Small Things – Gettin’ Organized

Gear creep is sort of inevitable in any gear-heavy activity; even the seemingly most basic activities like running tend to attract gear like crazy. It’s important to re-focus and pare down those gears after acquiring more things, usually as our respective kits evolve. Organization is key when one wants to keep things light and simple. Having a good perspective on the inventory is a powerful tool in keeping organized. Small things can get out of hand, here are a few thoughts on reining in the loose ends and getting that gear organized.

A Place For Everything and Everything in Its Place

I’m often the last in the group break down my camp and get my stuff packed up. Part of the reason for that is I feel a compulsion to be meticulous about where and how my things are packed. As an extension of my borderline OCD personality quirk, I really like to have everything compartmentalized. I’m sure most of us take a similar approach. Not only does it help maintain a level of organization, but it serves as a good visual tool to spot gear overflow – not to mention it’s less to think about when preparing for a trip. Those overflowing “kits” and “orphans” that don’t fit here or there readily volunteer themselves as candidates for the next trim down. Here are a few of the kits that can typically be found in my pack…

First Aid Kit, Toothbrush Kit, Dishwash Kit

Prior to this year I just combined these in a single kit. After getting a little more organized I split them up. The toothbrush kit is separate so I don’t need to put any extra effort into keeping my toothbrush dry or worry about it falling on the ground while hunting for ibuprofen, etc… It also prevents it from getting anything else in my FAK damp. The Dishwash kitcontains a mini dropper of Campsuds, a sponge clipping, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. It keeps the wet stuff away from the dry stuff in my FAK and prevents the little sponge from contaminating up the werks with interesting microbes. Now I only need to dive into my FAK when first-aid related items are needed. By the way, I like using Lok Sak storage bags for this kind of stuff… in my experience they’re fairly durable and have a good seal, as well as coming in many convenient sizes.

First Aid, Toothbrush, and Dishwash Kits
First Aid, Toothbrush, and Dishwash Kits

Cook Kit

The contents of my cook kit can vary a little depending on what setup I’m taking but generally looks like this… Pot, Stove, Fuel, Windscreen, Tea Kit, Stuff Sack. Wait… Tea Kit?? Yes, I have my coffee and tea in its own kit 🙂 I just like to keep it separate so I don’t have little bags of tea and Via floating all over my food bag or bear can. I also keep a small bag of sugar with it as well as matches or a lighter. It goes right into the pot and since it’s bagged up nothing damp wet (which is especially important with the matches/lighter!) If I’m in the mood for a cuppa, I just need my cook kit and some water… no digging thru the food bag.

My "Cooking" Cook kit
My “Cooking” Cook kit

Nav Kit

Just a map and compass. I toss them into a plastic bag for a little extra protection. I never go anywhere without at least printing off the quadrant that I need. Been on too many “short and easy” trips now where time was spent backtracking or looking for people who got separated and had no map. Enough of that nonsense!

Sleep Kit

Just a couple syringes of Propofol and I don’t need a pillow or air pad any more. Ok, ok… So I stuff my Exped Air Pillow in with whichever inflatable pad I’m bringing (usually and old school Kookabay pad) and my chopped down Instaflator. Keeps the stuff together when I need to bust it out and blow em up.


Whichever shelter I’m taking, I make an effort to keep it together with both the groundsheet (if I’ve made/need one for it) and the tent stakes. I have a ZPacks tent stake stuff sack which keeps those all together and adds a little protection against any pokies getting the shelter.

Tarp, Groundsheet, Stakes
Tarp, Groundsheet, Stakes

Photo Kit

If you’ve read my blog much, you had to have known this was coming. I previously kept most of my photography related items in a ZPacks hip belt pocket, however that became a tight squeeze and also the elastic attachment points became stretched out due to the weight of the (compact) lenses and such. My buddy Adam found this inexpensive and convenient carry case (though not strictly “ultralight”) at Target which I’ve grown fond of. This happens to fit perfectly on the hipbelt of my ZPacks Arc Blast. I can keep 2-3 lenses in there, a spare battery, spare memory card, remote, and a filter or two. I carry my camera around my neck and if I need to put it away, it goes in my backpack for a short time.

Everything Else

Then there is everything else… which by this point doesn’t leave too many loose ends. I’ve got my quilt or sleeping bag, water filtration setup (still a work in progress), water bottle, coffee mug, spoon, food storage, headlamp, pocket knife, GorillaPod (tripod), clothing, and my wallet. Does that cover everything? I think so! My filter and related items usually go in the outside pocket of my pack, or on top of everything (both for easy access and interest of keeping stuff dry). Water bottle is in a side pocket. Coffee mug in the other side pocket along with my headlamp and tripod. My spoon is with my food. My pocket knife is in my pocket of course, as is my wallet which is simply a tiny ZPacks stuff sack. My clothes are in a ZPacks large stuff sack. Food storage is either my Outsak UL or my Bear Vault. Bam! Done.

Having a decent level of organization it’s easy to take stock of the leftovers and ponder how to further simplify and better pack. I know what I should have sitting in a small pile on the floor when all else is packed and accounted for, so it’s not easy for anything to slide in under the radar, but somehow a stray beer or two seems to do that more often or not. Oh well, what can ya do? Hike It. Like It.

Jacob D Written by:

Jacob is the head honcho, wearer of many hats, and modern day berserker here at Hike It. Like It. When he's not out hiking or running the trails you'll find him operating in full capacity as a Super Dad and chipping away at a degree in Kinesiology. This guy likes to stay busy. Follow on Strava


  1. Timo Kiravuo
    February 2, 2015


    You seem to be thinking fairly much like me. Everything should have a thought out place. The only difference I have is that I store my toothbrush with the eating kit, since I will use it after eating anyways and I brush my teeth more often than need first aid or wash the rest of me; and I store the dish washing set with the stove, since I assume that the dish brush might have food scraps and if they develop culture, the stove does not mind, unlike my spoon and me. Also I think about what is wet after use and store dishes and the abovementioned in uncoated nylon bags to give them a chance to dry out a little bit.

    And I have a tea kit, too. MSR mug mate is a bit heavy, but I prefer the loose leaf tea to the factory sweepings (there is nothing wrong with a tea bag an sich, it is just that the stuff put into the tea bag is usually not the best quality).


    • February 17, 2015

      Hi Tim. Nice tips! Organization is key to culling the unnecessary stuff and also preventing those yardsales on the trail or in camp. I know guys who literally dump their pack out to find things. I can’t roll like that 🙂

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