Packing for a long trip.

Photo courtesy of Fjäderlätt

When going on a long trip often it is your food that takes up the most space. I am about to set off on an 11 day, 10 night, trip along the Nordakalotten, the weight of food I am carrying is planned to be 8.5 kg, now in some ways the weight is not important, however, the volume is. Given that as every day progresses the weight and volume in my pack will decrease ideally I would like to start out with too much stuff in a small pack than a large (heavier) pack whose weight and volume will soon become redundant.

This is my challenge for the trip.

I could take an Aarn Natural Balance 85l pack which will hold everything and weigh 2.2 kg or take an Aarn Mountain Magic 55, a 55 litre pack which may struggle initially but only weighs 1.54 kg (which is a weight saving equivalent of almost a days food.) So there is an obvious benefit then in using the smaller pack so it is the volume of the food that becomes critical.

Over at Backpacking Light there was a very good article on food and travelling light in the Sierras. The essence of the food section of this article was 2000 kj per 100 gms in food with 680 gms of food every day resulted in 14000 kj per day which was seen as sufficient for the trip. Which seems to me to be about right. So with that in mind I have aimed for foods that offer 2000 kj per 100 gms and are of low volume. Oils are off course one of the most obvious solutions but a bottle of oil a day does not seem to me to be an ideal solution.

So my basic menu is built around porridge in the morning, lunch of cheese and tortilla wraps or couscous meals and for dinner Real Turmat.

Porridge I use a menu developed from Bill McCartney’s book Travel Light, Eat Heavy Along the Appalachian Trail and Other Mystical Routes and comprises oats Pecan Nuts raisins along with powdered milk and brown sugar.

Lunch is cheese and Tortilla Wraps or Lemon flavoured couscous with pine nuts and raisins.

Dinner is Real Turmat meals with home dehydrated fruit for dessert. The challenge with the Real Turmat meals is the bulky packaging. The packaging is robust and will withstand a lot of punishment, but when it comes to packing it is space hungry. Robin over at blogpackinglight has successfully tried repackaging Real Turmat meals and I am sure that this will help to reduce volume in the pack.

Packing the Aarn packs is an art, if you have a single sack bag with maybe some external pockets then everything has to fit into the main sac, but an Aarn pack requires you to think different. As I sit here writing this blog entry I have about 3 kg in each front pocket with about 11 kg in the main sack. The front pockets must contain all the days needs including food, camera, first aid etc so that the main section of the pack with dry bag is not opened.

I will let you know if I succeed

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15 Responses to Packing for a long trip.

  1. In some ways volume is as much of a struggle as weight for long trips. The Pod lightweight compression sacks are great for reducing the volume of clothes and sleeping bag. I reckon the Aarn sacks must be significantly better for heavier loads than conventional rucksacks. Look forward to more observations.

  2. Maybe you could attach a waterproof sack (light rolltop closure) to your pack and fill it with some light but high volume gear (quilt, puffy jacket, etc.) so that all the heavy food would fit in your pack. And when you have eaten enough food from your pack you could move the gear from drypack in the main pack to fill the newly found volume.I think I can easily fit my 8 days worth of gear and food in my Golite Pinnacle but the weight might become a problem as all my gear is not yet that light…

  3. I do not understand the notion of Real Turmats being bulky, I think they're significantly less bulky than other ready made meals, and you can fold them in half so they take less space or at least as much space if you'd be repacking them. Plus repacking creates double the amount of garbage, which I find completely unacceptable. What I do with the other, more bulky ready made meals is to make a small cut into the package, this breaks the vacuum but allows me to decrease the size a bit more. There's no harm done to the food on the inside, in case that would be someone's concern.

  4. Hendrik, it's not the bulk that is the issue, it's that the vacuum packing makes them inflexible (i.e. rigid) and therefore when you are packing a number of meals they take up more room.Fair point about more packaging. I guess you could just break the vacuum seal with a small cut, let some air in and re-seal with a bit of tape. The Soup n Sauce bags do have the advantage of being shallower and makes eating easier. From an eco point of view perhaps that's not an excuse 😦 One further point is that breaking the seal on the bags means that they will not keep as long. Drytech reckons five days but I think they ought to keep longer than that if resealed.

