Since I head off on a backpacking, car camping or ski trip almost every weekend, I’ve created a system for myself to make sure that I pack efficiently and effectively on Thursday night to be able to just take off from work on Friday.
1. ORGANIZE YOUR GEAR
This one sounds easier than done. I am fortunate enough to have an entire closet in my apartment dedicated to all of my gear. Depending on where you live, this might mean a section of your garage or even the space under your bed (which I’ve done when I lived with roommates).
I have 4 different bins in my closet; summer, winter, toiletries, and food/snacks. I use the large plastic storage bins you can find at Target.
In the summer bin, I keep my backpacking tent, backpacking pack, Sawyer water filter, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and anything else that I would use in the summer months for car camping and backpacking.
In my winter bin, I keep my snowboarding clothes, snowboarding boots, snowshoes, gaiters, crampons, microspikes, toe warmers, and anything else I’d use during the winter months.
Then I have a toiletries bin and food bin separate from my seasonal bins because I need both regardless of the season. In my toiletries bin, I keep anything I’d need for either season. Sunscreen, chapstick, face wipes, travel toothpaste and toothbrush, headlamp, etc. And in my food/snack bin, I keep a stock of freeze dried meals, tuna packets, non-perishable snacks like energy chews, apple sauce, peanut butter packets, and so forth. I also keep my camping stove and iso propane tank in there.
Now depending on which sports you do, these bins could look different. I haven’t snow camped yet, so when summer is over and I’m ready for snowboarding season, I pack away my tent and things like that.
This way, if I’m going snowboarding, I just bring clothes to wear around town, undies and grab my bin. If I’m going backpacking, I can grab my summer bin and everything is already there!
I keep my day pack separate and just hanging since I use it for pretty much everything.
2. CREATE A LIST
Depending on what activities you do, just create an evergreen list so when you’re packing you’ll know exactly what you need for which trip.
I backpack, car camp, day hike, snowboard, and snowshoe. So I keep a list of what I need to pack for each one of those activities so it’s easy. Pull out your list, pack away from your bin and you’re ready to go!
3. KEEP EVERYTHING ON STOCK
It can be financially taxing especially at first, but if you have everything handy, you won’t be scrambling the night before trying to make sure REI is still open to grab freeze dried meals for your backpacking trip.
Keep freeze dried meals, non-perishables, tuna packs, and anything else you do for food handy with your gear. Of course, these things expire, but I typically go through them well before the expiration date.
Also keep batteries, sunscreen, travel toothpaste, face wipes, etc.
So you can grab and go.
4. DON’T DILLY DALLY
For me, the biggest time waster is dilly dallying. I start, then I find something else to do, or I create excuses and don’t pack. I’ve been there where I rush home on Friday after work to pack and end up forgetting my PJ’s.
Just pack and be done with it. When I just do it, it’ll take me maybe 15 minutes with my system. Of course, longer trips like the High Sierra Trail, the John Muir Trail or international trips will take more than 15 minutes to pack. But for a weekend Mammoth snowboarding trip or a long weekend backpacking trip in Yosemite, this is perfect!
5. UNPACK AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME
Seriously, I mean it. When I get home on Sunday night, I bring everything inside from my car (a hassle but takes 5 minutes) and literally unpack on the spot. Even before I’ve showered! Just do it. Again if you dilly dally on this it becomes a choir and one that you will never get done.