Getting out the door on a trip with everything you need is harder than it seems it should be. I’ve ended up out on the road or trail more than once only to find I or one of my party has left something vital back at the ranch. That can be just inconvenient or it can be a trip killer depending on what it was. I think we’d all agree that it’s best to just take everything you need with you and head out the door with confidence. Here’s the only way I’ve come up with to do that.
Make a List
Every significant adventure I go on starts with a list of what I need to bring with me and any key tasks I need to take care of before leaving. I keep my old trip lists in a computer folder so I can hack and paste. I’m currently working on packing for a couple months in Baja this winter and I just modified a list from two year’s ago since a lot of the stuff I need to bring is the same.
Once I have the list mostly ready I print it and put it on my desk in a clipboard. That way I can grab it any time I want to spend a few minutes packing and I can make notes on it for things to add or delete.
I mark up the list in three ways:
- pink highlighter means I found the item and placed it with the other similar gear in its category
- black sharpie through the item means it’s no longer needed
- green highlighter means I need to buy it
- pen through the highlighted items means they are packed in a box/bag
Pack a Box/Bag/Pannier at a Time
I’ll be taking a lot of gear to Baja for a multi-month trip with kiteboards, surfboards, kites, bikes and SUPs. I need all the camping and cooking items to have a comfortable beach camp. Trying to deal with all the stuff I need to pack in one go would drive me mental and I never seem to have a free block of time before I leave on a trip.
So I work on one box/bag at a time. Today I grabbed my box of cooking gear [pots, back up backpacking stove, plates, bowls, cups, utensils, etc...] I made sure everything was there and in good condition. I checked stuff off my list and since I had everything I closed it up and put it in a corner of my garage where I’ll be storing Baja gear until I am ready to load the truck.
I never pack a bag until I have everything that needs to go inside. That’s a sure way to forget stuff and you either have to unpack it to double check or go from memory. The list should be accurate, but it never is 100% so the best way to ensure you have everything is to confirm it all at once and then load up your box/pannier.
Piles are for Stuff that Needs Work
When I’ve got a bunch of stuff that needs to be packed together and I know items need cleaning/repair or need to be purchased I get the ball rolling with a pile. A pile says “I need some love!”. I either can keep adding to it or I can take care of items that need some work. I can see most of the stuff in a pile which is handy for getting a quick idea of where I am at with a glance.
I’ve been cleaning and repairing my kiteboarding gear [harnesses, wetsuits, gloves. booties, etc...] lately. They got piled up in a corner of my office and when I needed a break from work I’d deal with something in the pile. If I was in the garage and noticed an item that belongs with my kiteboarding gear I’d grab it and move it to the pile in my office. Since I see the pile 20 times a day it reminds me I need to buy a wetsuit repair kit when I go to MEC for example.
At some point I’m close to having everything I need in the pile and I check stuff off my list and throw it into a box.
Prioritize Based on What’s Mostly Ready
I don’t want to have a million piles of gear laying about so I try and prioritize by starting with groups of items that are mostly ready to be packed. That gets things done efficiently and frees up space for what needs to be dealt with next. Of course that means I’ll end up dealing with more and more time consuming items that need to be fixed/cleaned/bought. That’s okay as gear gets packed and the trip gets closer it’s easier to get motivated to knock down the To Do List.
Don’t Mess with a Packed Box/Bag
Ideally don’t go and open a packed bag to use something out of it. It’s way too easy to forget you need to put that item back in. If you absolutely must plunder a packed container than move it back to the area where you have piles and bags being packed so you know it needs attention. I often put a sticky note on top to remind me what’s missing
Get a life!
If you are saying to yourself that this sounds incredibly anal – you’re right. I’d prefer to not bother, but it’s the only way I’ve come up with to ensure when I am down in Mexico I don’t go to setup my tent and realize I didn’t bring it along! ;)