  5. I'd probably go with the lighter bag and add small silnylon stuffsack on the outside for the first day or two. Real Turmat can be a bit bulky but I find that is compensated by the fact that the packaging is so sturdy. You can tuck them into corners and recesses inside the pack without fear of the breaking. I often start with most of them under and around the sleeping bag at the bottom of my pack and as volume decreases they move onto the top of the sleeping bag.

  6. When will you be at Kilpisjärvi (the Finnish way to write the name)? I'll start and end my trip there so there might be a slight chance for meeting you there. It would be really nice to meet you. All this Nordic Lightpacking is quite inspiring! (And I know a place at Kilpisjärvi where you can get a great buffet dinner… =D)I think I'll end my trip to Kilpisjärvi July 2nd and will be leaving towards South the next day.I could drop you an e-mail with some details if you happen to be the at the same time?

  7. Maz says:

    We've been eating Be-Well Expedition meals which, for 180g, provide about 800kcals (actually, it varies from 650-800 but you get the idea). The food tastes rather nice in fact although avoid the Shepherd's pie… I've no experience with Real Turmat but I know Robin likes them. They're lighter than the Be-Well meals but slightly less calories. May well pick some up and try them as experimentation is the mother of invention (some say it's necessity but I disagree). However, I've had no problems with packing Be-Well meals and would recommend them thus far – cheaper too.

  8. Carsten says:

    I used a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Pluslast September on my trip fromKautokeino to Kvikkjokk.From Abisko to Kvikkjokk I had topack 12 days worth of food as allhuts etc. were already closed.The pack had a total of 20kg when Istarted in Absiko.CheersCarsten

  9. Thanks everyone for all the very helpful comments.Robin, yes volume and weight is always a challenge. Hendrik, perhaps bulky and Real Turmat is the wrong word, perhaps it is more about the rigidity of the packaging, breaking the vacuum seal is certainly a good way of increasing the flexibility. At the moment the RT meals are still in their original packing. Time will tell what I do.Jörgen and lightening up, the silnylon bag on the outside will be the cure if needed, using the lighter (55 litre) pack, stay tuned. Thanks Maz, the Be-Well meal sound interesting I don't think they are available in Denmark, I will look out for them however.Carsten thanks for your comments, according to my calculations pack weight for 11 days is 17 kg (there is always a drift but I am hoping for less than 18)

  10. Lightening Up, I will be in Kilpisjärvi on July 5, coming from the south. I definitely will be interested in finding a good buffet on July 5 before taking the bus to Tromsø : ) Not sure if you will be near where I am. On July 3, I expect to be in the vicinity of Daerttahytta heading north. Though only my starting and end point times are fixed.Drop me an email if your plans and mine may match.

  11. Maz says:

    No problems there – where in CPH are you? My partner is Danish so we're in Allerød 6-7 times a year. Could bring as many as 5 or even 10 over easily. I'm ordering some more for us in the next couple of weeks – want me to get you one or two to try & bring them next time we come?

  12. Hi Maz, I am in Værløse. Thanks for the offer, I may take you up on the offer later in the year.

  13. Maz says:

    No problems. I'll email you in advance before we go and order you a few bits if you want then we can meet in CPH of somewhere mutually easy to get to. May be in DK more permanently some day so I've been taking a look at how easy it is to get into decent hiking and hillwalking country in Norway and Sweden so the Nordic Lightpacking Fellowship has been very interesting. Good luck with it – hope it goes from strength to strength.

  14. Maz says:

    No problems. I'll email you in advance before we go and order you a few bits if you want then we can meet in CPH of somewhere mutually easy to get to. May be in DK more permanently some day so I've been taking a look at how easy it is to get into decent hiking and hillwalking country in Norway and Sweden so the Nordic Lightpacking Fellowship has been very interesting. Good luck with it – hope it goes from strength to strength.

  15. I do not understand the notion of Real Turmats being bulky, I think they're significantly less bulky than other ready made meals, and you can fold them in half so they take less space or at least as much space if you'd be repacking them. Plus repacking creates double the amount of garbage, which I find completely unacceptable. What I do with the other, more bulky ready made meals is to make a small cut into the package, this breaks the vacuum but allows me to decrease the size a bit more. There's no harm done to the food on the inside, in case that would be someone's concern.

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