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It’s all in the bag
  |  First Published: August 2004



DISCUSSING the contents of one’s bag is a very private subject, particularly for a woman.

I would never disclose the contents of my ever present handbag but I feel it is time to show just how much a seasoned camper can fit into a backpack. Handbags are a woman’s office (well, mine is) and are rather easy to carry. So, too, are the modern backpacks.

Keep in mind, however, when choosing a backpack that it has to be carried to your campsite and back again.

Gone are the days when we needed a box trailer to carry all our gear. With the advent of compact cookers, lights, towels, clothes and mess kits, as well as tents and sleeping mats and bags, the camper can now carry it all on their back and have hands free to carry the rod and tackle box.

The essential element here is to pack it so that you can find what you need, when you need it.

Having selected a good-quality, sturdy, multi-pocketed backpack, the next step is to lay out everything that you feel is essential to your camping trip. This includes food, clothes, camping gear and so on.

You would be surprised just how many campers forget the little things, so if everything is spread out then you can tick it all off your checklist as you pack. This is a sure and safe way of ensuring that once you, are there, so is everything that you need.

Keeping in mind that the tent goes up first, the backpack can then go inside and be dismantled as each item is required. I usually pack all the clothing except for a spare jacket into the front pocket. This area takes a surprisingly large amount of gear.

Always remember when packing that clothing takes up less space when tightly rolled. When it is folded, air is trapped between the layers and wastes space.

PACKING IT ALL IN

In the main section of the backpack I start with the food, keeping tins to a minimum as these add too much weight. The newer dried and processed pastas and complete meals are nutritious and easy on the palate. When the fish aren’t biting or after a long trek, I always pack a few of these types of meals just in case.

Other items, such as powdered milk, flour, etc, can be repacked into snap seal-plastic bags which makes them easier to pack and helps them to stay fresh longer. I always repack sugar, tea and coffee into square plastic jars, which fit neatly into small spaces.

Next on the list come the cooking implements. A two-person stainless steel cook set and a small frying pan are basic needs for most campers. The cook sets come in many shapes and styles but I always put ours into a mesh carry bag. A little protection around your equipment will help it last years.

The next items to pack are the stove and lighting. Gasmate manufactures a range of backpacker stoves and lanterns which come in protective containers. There are also many other brands around.

Whichever one you choose, always make sure that the type of fuel used is easy to get. Once you are out in the great outdoors there usually isn’t a camping store behind the next tree.

A quality torch is also recommended. Again, make sure that the batteries will last the trip. Another good idea is a waterproof headlamp.

Knives, forks and spoon sets are a great idea but don’t forget the can opener. A couple of plates, cups and bowls complete the meal requirements.

Don’t forget to take along a water bottle or two. I always take a vacuum flask as well – you never know when a cuppa might come in handy once the stove is packed away.

There is a vast range of lightweight, folding campstools on the market and you might need one of these as well. It is not always necessary to have a table but a seat is a good idea.

A plastic blow-up sink is handy for washing hands and cooking and eating utensils. Alternatively, a folding bucket could suffice. I pack both.

You will also need a towel and the new trekking towels are super-absorbent and take up little space. The fly and mozzie repellent is also important, particularly in summer. Some of these also contain sunscreen. Last, but not least, don’t forget the compass.

This has the main section packed. The jacket that was kept out is packed around the contents of the main section and the zip closed.

The backpack should have a few external straps to the sides and base, which are used to attach the tent, the self-inflating mattress and the sleeping bag. A travel rug can also be attached, which will give you a ground cover for meal and rest stops.

Now wasn’t that easy? Anything left over is not going, but I nearly forgot the camera – better find a spot some where for that.

As you can see, it really is a personal choice but the backbone of packing really is easy.

THE BASICS

The following is a general guide and prices are approximate.

Caribee backpack $159

Hi Country hiking tent $139

Lite Hiker sleeping bag $99.95

Self-inflating hiker’s mat $59.95

Trekking towel $16.95

Stainless cook set $26.95

Gasmate backpacker stove $29.95

Gasmate 80w backpacker lantern $54.95

Thanks to Aussie Disposals, Northcott Drive, Kotara (02 4965 5500) for supplying the display items.

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