Barefoot Jake: Hike Olympic Mountains

Ultralight: How to Pack a Backpack

Packing your backpack for an overnight backpacking trip.  Having all the items in a specific place can make the weight feel more comfortable on your back.  I like to put each gear item in it own home, that way I do not leave something behind.  Call it like my own version of a checklist.

 Learn how to pack your backpack properly, can make for a more positive experience on the trail.  A properly packed backpack will make the loads feel balanced on your body.  This could also be called a form of injury prevention in several categories.

Filling the negative spaces will prevent shifting and save space.  It is important that you fill all the gaps inside your pack.  Shifting may also cause you to lose your balance during a critical time of your adventure.

There are many variations to pack a backpack, but for me, I like to put the volume of the load at the bottom of my pack, weight on top of that close to my core and smaller items to fill the extra space.

It is well known that it is always raining here on the Olympic Peninsula.  For this reason, I put all clothing and sensitive equipment in watertight sacks.  This is even more important in the cold weather month.  Having dry layers to put on after a long day in the rain, can mean all the difference for hiker safety physically and mentally.

Lets walk through the steps I use to pack my backpack.

how to pack
How to pack your backpack for an overnight backpacking trip

Set up an Ultralight Backpacking Tarp

Setting up my C-Twinn ultralight tarp in the rain forest. Camping under a tarp can be the perfect way to experience wilderness. Some of the best sleep I have ever gotten was under a minimal shelter. I feel it has something to do with the amount non-restricted fresh air, that circulates around you; allowing for a more natural sleep.

In contrast to a traditional tent-- with a tarp you have a lot of flexibility to configure and pitch in many styles. With some creativity a camper can leave one side completely open. The height can also be adjusted by elongating the poles, finding longer sticks, or tying off the main ridgelines.

When using a minimal shelter- campsite selection is key to a peaceful night's sleep. When deciding on a place to sleep, I look at variables that may hinder my experience throughout the night. These include wind, game trails, low points where water can gather and tree hazards that may fall from above.

Imagine when it pours that the earth could turn into an inundated sea and you want to be on something that resembles a turtle's back to keep you safe and dry through the night. Find a small hill with a slight grade. The theory is that you want water rolling off your shelter and then away from where you sleep, this will also keep you more warm at night as well; since heat rises and cold sinks.

After a site is selected the next step is to take the tarp out of your backpack. For this pitch I'm going to use 6 V-Stakes. If the ground is soft or there is going to be wind- I will use large rocks and put them on all of the stake points for added security.

rain forest
Step 1:  Go hiking!  Its hard to use camping gear at home. - credit Kim R.

Review: Railriders Hydro-Zip-T

I wore Railriders Hydro-Zip-T while backpacking in the Olympic Mountains.  Long term tested in all conditions; including pacific northwest rain, snow, sun and bugs.  It came in most handy as a town shirt or something I could change into before hitch hiking back to town after a long hike; when my primary shirt had heavy odor.

Railriders Hydro Review
Railriders in the rainforest

3 Day Trip in Olympic

Hike for 3 days in Olympic National Park.  This is the most popular kind of backpacking trip, since most hikers have time period available for an adventure.  I will focus on the hikes that only require one trailhead; also known as an Out N Back.

Backpacking on the peninsula can be done year around, if you know the conditions of that specific area.   I suggest always checking with a ranger station for trail conditions, know the weather forecast and always plan for rain; no matter what time of year.

The drive times to the trailhead can depend on what end of the peninsula you choose to visit.   Minimum from Seattle or Portland can be 3 hours, but also can range up to 5 hours.  You should consider this when planning the first nights camping location.

A person can reflect on the Wilderness Campsite Map, but never use this for navigation purposes.  Having the proper maps and knowing how to read it can make all the difference to your successful trip.

 Wilderness camping permits can be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles or Lake Quinault.  One can also 'self-register' at most popular trailheads if you do not plan to visit a quota area; marked as red tents (on the map mentioned above). I will not be listing any of the destinations inside those area, because they are already overused.  Keep in mind that the self register permits are often not in the boxes at the trailhead.  Its best not to take the risk and just get necessary documentation at a ranger station.

hiking olympic national park
Olympic Mountains