What do you carry on your person vs leave in your pack?

If you plan where you put your gear correctly you can maximize your trail time, eliminate slow transitions and keep your hiking partners from being irritated with you for stopping every 5 minutes to get something out of your pack. When I’m hiking I have a small set of gear that I carry in my pockets – the quick access items I don’t want to be forced to stop and dig around in my pack for when on the trail.

For me this consists of:

  • Chapstick with medical tape wrapped around it
  • Sunscreen (in stick form)
  • Snacks (an energy bar or small bag of candy/trailmix)
  • Small multi-tool (Leatherman Style CS)
  • Medicine (handful of Aleve and Pepto Bismol Chewables)
  • Bic lighter
  • Compass
  • Folded up map of the area

All of this stuff lives in the front/back/cargo pockets of my pants or my pack’s hip belt pocket.

I will also cycle situational items in and out of the hip belt pocket of my pack..  An example of this would be tossing my headlamp into my hip belt pocket during a late afternoon break.  I know I’m going to want my headlamp sometime soon so I plan ahead and stick it there for easy access. In the mornings I might stash my sunglasses rather than my headlamp. Other items I try to cycle through my pockets are things like a light pair of gloves or a rain jacket if conditions seem to be worsening – stashing them in a side mesh pocket of my pack during a break so I can pull them out easier when I need them.  I use the side mesh pockets for a number of things.  Notice you are running low on water during a break? Anticipate your imminent water stop and move your filter from inside your pack to your side pockets.  Not only does it make your water stop faster but it lessens the potential risks associated with digging around your pack for your filter while you are balancing on a rock in the middle of a stream.

By keeping specific gear close at hand and trying to anticipate gear needed during the next hour of hiking while your pack is off and you are taking a break you can greatly reduce the amount of time other people are waiting for you, add more down time to rest stops, and stay prepared for what might happen next.  Its also far more satisfying to give your buddies a hard time for being slow than it is to hold everyone else up.