With the pack loaded, I’m carrying 45 pounds…including my love handles.

The other day, I spent a couple of hours collecting every single item on my packing list from the stove to clothes to a needle and thread. In my massive, comprehensive spreadsheet, I’d calculated that my base weight – everything minus food and water – would be 24 pounds. I knew that I’d inevitably add a few small items that I’d forgotten but first wanted to get a visual before I panicked.

This isn't as much of a mess as it looks.

This isn’t as much of a mess as it looks.

I thought you guys might want to see what I’ll be carrying on my person for the next six months, or at least until the weather warms up, at which point I’ll lighten my load and swap out a few items. It’s not particularly well organized since, ya know, that’s not a strength of mine, but either way, take a gander. Seriously, I’ve included everything I could think of, soup to nuts.

Plenty of space in the pack, I think. But I bought the stuff sacks, so I have to use them, right?

Plenty of space in the pack, I think. But I bought the stuff sacks, so I have to use them, right?

After going through this exercise, my mom rifled through her drawers and found a load of bandaids, lotions, etc. that I added to the mix. And I also put aside my first few days worth of food into a waterproof stuff sack and loaded it. Before I weighed the pack, I wanted to make sure all was accounted for.

Uncle Steve's input: powder to keep my feet dry. Good idea.My one concession to my hair: conditioner. It'll be a rat's nest without.

Uncle Steve’s input: powder to keep my feet dry. Good idea.
My one concession to my hair: conditioner. It’ll be a rat’s nest without.

Finally, I stepped on the scale. My homeostatic weight is about 143 pounds +/- a couple of pounds. It’s amazing how much I’ve let myself go this winter. “Jor, do you want ice cream?” “Hm, I’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail soon, so I’m sure I’ll burn this off…eventually.”

Maybe I should've thought, "I'm going to look like the Jet Puff marshmallow in my camp outfit if I keep eating.

Maybe I should’ve thought, “I’m going to look like the Jet Puff marshmallow in my camp outfit if I keep eating.

Well, although I’m still (snugly) fitting into my size 8 pants, I have most definitely earned every single additional pound read on the scale, all the way up to 155. It’s been years since I’ve been this heavy, but I’m guessing it’ll come off pretty quickly as soon as I begin hiking (I know my body). We shall see.

I may hike the first few days with my pants button undone. Then again, that may precipitate a terrible trail name.

I may hike the first few days with my pants button undone. Then again, that may precipitate a terrible trail name.

Then I donned the pack. Without the food loaded, it weighed 24 pounds; with the food, it came to exactly 30. Score!

Wait, why did I get that awesome titanium spoon again? Oh, right, almost forgot...almond butter.

Wait, why did I get that awesome titanium spoon again? Oh, right, almost forgot…almond butter.

Oh wait, I forgot the jar of almond butter. OK, that’ll be 31. Oh, and the fuel canister will be another half pound. Oh, yeah, and water will be another 2-4. Right. So, now we’re talking fully loaded at close to 35 pounds.

There are a couple of luxuries in here: the sit pad, the portable radio, the Kindle. But every single one will bring me pleasure beyond the pain in carrying...I hope. Either that or I'll rest on the sit pad while listening to music and journaling in the Kindle as I wait for someone to sherpa me off the mountain.

There are a couple of luxuries in here: the sit pad, the portable radio, the Kindle. But every single one will bring me pleasure beyond the pain in carrying…I hope. Either that or I’ll rest on the sit pad while listening to music and journaling in the Kindle as I wait for someone to sherpa me off the mountain.

It’s not the lightest, but it’s not the worst case scenario either. With the recent frigid weather, I’m guessing I’ll be wearing some of the layers I’d accounted for in the pack weight, such as my puffer jacket (1 pound) and maybe my rain gear for insulation (over a pound).

Another foot of snow about to be dumped on the Smokies? The rain pants should come in handy...I must be insane.

Another foot of snow about to be dumped on the Smokies? The rain pants should come in handy…I must be insane.

Oh, and I will almost certainly be wearing my ski mittens (6 ounces) and winter hat (3 ounces).

Is this hat overkill? I'm sure I'll find out soon.

Is this hat overkill? I’m sure I’ll find out soon.

Besides, I know there’s room for improvement still. I’m thinking I’ll ask other to-be thru-hikers at the Hiker Hostel for advice on pack organization. They may have some pointers on how to consolidate stuff sacks or otherwise streamline what I’m carrying.

Or maybe I'll chill in my tent, huddled in the sleeping bag on the sleeping pad when the snow comes.

Or maybe I’ll chill in my tent, huddled in the sleeping bag on the sleeping pad when the snow comes.

Also, really, I know this sounds cooky, but there was something about the way my new Deva 60 fit that made the 30 pounds feel more like 20. It’s so comfortable. And hey, if all this strategizing and rationalizing doesn’t hold beans once I start climbing mountains, I’ll be sure to remind myself that’s it’s more likely the weight on my body and not the weight in my pack that’s dragging me down. Hopefully I’ll enjoy taking the weight off as much as I enjoyed putting it on.

Meandering on,

Jordana

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25 thoughts on “With the pack loaded, I’m carrying 45 pounds…including my love handles.

  1. Reading this reminds me of our trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway. We actually spent an entire month figuring out what to pack in the car. We finally got everything to fit and we even had room for a few items we picked up along the way. It was kind of amusing when we used the glove box as our pantry though.

    • Way more organized than I. When I go car camping, I pretty much shove whatever will fit in the car at the last minute. And the glove compartment is a perfectly acceptable pantry, if you ask me.

  2. Hi Jordana,
    Found your blog last weekend and quickly read and caught up. I’m looking forward to vicariously hiking along with you. Good Luck!

    T.L.

  3. Have you ever read the The Nick Adams Stories by Hemingway? Your talk of the benefit of the luxuries outweighing the weight reminded me of those stories. There’s one IBig Two-Hearted River, I think) where Adams goes on a fishing trip and he lugs a can of peaches with him. When he sits down to eat them, he remarks on the weight of carrying them and that by doing so he earned the luxury of eating them.

    • Absolutely. I obviously won’t know for a couple months or more when I’ll be passing by WV, but I’ll do my best to let you know. If I don’t email by then, please please remind me.

  4. Hi Jordana, I found your blog a few weeks ago (very timely on my part I might add so I can follow along from the start!), & have read it all, & enjoyed it very much. I love hiking the AT vicariously thru’ others, so will happily follow along.
    Best of luck to you!

  5. I would love to give you a pack shake down! It’s very exciting though planning and preparing for a thru-hike. Lot’s of unneeded items though.. LOTS. You’re going to have so much fun!

    • Nah, I think I’m doing pretty well for myself so far, especially considering the winter start and density of healthy food. Never going to be an ultralight hiker. Not my style. Thanks for the offer, though!

  6. Haha, this reminded me of myself. I’m a terrible packer, I find it so difficult to leave out anything. Its always a case of “What if I need that?”.

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