When I started making a packing list, I started by listing things by function: clothing, water, eating, toiletries, gadgets, etc etc etc. That was handy to make sure that I didn't forget to think about things, but really wasn't how I ended up packing my pack.

Instead, I started moving things around after packing and repacking, and eventually ended up packing things together by when I would use them. Did I really need to keep my beanie with my rain jacket in some clothing sack? I'll use the beanie every night when I sleep, but I won't use the rain jacket unless it's raining. I don't need to keep the naproxen buried in my pack with the rest of the toiletries, its better if it's easily accessible during the day.

Eventually I ended up using four stuff sacks to divide things up. A green sack was my 'go' sack, for items I would need anytime: energy bars, extra camera battery, bandana, lightweight gloves. A gold sack was my regular clothing, like socks and undies. A smaller mesh sack was for outerwear that'd get wet and wouldn't be used often--rain jacket, glove shells. And the blue bag was for camp.

It's that blue bag I want to dig into: it was for things I'd need once I got to camp. Inside were things as varied as clothespins, utensils, charging cables, headlamp, extra memory cards for the camera, and reading glasses. I separated a lot of the items into various clear gallon sized Ziploc bags, which helped quite a bit to quickly locate items. I'll go through each one of these bags in detail, but for now here's the table of what I carried and how much it all weighed.

And inside the blue sack is what I consider to be the most overlooked and necessary camping item: earplugs. It goes without saying that tent walls are pretty thin!

Read on...

Blue Stuff Sack details

Item Description g oz Notes Container or Location
Blue Stuff Sack SeaToSummit Blue 15L (large) 25 0.9 Backpack, top
Utensils Spork, Light My Fire, Orange plastic 10 0.4 Broke near the end of the trip. Get the Ti one next time. Blue Stuff Sack
Headlight Black Diamond Revolt with batteries 103 3.6 Blue Stuff Sack
Beanie Kathmandu 50 1.8 Random fleece hat Blue Stuff Sack
Clothespins 2 clips from an Ikea
octopus clothes dryer
12 0.4 Blue Stuff Sack
Sleeping/camp socks Montbell Orange Toe Socks 65 2.3 Blue Stuff Sack
Hardware Bag Ziplock Gallon Freezer Bag 4 0.1 Blue Stuff Sack
Cord for Bear Bag Zpacks Zline 50 feet on cardboard tube 43 1.5 Never used, don't take next time Hardware Bag
Cord 1mm shock cord, 10 feet 15 0.5 Tent pole shock cord. Hardware Bag
Cable Wrap Gardner Bender Cablewraptor, 12" UV Black 10 0.4 From Home Depot. Hardware Bag
Pen Ballpoint 6 0.2 Thin pen from some Westin hotel. Hardware Bag
Water filter flusher Smartwater Sport bottle top 5 0.2 For backflushing the water filter Hardware Bag
Extra water bottle lid Smartwater bottle top 4 0.1 Hardware Bag
Duct Tape Nashua foil duct tape, 6 feet 11 0.4 For repairs. Hardware Bag
Sleeping Pad Patch Kit S2S Patch Kit 7 0.2 Hardware Bag
Cables Fitbit One USB dongle 10 0.4 Hardware Bag
Waterproof Phone Case CascadeDesigns eCase 9 38 1.3 Blue Stuff Sack
Extra Contacts In flat packaging, not vials 5 0.2 Waterproof Phone Case
Camera memory 3x 64GB, in cases in SanDisk pouch 21 0.7 Waterproof Phone Case
Glasses case Jublo blue and white case 44 1.6 Blue Stuff Sack
Glasses Eyeglasses 34 1.2 Glasses case
Glasses Reading glasses 33 1.2 Glasses case
Cleaning Cloth Red thin cloth for cleaning 10 0.4 Glasses case
Contact Case B&L blue/white case 10 0.4 Glasses case
Toiletries Wet Sack Ziplock quart freezer bag 9 0.3 Blue Stuff Sack
Antibiotic Neosporin, 0.5oz tube 11 0.4 Toiletries Wet Sack
Ear drops Ofloxacin, 10ml 15 0.5 Toiletries Wet Sack
Toothbrush Airplane amenity kit toothbrush 17 0.6 Toiletries Wet Sack
Toothpaste Colgate 20 0.7 Toiletries Wet Sack
Contact Cleaner Boston RGP cleaner 25 0.9 Toiletries Wet Sack
Toiletries Dry Sack Ziplock quart storage bag 5 0.2 Blue Stuff Sack
Bandaids 5 medium sized bandaids 10 0.4 Toiletries Dry Sack
Nail Clippers Lacrosse, fingernail 14 0.5 Not really needed Toiletries Dry Sack
Water Tablets Taharmayim, 20 tablets 5 0.2 Chlorine dioxide based Toiletries Dry Sack
Q-tips Q-tips 10 0.4 Toiletries Dry Sack
Earplugs Disposable earplugs 8 0.3 Toiletries Dry Sack
Floss Dentist small oval colgate 6 0.2 Toiletries Dry Sack
Disgusting Bag Ziplock Quart freezer bag 5 0.2 Blue Stuff Sack
Disgusting towel Brown Trader Joes 22 0.8 Disgusting Bag
Total weight 757g 26.8oz

