under the top flap just before loading into the car. Pays not to have pointy things on top too long imho.

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