Load-out: Mid-weight “warm-up” pack

For this first load-out example, I figured I’d start smack in the middle.

All my mid-weight packs are based either on the Gregory Pack Baltoro 75 or the Berghaus Centurio 45.  This particular load-out is based on the Baltoro.  A great (but heavy at 5.6 lbs empty) pack with articulating hip belt, a good set of compartments, a large center pocket, and ideally for me, an angled water bottle pocket that keeps its shape to make taking out and putting back a water bottle while hiking very easy.  This is about a 30+lb pack once some fancier food (like a few cans of spam, maybe some eggs in a coleman 6 egg carrier, tortillas, cheese, maybe some fruit), and of course, water are added.

Every year, the mid-weight load-out is designed for the first non-snow camping trip of the year.  Hiking would not exceed 4 miles (each way) and 1000 feet elevation (Starting at around 8000 feet altitude and getting up to about 9000 feet at the campground).  As the first trip of the year, it’s really the “warm-up” trip to get psyched for the rest of the season.

For the load-out of this first trip of the season, the warmup trip, I don’t want to be overloaded with 45-60lbs of gear.  My legs need a little practice to get back into hiking long distances, and my lungs aren’t really used to the thinner air yet.  My fitness level is rather low at this stage of the season.

It’s also not fun for me to go ultra-light, since, again, my body isn’t really used to living without luxuries yet.

So for this warm-up, I bring some luxuries, but not too many, hike up to the lake, and soak in the sights, the sounds, the experience.  I’m looking for those specific moments…. The anticipation of the night hike, the feeling when breaking through the final rocks and seeing the lake, setting up the camp, the campfire, chowing down, chilling and watching the stars, settling down in the tent, the morning coffee, maybe some fishing, the sense of accomplishment in completing campsite chores, eating well, getting one more night in before heading back at the end of the weekend.

Here’s how the pack breaks down:

  • Hanging on the outside of the pack, as well as in the outer pockets and the waist belt pockets are:
    • Left waist pocket:  Two packs of skittles….sugar
    • Right waist pocket:  Leatherman and lighter
    • Left mesh pocket:  Alcohol fuel, bug spray
    • Right bottle pocket:  Thermos
    • Left side vertical lash:  Boreal 21 saw (heavy, but well worth it)
    • Right side vertical lash:  Fishing pole
    • Small front center pocket:
      • Bear hang rope
      • Clothes line rope
      • 9L folding bucket
      • Fishing reel and tackle
      • water purifier (Sawyer)
      • Fire starter flint

Fishing season is fairly short in the lakes up where I most often go.  The fish are dropped from planes in April (you read that right….they’re literally dropped from the plane while it flies by, through bomber doors), so there’s plenty of fish in the late April to late May period, and catching fish is pretty easy.  By June, the fish population is already halved, and by July halved again.  Catching fish in July-September takes some skill unless you take the time to hike deeper into the Emigrant to the central lakes.

I always have a folding panel windscreen with me, regardless of the type of trip I’m on as they are useful not just for the stove, but also for starting campfires.

The ESEE 6 is rather heavy, but is critical for processing wood that I saw down with the Boreal 21.  Especially in the April May time frame, the rangers have gone through and cut down a lot of dead trees and sawed through trees that block hiking paths.  They also spend a good deal of time dragging dead wood down from high altitudes.  So there is a ton of wood available.  While it’s never acceptable to have campfires with branches thicker than your wrist, the Boreal can make quick work of 10′ long branches and boughs cut down by the rangers.  And batoning that wood, processing it down is not something the Leatherman can do.

When I don’t bring the ESEE 6 and Boreal 21, I typically have a cheap plastic trowel with me, the kind you can buy for $5-10 at most outdoor stores.  Doing this shaves 2.5lbs from my pack.  Unlike many of my friends, I’m not a huge knife fan, so I only bring these when I need them.  On most other trips, I usually just have the leatherman.

  • Removable day pack (Top pocket)
    • GSI thermal mug
    • Two pairs of gloves (always two pairs!)
    • Hat
    • Balaclava (yes, I’m a wimp, always cold)
    • Headlamp

Seriously, two pairs of gloves.  Sometimes, a pair will get soaking wet, or damaged, and there may be dry work you need to do.  I’ve learned to stop bringing backups for most things when backpacking because I try to drop weight, but I’ve had enough problems on past trips because a pair of gloves were ruined, so bringing a spare pair is the one area where I won’t give up that backup philosophy.

The GSI plastic thermal mug doesn’t go with me on every backpacking trip.  Whenever I take the GSI Halulite mug, which is an anodized aluminum one you can put on a stove, I leave the plastic thermal one behind.  But, generally, I prefer this plastic thermal mug.  With the cap, it keeps coffee warm for a good 45 minutes, which is ideal when getting that second cup while cooking up some breakfast.

This sleeping pad was a real game changer for me.  I still use inflatable sleeping pads once in a while, but the Z-lite Sol is hard to beat.  It weighs just 14 oz, is quick to setup and put away, provides enough cushion to ignore any missed rocks or roots during tent setup, has a heat reflector, and will never stop functioning because of a rip or tear.  Really the best sleeping pad for just about any backpacking trip above 40 degrees fahrenheit.