Loose items

The stuff sack itself was a SeaToSummit large 15 liter sack with a few loose things:

  • Eating Utensil. Light My Fire Orange plastic spork. I liked this OK, but it did break on the second to last day of my trip. I'd use their titanium spork instead.

  • Headlight. Black Diamond Revolt. This worked great. I loved how it charged over USB, I could use the same cable to charge my camera. I didn't like hiking at night, so I wasn't very concerned with this being the brightest headlight out there.

  • Sleeping Beanie. Kathmandu. I bought this years ago in Sydney, just a fleece beanie with a neck extension that I could pull down over my face, leaving just my nose and mouth exposed. Still works.

  • Clothespins. I detached two clips from this Ikea octopus clothes dryer hanger thingy, and used them to keep the tent rainfly from flapping in the wind at night.

  • Sleeping/camp socks. Montbell toe socks, over the calf. Sometimes there just wasn't enough water to rinse off my dirty feel well, so I put these on, which kept my feet nice and warm at night. I'd put them on right after arriving in camp as well; the split in the toes worked well with the flipflops I wore at the end of the day.

Of these items, none is really remarkable; they just did their jobs well.

Hardware bag

This was a Ziplock gallon freezer bag, filled with things I'd occasionally use, plus things to repair other items. I wouldn't take cord for a bear bag again, but other than that these things weren't too much burden at all.

  • Cord for Bear Bag. For some reason, I thought I'd need 50 feet of cord to hang a bear bag. I never once hung my bear bag... and could've gotten by without this.

  • Cord. 1mm shock cord, 10 feet. I went to the REI workshop and bought this just in case--it's the cord that goes inside of tent poles to help them snap together. I ended up using this to make a little laundry line inside my tent along the roof. That was a great idea; I could let my socks and undies dry overnight. Did I use all 10 feet? Not quite, I had a foot or two left over.

  • Cable wraps. These are like reusable cable ties, I used a pair to keep my sleeping mat rolled up for awhile.

  • Ballpoint pen. Yep, occasionally I'd write something, leaving a note for a hiking buddy or something.

  • Water filter flusher. The top from a Smartwater Sport bottle (700ml). Fits onto the outlet of a Sawyer Squeeze for reverse flushing; I'd do that every few days in town or when there was faucet water.

  • Extra water bottle lid. Smartwater bottle top. I lost a lid to a Platypus bag in a stream, so I carried an extra.

  • Duct Tape Nashua foil duct tape, 6 feet. This is shiny metal stuff that sticks to anything. I used it to repair my sun umbrella when a bush attacked it past Big Bear, and later to patch an inch long gash in the tent floor (when I camped on a nice sandy spot in the Mojave with a broken beer bottle hiding in the sand, grrr).

