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Packing – One of the Hardest Parts of Travel

That's a big pack, dude!

As I was filling up my backpack for traveling to Iceland, all I could think about was a line from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian: “Is it too big? Is it too small?”

I never want to bring too much, but I also never want to get totally soaked in a random storm like I did in New Zealand.  And I actually needed a tent and sleeping bag this time – and a pair of running shoes since my wife signed us up for the Miðnæturhlaup, which is “Midnight Run” in Icelandic. I also had to bring stuff for hanging out in Reykjavik in addition to exploring the volcanic badlands.

Anyway, I ruthlessly put together a packing list of everything I took and evaluated whether or not I would bring it on my next trip (well, to a place with a similar climate, anyway). Some mainstays that always make it into the pack are ExOfficio underwear, my freakin’ awesome La Sportiva boots and my practically immortal REI convertible cargo pants, which continue ticking after nearly 5 years of use.

Anyway, here’s how all this stuff fared during two weeks at the 66th parallel. Keep this in mind if you’re planning to hit the cooler climates this summer.

  • backpack (Kelty Coyote 4750) – A good backpack is a must. This one misses a few features that would be nice to have. Watch for an in-depth review.
  • backpack cover (REI) – Didn’t use, but would be great in a heavier rain.
  • tent stakes (MSR Groundhog, 8) – Invaluable
  • tent (North Face Rock 22) – Perfect tent for the conditions.
  • sleeping bag (North Face Cat’s Meow) – Great performer. A must.
  • pillow (therma-a-rest compressible) – Waste of space for backpacking. Should’ve just stuffed unused clothes into a pillowcase (like my wife did). This is good for car camping, though.
  • 100-Ounce Camelbak bladder – Essential.
  • cargo pants (The North Face) – Good for the long days exposed to wind and light rain.
  • cargo pants (REI Ripstop) – Valuable, but better for drier conditions. See my REI Ripstop pants review.
  • convertible cargo pants (REI) – I can always count on these. Good for just about anywhere.
  • technical long-sleeve shirt (REI) – Essential.
  • underwear (Ex Officio, 2 pairs) – Best travel underwear on the planet, no question.
  • long underwear (Patagonia) – Great for the rainy days in Landmannalaugar.
  • underwear (cotton) – Handy for the more civilized days.
  • Primaloft jacket (First Ascent Serrano) – Always good to go, and super-compact. See my First Ascent Serrano review.
  • rain jacket (Marmot) – Great for rainy hiking days.
  • rain pants (REI) – I wouldn’t go anywhere rainy without them.
  • long-sleeve tech shirt (Nike) – Very handy.
  • cotton 3-quarter-sleeve t-shirt (Prana) – Comfy, but didn’t really justify the space.
  • cotton t-shirt – Good for the plane. Barely used otherwise.
  • hiking boots (La Sportiva Trango Trek) – Simply awesome boots.
  • running shoes (adidas) – Did a 10K, so I really needed them.
  • cotton button-down shirt – Barely wore it. Would leave at home next time.
  • hat (wide-brimmed) – Very handy, especially for hiking in the rain.
  • tech hat (Sweat Vac) – Essential.
  • gloves (hardware store specials!) – Will get better gloves next time.
  • hiking socks (REI, 2 pairs) – A great deal.
  • hiking socks (Wigwam) – Essential.
  • running socks (asics) – Great for the 10K
  • socks (adidas) – Good for hanging out in running shoes.
  • vegan jerky snacks (Primal Strips, about 8) – Can’t ask for a better hiking snack. See my Primal Strips review.
  • food (MRE packs, 3) – Not the tastiest or easiest to use, but worth bringing.
  • GPS (Garmin Foretrex 301)  – I don’t travel without it.
  • headlight (Petzl Tikka) – Barely used it, but I bring it everywhere.
  • camera (Pentax K100D Super with three lenses) – Essential. But also bring a cleaning cloth.
  • mp3 player (Creative MuVo) – Barely used. Will probably leave it home next time.
  • various stuff sacks – You’ll never regret having stuff sacks.
  • Space Bags – Could be sturdier, but still incredibly helpful to make the load small as possible.

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