When it comes to loading my backpack, I have been on both sides of the fence; having once been a stuff sacker, I now cram.
What made me change?
Is the preference to one or the other linked to your personality?
Are people who drink their coffee black more likely to cram?
When I started backpacking and began acquiring all of my gear, I would open each package and find all the doo-dads in their own little sack. Everything came in a bag! Sleeping bag and quilts, tents and hammocks, rain fly’s and tarps, rain gear, jackets and stakes oh my.
If by chance a piece of gear didn’t come in its own stuff sack, rest assured I could get one. Dry bags, cinch top, roll top, cuben fiber, silnylon and more - in any size, color, and weight imaginable. Everything had a bag and every bag had a place in my pack.
I was in CDO heaven (CDO is the proper way to have OCD).
I remember laying all of my gear out, each in its own stuff sack, and I would practice loading it into my pack. Sleeping bag in the bottom, pad or tent standing up to give structure, then the extra clothes bag. That was followed by something, then something else. Eventually the floor was empty and my backpack was full.
Grabbing my pack, I would sling it onto my back and walk around the room to test it for fit and feel. Over time, I got it figured out; I knew how I liked to load my gear.
While arriving at camp on the trail, I would open my bag and pull each individual sack out placing it on the the ground. All my gear, nice and organized. Everything had a place and I was in the woods. Life was grand!
It was when I started to pack up in the morning that things would take a turn.
Where the h@!! did I put that stuff sack?
I swear I put all of them into that one big one.
Did the wind blow it away?
“Did you see my blue, roll top, extra clothes stuff sack?” I would ask.
Eventually I would find it or just chalk it up to some deep-woods, stuff sack eating, boogie monster!Then, on multi-day trips when my food and toiletries bags would get smaller, I found that my perfectly loaded pack started to feel different on my back. All of the individual components didn’t fit together as perfectly as they did just a few short days ago.
In April of 2014, I was on a short, solo overnight hike near my house in Central New York. I woke up on day two, had the fire going, and had just finished getting my cook kit cleaned up. As thoughts bounced around in my head, I recalled a post I had read on a forum about “cramming."
With only six more miles to go, I decided to give cramming a try.
As I walked out that morning, I didn’t really notice much difference. Things felt pretty much the same as when I had walked in the night before. However, when I started planning for my next trip, I decided to give it another try. I would leave the stuff sacks at home.
It was on that five-day trip that I realized...I was a crammer.
On the third day of that adventure, as I jetted along an open hardwoods section of trail, I remember thinking to myself;
My pack feels the same as when I started, only lighter.
Shrugging my shoulders (not in a “who cares” kind of way, but in a “hey, this feels good” kind of way) I started to think about my decision to cram. A couple of days later I finished that trip, and it wasn't long after that I took another. Each of the next few months I would be found on the trail, just cramming my gear into a trash compacter bag in my pack. Eventually I figured out why I liked my new loading system. The three reasons were really simple:
Here is the
loading style that I use, starting with my top loading backpack (ULA Ohm 2.0, ULA Circuit or ZPacks Zero):
do you prefer?
What happens to stuff sacks in the night?
Is there a deep-woods, stuff sack eating, boogie monster?
Please share you thoughts in a comment below.
I hope to see you on the trail,
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