Comfort is Heavy

by Carrie McMillen

We’ve all experienced that moment of indecision when we’re packing for a trip.

You ask yourself – do I squeeze in that hardcover bestseller book I want to read even though my suitcase weighs a ton? (Answer: usually, yes) This may not be a big deal at the airport or on a train where you can conveniently say goodbye to that bag during your travels. However, if you’re backpacking it’s a different story…

Carrie and her pack in Colorado
Carrie (middle) and her pack, contemplating mountains in Colorado.

So, how heavy is YOUR pack? Mine is 42 pounds.

At least that’s what it was on my most recent backpacking adventure last summer in Colorado. That’s a typical number for me, although it depends on how long a trip, how difficult, and what ‘extras’ I’ve packed. I’ve run into backpackers on the trail who consider themselves minimalists – they sleep under the stars, they only eat rehydrated food – and they boast a pack weight of around 25 pounds. Admirable? Sure. But I’d like to hope that maybe they aren’t enjoying themselves on the trail as much as I am!

For those of you who like facts and numbers, your pack’s weight should be a reflection of your fitness and comfort level in addition to a general factor of 1/4 to 1/3 of your body weight. (The minimalists mentioned above use ratios like 1/6). For the rest of you who don’t like facts and numbers, you can determine your appropriate weight by stuffing your pack full of everything you think you want, and then try it on. Then take something out because it will feel too heavy. Try it on again. Repeat at least six more times. Then try to get your friend to take something for you!

I am one of those people who will sacrifice a bit of weight for comfort in the woods. I don’t bring my solar hairdryer or my iPod – but I do bring a few things that will help my happiness on the trail, as they pertain to food, drink, and sleep. So, if you’re not scared of the number 42 (or higher) and you’re headed out into the backcountry – here are my comfort items that will add both weight and happiness to your trip:

Thick sleeping pad (22 oz) – My biggest challenge is always sleeping on the ground. It’s worth the price and weight for a thick pad with air chambers (the foam pads are far less comfortable!). Get self-inflating if you get light-headed easily.

Camp shoes (6 -11.5 oz) – Your feet are so tired from the boots; you’re going to love feeling a new pair of shoes while walking from your tent to the stove!

Earplugs (.001 oz) – ok, I might have made up the weight, but these things are priceless. Guaranteed you won’t hear snoring neighbors or bears.

Camp pillow – (8 oz) – Typically I stuff a fleece inside a stuff sack, but I’ve also found the inflatable neck pillows for the airplane work well, too.

Journal (10 oz) – Call it my luxury item – this allows me to reflect in the woods and write my experiences down on paper. Priceless, but not weightless…

Special drink – (2 oz – 16 oz).  This can come in the form of your favorite tea or cocoa. Or, it could come in the form of something more potent (note: bottle of wine (2+ lbs))

Special food – This can come in the form of M&M’s (1.69 oz), a jar of peanut butter (12 oz), or steak tips (24 oz).  You are going to be hungry – bring something fun to eat! Just don’t forget the cast iron skillet (6.6 lbs) to fry up those steak tips.

So what is 2020 bringing for their comforts on Tom/Field? Guess you’ll have to wait until after the weekend to find out!


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