Pack rassling

“If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.”

(OK, so maybe that’s an unfortunate quote. But since Johnnie Cochran was pretty much a cartoon character anyway [as were all of them, with the notable exception of the vastly unfortunate victims], I guess that’s enough said.)

My beautiful, wonderful pack, which I love so much that I want to marry it… yes, my ULA Circuit: We had a sit-down, my pack and I. (I wonder if I should give my pack a name? People name their cars, they name their GPS devices, they name all sorts of things that don’t generally need names. Maybe I should name my pack “Mango.” Then again, the whole trail name issue is hard enough without compounding it by naming each and every piece of gear as though it were family. Which it is. And my phone, by the way, is “Bruce.”)

My pack—for the purposes of this post, let’s call it “Mango”—well, let’s just say that the gloves don’t fit.

And not only the gloves. The stove doesn’t fit, the sleeping bag doesn’t fit, the eight-pound bag of birdseed I’m using to simulate food doesn’t fit… it’s a giant, enormous, pretty-much-infinite mess of generalized non-fitting. In other words, I’ve got the weight manageable, but the bulk is out of control, baby.

I’ve had to cheat some. For instance, I don’t have my stupidly expensive Nunatak quilt yet, so I’m using my stupidly expensive Western Mountaineering bag as a stand-in. The bag weighs 32 ounces. The quilt is reputed to weigh 21, and I’m assuming will take up half the bulk of the WM bag. Great! I figured, because, well, there’s a whole raft of crap I haven’t figured out yet: toothpaste and such. I mean, I’ve figured it out, but I haven’t packed it up. That extra 11 ounces can represent the rest of the family.

Also, I only had a larger canister of fuel. (I remedied that yesterday, woohoo! That tiny little JetBoil canister is adorable. So adorable, that I want to take two! Which, of course, is why Monsieur Cochrane is the headline of this post.)

I was originally taking a Patagonia down jacket, plus a Montbell down shirt (7 ounces) for sleeping, given that I’m going with the quilt and starting in early March, and I sleep cold. BUT… the people at White Blaze terrified me with all the hypothermia talk, so I decided I’d better switch out the down shirt for a Patagonia fleece, just in case everything gets wet. I’ll have one piece of synthetic insulation that dries quickly and also insulates even when wet. But man, that thing is bulky (bulk, of course, being relative, in a situation where 3 ounces might as well be a half-ton)!

I could not jam all that crap into that pack.

Mango and I went through a few iterations of trying things out in a different order, as though somehow packing something on the left instead of the right would magically make it take up less space.

Oh, Mango. You’re killing me.

Thus, we’ve entered the land of Hard Choices. In the land of Hard Choices, the cute Montbell down shirt has to stay at home. Yes, honey, you pack down to the size of a baseball, but you know what? I don’t have room for a baseball, either. (That’s predicated, of course, on the quilt being warm enough. When it arrives, I’m going to do some hardcore experimenting.)

In the land of Hard Choices, I dumped my titanium coffee cup, which I love. It weighs about as much as a feather, but it takes up too much space. I dumped my polypro ground sheet (although that one may come back; I’m also afraid of three weeks of driving rain). (Also, I’m taking another, silnylon ground sheet for under my tent, so this was basically cutting out a redundant nicety.) In the land of Hard Choices, I switched out my midweight Capilene sleeping insulation shirt for Thermasilk, since I have the Patagonia down jacket. That might not work out either, once I start experimenting with the sleep system, now that the down shirt is a goner.

I’m still working on this. I’d like to get another test-pack done today and tomorrow, including all the miscellaneous toiletries and such.

Mango and I will keep you posted.

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