  • Sleeping Pad Patch Kit It came with the SeaToSummit pad. After two failed inflatables in the first few weeks, I was taking it.

  • Fitbit charging cable. Yeah, I wore a Fitbit One on the trail, just to be competitive with the folks back home :-)

Waterproof Phone Case

Forget those "10 Backpacking Essentials" like paper maps and a compass--the PCT is a different type of backpacking, and you're unlikely to need either. A smartphone is very useful, and I wanted to make sure mine was protected, as well as a few other delicate items.

  • Case. CascadeDesigns eCase 9. This protected my iPhone6 on several occasions when it was wet and ugly out.

  • Extra contacts. I wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses, and kept an extra pair inside the phone case.

  • Camera memory. Inside a little pouch were 3 64GB SD cards for the camera, though I had 5 SD cards at one point in there.

Eyeglasses Case

My eyeglass case ended up being one of the hardest things to source: I wanted something that didn't weigh a lot and could fit both my eyeglasses and reading glasses. Almost all cases are either too small or too heavy (some weighed well over 3 ounces!), and I weighed a lot of them. Eventually I worked out that I could nest my two glasses inside each other, and they'd fit in a rigid plastic case my Jublo sunglasses came in. I could even fit my contact lens case inside.

  • Case. Jublo blue and white. Sturdy yet light, 44 grams.

  • Eyeglasses and reading glasses. 33 and 34 grams each.

  • Cleaning cloth and contact lens case. 20 grams for both, the cleaning cloth was used for the camera lens as well.

Toiletries wet sack

Another Ziploc bag, this time a quart-sized storage bag with the sliding zip. With all the elevation changes, things would sometimes leak, and I wanted to keep the mess contained.

  • Antibiotics. Neosporin for cuts, and ofloxacin for ear infections which I get every few months.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste. Really, you don't have to cut a toothbrush in half to save weight. I used an airline amenity kit toothbrush that weighed about half what the freebie dentist toothbrush weighed. I did use the free toothpaste the dentist gave me though.

  • Contact cleaner. Just stuff to wash my contact lenses with.

Toiletries dry sack

Another quart Ziploc storage bag.

  • Bandaids. 5 medium sized bandaids. Really, I don't know why kept carrying all of them. If I got a cut or scrape, I'd just put Neosporin on it and let it heal. I did use a couple of these bandaids for finger cuts though.

  • Nail Clippers. I thought I'd use these. I did a couple of times, but found my nails really didn't grow much at all when I was hiking. I'd leave these at home next time.

  • Water Purification Tablets. Taharmayim, 20 tabs. Again, I thought I'd use these--but didn't need to at all, even on this droughty year. Another item to leave at home.

  • Q-Tips. Oh yeah, I used these once a week, especially after a night with earplugs.

  • Earplugs. These are super-necessary, and not just in crowded hostels. On the trail you might have to camp inches away from another tent, or maybe a really loud snorer will arrive at 11pm and set up camp next to you. Don't get them at a drug store--get them at a place like Home Depot, where you can find a hundred earplugs for $10, look for them near googles and safety gear.

  • Floss. Yeah, for your teeth. Very useful for post-jerky moments.

Disgusting bag

This is the last bag, and the grossest thing I pack. It's another quart Ziploc storage bag with a single item: a quick-dry towel.

  • Disgusting towel. This is a brown Trader Joe's drying towel I've had forever, and the brown color is a signal that I should never ever use this to get something sanitary. It's the towel I'll use to wash my disgusting feet at the end of the day; it's the towel I'll use to clean sweaty private bits. I make sure I rinse it out often, far away from running water, and in town I will nuke it in the motel microwave (in a sanitary one-use bag) before putting it in the laundry.

That's all. Altogether, an important bag, but one that's often overlooked for far more glamorous items like backpacks and tents. Don't forget your earplugs!

That's it. There are a few other 'sleeping' things I used, like a beanie and sleeping socks, but those are more clothing. This is more about the gear, and these items were also by far the most expensive things I needed to buy for my PCT hike.

Comments, anyone?