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Backcountry Awareness: Pack Size. By Doug Chatten

June 30, 2021

Backcountry Awareness: Pack Size. By Doug Chatten

When I head into the backcountry I pretty much have the same kit in my pack every time no matter how far I am from the trailhead. Looking at the forecast gives me an indication of what I might achieve not what I’ll pack!

The perfect day can quickly turn into an epic for untold reasons and packing light can compound the issue. The bottom line is, in case of emergency I need enough gear to shelter for the night until help arrives or I self evacuate the next day. On a day trip, I’m not planning on staying overnight but I am planning to be able to survive overnight if necessary.

Ideally, each person in your group should have enough gear to be self-sufficient in case of an emergency regardless of your proximity to help. Insulation jacket (down or synthetic), lightweight shelter like a Vango Bothy Bag, sit mat, headlamp, as well as the usual and you are going to have trouble fitting it in anything less than a 30L pack.

Save the weight on your kit items, not your pack, the difference between 10litres of pack volume is very little at a couple of hundred grams compared to the extra scope in your versatility and preparedness.

If you’re heavy on experience you’re better placed to travel a little lighter. Light on skills and light on gear decreases your safety margin.

The Mont Sentinel 42L or 45L packs are an excellent pack for daytrips.

It is essential that you not only acquire the necessary equipment but also the skills required to travel safely through the mountains. Whilst it is good to take educational courses it takes some time to develop a solid foundation of skills and experience. A 20L pack, an educational course and very little experience doesn't offer much redundancy.

No one is impervious to unexpected and unforeseen circumstances but with experience the risk of avoidable situations is reduced. If you’re heavy on experience you’re better placed to travel a little lighter. Light on skills and light on gear decreases your safety margin.

Happy trails Alpinists!

By Doug Chatten, director and lead guide at Snowy Mountains Backcountry, and Mont Ambassador.

Top photo by @r.kenno

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