105: Is There a Right and Proper Way to Backpack?

Show Notes: Episode 105

Today on the First 40 Miles, if your mother in law tells you there is one right way to set the table for Thanksgiving dinner, you may or may not believe her.  But believe us when we say there is not one right and proper way to backpack.   However there are some key elements that will ensure that your trip is safe, fun and memorable!  Then, on today’s SUMMIT Gear Review, accessible storage for your pack that keeps your essentials within reach.  For the Backpack Hack of the Week, we’re going to #OptOutside this black Friday, but later we may do a wee bit of browsing for deals online.


  • No “right” or “proper” way to backpack
  • Everything on a trip is your own choice… the person next to you may do it completely differently, but you do it the way you want
  • In fact you may be wondering, “Can I just go out in the wilderness with a jury-rigged pack, the gear that I’ve cobbled together and still have a great time?” YES!
  • We hope this idea that there is no right and proper way to backpack, gives encouragement to new backpackers, who may have seen movies or heard stories from other backpackers and wonder – is there a right way and a wrong way?
  • There’s no expectation that your gear needs to be from this decade—or even this millennium! There’s no expectation that your set up needs to be anything like a catalog image!
  • Don’t let your “image” of a perfect backpacking trip, get in the way of getting out there.

Top 5 Things You Have to Get Right While Backpacking

Core Body Temp

  • Adequate clothing (that allows for moisture to escape and not be trapped)
  • Synthetic wicking fabrics or natural wool or bamboo fibers.
  • Cotton holds on to a lot of water, which will affect your body’s ability to regulate its core body temperature
  • Sleeping bag, bedroll, blankets
  • Sleeping pad will insulate your body from the ground—important to have even in summer

Hydration + Calories

  • These two are together because hydration without calories means that your body isn’t getting the electrolytes it needs to balance the water.
  • Drinking too little can lead to dehydration
  • Calories are important
  • Whether they come from fats, carbs, or protein, make sure you have enough calories to match your exertion level and outside temperature. (colder weather requires more calories)
  • Roughly 3,000 calories a day

First Aid Skills and Knowledge

  • Many of the items that are typically in a first aid kit can be improvised…but what’s even more essential than a simple first aid kit, is first aid skills and knowledge.
  • It’s the skills and knowledge that will save lives
  • Know the signs of hypothermia
  • Know the signs of shock
  • Know how to treat bleeding
  • Know what an infection looks like
  • Know how altitude sickness manifests itself
  • Know that washing your hands before touching food can prevent the spread of germs
  • Simply knowing how to prevent blisters in the first place is worth much more than pounds of moleskin
  • The basic skills and knowledge is going to give you confidence and peace of mind on the trail

Know How to Get Back

  • Whether it’s getting back to your site after a quick bathroom stop, getting back to the main trail after exploring a spur, or getting back to your car after a multi-day trip, the ability to find your way back is essential.
  • There are lots of options for navigation…physical maps, GPS, blazes (which are small rectangles that have been painted on trees to let hikers know where the main trail is.), using a tracking app, or going with a friend who is familiar with the area.
  • And when getting back isn’t an option—if you’ve lost your way—then stay where you are. The chances that you’ll be found increase and you will eventually get back to where you need to be.
  • “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” -Ed Viesturs

Leave it Ready for the next Person to Enjoy

  • You can hike to the beat of your own drum, but just leave the wilderness wild and ready for the next person to discover

Everything else that you incorporate into your trip is just gravy…

Other than these five essential principles, you’re on your own to decide all the nitty gritty details like mileage, food, recreation, pack weight, gear, and itinerary.

SUMMIT Gear Review™: Clakit Pouches


  • Clakit has 6 different pouches that you can attach to your backpack strap. Each pouch has a super strong clip that has teeth, so the pouch won’t slip down your pack strap.
  • Pouches are made of Cordura fabric—super tough (and comes in black, green, pink, blue, purple)
  • The Clakit Clip is made of industrial strength nylon


  • There are six different pouches:
  • Smartphone Pouch : tough 1000D nylon, only holds a smartphone.
  • Pocket Pouch light weight Cordura with a hook/loop flap. Designed to fit smartphones, security sprays, emergency medication, wallets, snacks, dog cookies – things you need often.  It also has a second thin pocket for money, permits and other small flat items.
  • Two Zipper Pouch is made of heavy duty waterproof 1000D nylon with two zipper and one flap pockets. Great for carrying several items, replacing separate carry bags. Zippers aren’t waterproof.  Great if you have a pack that has tiny hip belt pockets. (This is the one Heather used on the Mount Jefferson trip)
  • Adjustable Utility Pouch heavy duty waterproof 1000D nylon with adjustable elastic band to securely hold items up to 8+ inches. Great for carrying radios, power banks, GPS, remotes, etc. Can be worn as a standard MOLLE pouch, belt pouch or strap pouch.
  • Water Bottle Pouch (750ml) with mesh front and light weight padded Cordura backing which keeps its shape and limits bouncing. Designed to securely fit most water bottles up to 750 ml.
  • Water Bottle Pouch Bundle (1000ml) Military style water bottle pouch made of 1000D water-proof nylon. Designed to securely fit most bottles up to 1000ml. It is MOLLE compatible and can accept a second Clakit clip for added stability.

NOTE: The water bottle pouches will only fit tall skinny water bottles, they will not fit Nalgene or Avex water bottles.

  • All of these pouches come with a clip for clipping to your pack strap, however, they all can be used without the clip as well. They each have hook and loop straps on the back, so they can be attached (without the clip) on your hip belt or anywhere else you want to use them on your pack.  Some of these are MOLLE compatible.
  • Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It is used to define the current generation of load-bearing equipment and backpacks utilized by a number of NATO armed forces, especially the British Army and the United States Army.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOLLE


  • 6x5x1
  • Pouches weigh between 1-4 ounces
  • Clip weighs 1 ounce


  • Machine wash and air dry


  • $15-20, depending on which pouch
  • Each pouch comes with a slip, so you don’t need to order that separately
  • Shipping is $3


  • Great place to store phone, navigation, peripheral gear, paper + pencil
  • Fast access items
  • Easy to attach
  • They’re secure and don’t slip or creep down
  • It’s a great way to make use of the unused space on the straps

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Backpacking Gear Deals on Groupon


Groupon.com > Goods > Sports and Outdoors > Outdoors > Camping

Hundreds of items, some at half of what you would pay in stores.   A little like thrift store shopping—it’s gonna be hit and miss.  But if you find what you’re looking for, and half the prince, that’s a hit!!

Sleeping bags, lights, tents, sleeping pads, stoves, freeze dried food.

Trail Wisdom

“I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”

– Vincent van Gogh