The MLD tent is another godsend.  The tent, inner-net, stakes, bug net skirt, and carbon pole totals to about 2lbs or so.  Very light considering I get a large vestibule.  And very livable on a rainy day.  With the door halfway open, I’d be confident in running a JetBoil for a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.

The stool is pretty awesome.  I’ve tried a bunch of camping chairs and folding stools over the last few years.  While nothing beats a proper camping chair with a back to lean against, a stool sure beats having nothing at all, especially when trying to do camp chores, like processing wood for the campfire or wood stove.  This little stool has about an 8″ height, which is reasonable to take a load off.

One item I forgot to show is the inner dry bag.  Zpacks sells large sized cuben fiber water proof dry bags.  Except for the sleeping pad (which I risk getting wet in the rain), the rest of my gear goes into this bag in case of foul weather.

I talk more about the stove further below.


  • Kitchen/Hygiene/First Aid breakout
    • Hygiene/First Aid kit (Scent resentant bag)
      • EMT Gel
      • Bandaids
      • Toothpaste
      • Toothbrush
      • Vaseline
      • Aleve
      • Prep H
      • Neosporin
      • Cortizone (hidden behind the bandaids)
      • Eye drops
      • Sewing kit
      • Biodegradable earth friendly wet wipes
      • Metal nail file (mixed with the kitchen bag for some reason)
    • Kitchen (Scent resistant bag)
      • Brillo pad
      • Long spoon
      • Chopsticks
      • Aluminum foil
      • Paper towels
      • Vitamin powder drink
      • Tea
      • Instant coffee (US, Korean, Vietnamese)
      • Oatmeal

My First Aid kit used to be much larger, but I’ve found that the above items are the ones that I end up needing the most.  Most of the FAK items you see in the list likely matches your own.  But one item you might find interesting is the EMT gel.

EMT Gel is pretty well known among pet owners, because it’s used by vets a lot for injuries, but surprisingly, most folks I talk to don’t know about it.  It’s basically a sterile version of superglue with all the toxic ingredients removed.  It’s used to close wounds.  And it works, so long as the wound isn’t gushing blood.

Some folks prefer quikclot, others just use disinfectant and gauze, some folks even use a sterile stapler (I have one, but they are single use only).  The EMT Gel requires that you clean the wound and dry it.  If you have a large gash that won’t stop bleeding and you can’t tourniquet it, you use the EMT in stages.  It’s instant on dry’ish skin, so clean the wound, dry one side, EMT quickly, hold for a while until the glue sets, then repeat, until you close the wound.  It’ll hold for a couple of days if it’s a light turn area.  Won’t hold long if the gash is on your knee though.  Still, an awfully small and light solution compared to other options.

Note that EMT Gel is a veterinary product, and not sold for human use, but for me, at least, it works.  It stings a bit and should not be confused with an antiseptic.  It’s sole purpose is to close open wounds.

Vaseline is magic on backpacking trips.  It has quite a few uses.  For one, it’s great for chapped lips.  Add some to tinder and it can extend the initial burn to give a good amount of time to get a fire going, even with damp tinder and kindling.  It’s also good for creating a seal on rashes and wounds.  For dry and flaking hands and feet, it moisturizes.  Also good for sun burn.  It also helps a little with regular burns that can occur when handling a stove or tending a fire.  I used to always have Burn Gel in my kit as well, which magically prevents blisters for most minor burns, but Vaseline can substitute, reduce pain, and at least support healing.  Vaseline is also good for preventing foot blistersWhen you have a battery acid leak from AA or AAA batteries in a headlamp or other electronics, you can clean out the calcified acid and smear a little vaseline on which also creates a seal.  Vaseline also acts as a greaser (like butter or oil or motor grease….not as effective, but it works in a pinch).  This one is gross, but it can sort of help when you’re constipated and worried about hemorrhoids.  If you have any leather products, it can help fix drying or cracking patches.  On every backpacking or car camping trip, there is always a travel jar of vaseline in my pack.


The stove set is probably the piece in this pack that is mostly likely to change regularly.  I rotate stoves fairly often.  And some years there are bio-fuel stove bans or alcohol stove bans, in which case I’ll switch to one of my liquid fuel stoves, an LPG stove, or a butane stove.

This particular set is rather light, so even though it doesn’t boil water fast, with the combination of a windscreen, I can boil about 16oz of water with about 1oz of fuel if the conditions are right.  Being able to use the same stove as a small twig stove is also a plus.

And that just about does it.

A fair bit of this gear transfers from pack to pack.

Some other pack load-outs I’ll try to post in the future are
– Ultra-light distance/thru-hike pack
– Ultra-light quick weekend pack
– Mid-weight pack rafting pack
– Mid-weight woodsman pack
– Mid-weight cold weather pack
– Heavy weight cold weather pack
– Heavy weight luxury pack
– Heavy weight long stay pack


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