Pre-trip Gear Testing: Backpack

When I received my new ULA Catalyst in the mail, I stuffed a couch pillow and nine cans of back beans into it, put it on, walked from one end of the house to the other, and called it good.

The night before I left for the airport was the first time I tried to put everything inside. This is the biggest pack ULA sells, okay, and I’ve lost track of the number of people online who say they keep everything but water in their pack, plenty of room, no problem.

I didn’t think I had that much stuff, in terms of volume. Hell, even in terms of weight I didn’t think I was doing too badly. If you take out the six pounds of totally unnecessary luxury electronics, my base weight was hovering right around 21-22 lbs. For someone who does not aspire to ultra-lightness, that’s not too shabby.

But nothing fit, oh my god, why wouldn’t it all go inside, what was I doing wrong?!


I never figured that out. Ultimately, I carried the following stuff in the outside pockets, the big stuff because no how much I squeezed or shoved or compressed it would simply not fit inside, and the small stuff for the sake of convenience:

Left Side Pocket

  • tent + poles and stakes
  • Tyvek ground sheet
  • car windshield reflector sit pad

Right Side Pocket

  • SmartWater bottle
  • two Evernew soft bottles (900ml, 1.5L)
  • stove fuel

Back Mesh Pocket

  • titanium trowel
  • water scoop made from bottom of Aquafina bottle
  • rain coat and pants
  • plastic peanut butter jar
  • Freshette, the “feminine urinary director for women of all ages”
  • hat
  • sunglasses and hard case
  • ziploc bag with toilet paper, wet wipes, Gold Bond

Attached to or Underneath Elastic Cord

  • closed-cell sleeping pad
  • camp shoes

Hip Belt Pockets

  • sunscreen
  • whistle
  • headlamp
  • lip balm
  • waterproof camera
  • duct tape
  • Compeed
  • extra piece reflective 2mm cord

I am quietly jealous of all the hikers who manage to stuff everything big and bulky inside their backpack. They look so streamlined and elegant. Where the hell does it all go?!

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2 Responses to Pre-trip Gear Testing: Backpack

  1. Forrest says:

    I fit everything in my pack, but it’s huge, and heavy. In fact, mine is just shy of 1/4 your base weight (not counting the electronics). You’ve probably got the better end of the deal.

    • adventurestan says:

      You’re definitely more hardcore than I am! I think if I added any more weight to my pack, I’d have to break down and buy a little wagon for it.

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