Today I spent the morning making my final pack list--discarding the unnecessary items, eliminating all the alternatives, weighing the primary selections on the kitchen scale, then stuffing the Chosen Items into colored stuff sacks or Ziploc bags.
I spent hours on the task, far more than I expected. I'd already done a fairly large clothing shakedown when I did my snow camping at the end of January, so I'm feeling fairly confident about my 4.7 pounds of clothing. It's an odd mix of clothing, suitable for both the hot hiking through the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, cold hiking through the sad remnants of this unsnowy winter in the southern California mountains and the southern Sierra Nevada, and wet hiking through the Washington state Cascades.
As for the big four of backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, well, those that 8 1/2 pounds is locked in and set as well; there isn't much quibbling to be had there. So that's roughly 13 pounds or so that's dialed in... but the other five, six, eight pounds are just painful to fuss around with.
I spent far too much time contemplating each decision: Do I take a mosquito headnet in southern California? Mosquito repellent? Sunscreen? Fingernail clippers? A full roll of blister tape, or half? Lexan spoon or a metal spork? Double-walled mug or single-wall? Mug cover? 8 liters of water bladder capacity for dry desert, or just 4 liters, supplemented with strategic SmartWater bottles from supermarkets and service stations? I wrote up a spreadsheet to tracking these 100 or so items, which really helped--cut an ounce or three off of a few things, and you're talking real weight, and I listed out all those options and weighed them to make sure.
Once the list was done, I was able to figure out how many bags I needed to contain the various items. That was also a bit more complicated that expected, each sack had different requirements: for example, the "dirty water sack" (filter, dirty water squeeze bag), the "mug/towel/bowl" sack with eating implements, the "baselayer sack" (warm but thin undergarmets), the "dry hardware sack" (cord, duct tape, garbage bags). and I ended up with eight different ones.
It all got wearying, and after a point I realized it didn't make much difference. My base weight without food, water, and fuel was going to be between 19 and 21 pounds, and you know this is an adventure but it's not terra incognito. I can always mail stuff home I don't need, or just leave it in a hiker box or with another hiker along the trail who needs it (biggest uncertainty: how many layers and changes of clothes do I really need?).
The end outcome of this morning's exercise wasn't really the answer for "what's your base weight?" It was more about "am I comfortable with what I'm carrying, and have I considered each item?" Yep, I certainly did consider every piece of gear, and that was very satisfying.
But then there was another question I had just after lunch: "how does it all fit in my pack?" So I put 5 liters water in 2 Platypus bladders, shoved 11 pounds of food in various stuff sacks, and got it to more-or-less fit. When I stepped on the scale, it read 40.5 pounds, just what I expected. I figure I'll be trading a liter of water for the bear canister in the Sierra, and another liter/kg for food up there, so that's going to be roughly the max weight I'll have for both the dry southern California sections and the long haul where water is abundant but resupply is sparse, from Tuolumne Meadows through northern Yosemite to south Lake Tahoe.
The 40.5 pound weight is doable, it's about as much weight as I've lost in the past eight years, and lighter than the usual 45 to 50 pounds I used to backpack around the Sierras with when I was a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s. It's also a max weight when it comes to food and water--after a resupply with 7 days of food, the pack is going to be quite heavy.
So that brought me to the last question I had for today: with a 40 pound fully loaded weight, I got to asking ""how do I fit that damn bear canister in?" Well, you push it in, down to the very bottom of the pack, built up on top of it like you're packing a grocery sack with the lighter things up top. Somehow magically it all fit. One thing's for sure, I'm glad I got the larger backpack size from ULA so it all isn't so cramped, but is well-packed.
So that's it. I'm done packing. I'm not quite ready to go--I still have to finish the resupply details, but I have a rough outline of all that. But I've really come to the end of the great fun of shopping for new gear and the tediousness of shopping for new gear, and there are just a few trivial changes I'll need to do before I can do my final packing.
It feels good to be prepared as much as I can for packing, and for how much I should rationally plan on resupplying with on each stop on my five month walk north.