If you don’t thoughtfully pack your bag before hiking, backpacking, climbing, or skiing, you’ll be uncomfortable at best—or dangerously unprepared at worst. I asked several pro outdoor athletes and industry experts, all of whom have packed thousands of bags for their adventures, for tips to ensure ultimate preparedness.
Pack for Your Route
Exum Mountain Guides’ Zahan Billimoria says he’ll spend up to 45 minutes carefully loading his daypack for a climb in the Tetons, making sure he’s carrying only what he absolutely needs for that day’s adventure. He doesn’t bring extra water if he knows there are water sources along his route. Cutting this extra bulk and weight makes the trip easier and allows more space for other essentials, like food. “I don’t skimp on calories. I always bring a ton of food. To me, the anxiety of wondering if I have enough food is enough to ruin my day,” Billimoria says.
Make a List
Those of you who are ultraorganized might turn your nose up at this one, but for people like professional big-mountain skier Angel Collinson, having a list is key. “I am an absolute junk show every time I pack,” she says. “[My room] looks a pile of laundry you haven’t done in months.” A prewritten list of essentials keeps Collinson from showing up at the airport without an avalanche beacon or her favorite ski socks. The inside of her suitcase might not be the prettiest, but “you don’t have to be OCD about it as long as it gets in there,” Collinson says.
Emergency Essentials Get Their Own Bag
Pro skier Brody Leven is constantly on the move. One day he’s ski touring with buddies in the Wasatch, and the next day he’s on an airplane to Norway for a bike and ski tour. Like Billimoria, Leven brings only what he absolutely needs: his emergency kit is always on that list—and it always gets its own drybag. “I put all of the essentials in a one-liter drybag—my first-aid kit, repair kit, and an emergency bivvy—and I always have that with me no matter what sport I am doing.” After each adventure, Leven restocks his first aid and repair kits.
Balance Your Pack Weight
Sam Theule isn’t a pro athlete, but he has completed all three of America’s best-known thru-hikes—the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail (a total of 7,950 miles). He knows a thing or two about good packing. Balancing weight is key for Theule, because it keeps his pack’s fit right and prevents chafing. To pack for good balance, Theule puts his food (the heaviest items he carries) dead center, and then tries to balance out each side. One technique: place one water bottle in each side pocket and alternate drinking from each.
Always, Always Bring a Headlamp
Richard Bothwell is the executive director of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) and has been guiding for more than 20 years. His tip is simple: “You never hear the story about the people who went for a day hike, had headlamps, were delayed, and used the lamps to hike to safety. That’s a boring story,” Bothwell says. You do, however, hear the story about the people who get lost and stuck in the dark without a headlamp and had to call search and rescue. So, always carry a headlamp.
This film explains part of the reason why I love to get out of the city, away from the crowds and go find some desolate places.
Some great footage of Banff and Jasper National Park.
Professional daredevils Rex and Melissa Pemberton were drawn together by a mutual passion for risk and adrenaline. Now they have a marriage based on love, trust, and the strange, stoic acceptance that their life partner could die at any moment.
For the next five months, they jumped and climbed across Australia, scuba-dived on its reefs, and leaped off Malaysian skyscrapers. In September 2007, at Colorado’s Royal Gorge, where they spent three days among a tribe of fellow BASE jumpers hucking themselves from a 956-foot-high bridge, he told her he loved her. He told her right after he realized the downside of finding your perfect match—right after he first felt the fear that hasn’t left him since.
Their helmet cameras documented the moment, the last of their 5 jumps: Melissa goes first, with a whoop and two backflips. She free-falls for three seconds and at about 500 feet pulls her chute, which opens cockeyed. Her lines cross and send her into a spin, back toward the rock face. She struggles to untwist the lines, and the video bounces between flashes of rock face, sky, and red-and-white parachute canopy. Rex, still above, sees that she’s in trouble.
“Fuck!” Melissa yells. She kicks herself away from the wall and keeps falling. She slams into the cliff again, tries to kick away with her left leg, and snaps her tibia and fibula. Finally, she plunges toward the rocks below until her chute catches on a small outcropping. Pieces of rock torn loose by her parachute cascade in a shower around her. She hangs 200 feet off the ground, and Rex thinks he’s just watched her die.
“Ohhhh fuck! Fuck!” he yells, then shouts for the high-angle rescue climbers on standby above.
“Is she moving?” His voice is now a pained moan. “Is she moving?”
“She’s moving, Rex,” a friend says. “She’s OK.”
“I think I broke my leg,” Melissa yells. “I’m passing out.”
“Don’t pass out,” Rex shouts. “Are you bleeding?”
“No,” she says. “I’m going to pass out.”
“Did I tell you that I love you?” he yells.
Melissa laughs. “I love you, too,” she says.
The London Games in 2012, Natalie Coughlin won a bronze medal in the 4×100 relay. The third-place finish brought her Olympic medal count to 12 (three of them gold), tying her with swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for the most medals won by an American woman. The Rio Games will be the 33-year-old’s fourth Olympics. With her eyes on the record as she competes in the 100-meter backstroke, freestyle, and freestyle relay, she’s learned to focus more than ever on the little things.
Shut Eye: “As I’ve gotten older, sleep has become more essential. I’ve started using earplugs, and I kick the dogs out of the bed. They were hurting the quality of sleep I got. It was hard on all of us.”
Nap Time: “I hate naps, but I force myself to take one for an hour and a half most days. I’m at the pool at 5 a.m., and though I can function on six hours of sleep, I need eight or nine to be at my best.”
Need a Lift: “I’ve started lifting weights a lot more, usually for two hours, four days a week. I do Olympic lifting, squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups. I’ve even added weight exercises in the water. Sometimes I’ll swim with 14 pounds strapped around my lower back. It’s helped me gain power and prevent injuries.”
Alternative Medicine: “I’ve done cupping therapy for about eight years. The cups suction the skin and fascia away from the muscle, so it increases blood flow and accelerates muscle healing.”
Green Thumb: “I have a big garden with herbs, fruits, and vegetables. And I keep chickens. It ensures that I eat healthy, but picking vegetables and gathering eggs also helps relax me.”
Compress and Decompress: “About 18 months ago, I made a $1,500 investment in a pair of NormaTec compression sleeves. They’re hooked up to a battery and squeeze your limbs like a massage. I use them for anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours while I’m watching TV.”
Mind Training: “I visualize a lot. I visualize what the ready room looks like, the walk up, the race. The mind is a muscle that needs to be trained, and that’s something I’ve worked on as I’ve gotten older. I can be highly focused now for hours on end, but it takes tons of practice.”
Make sure you watch this, it’s a great video on what we can learn from dogs about making us happy.