So how does the BACKPACKER staff stack up when it comes to packing? To find out, we conducted an experiment in which the editors raced home and assembled a full weekend load, including food. When the potato flakes settled, gear editor Kristin Hostetter was a clear winner at 9 minutes, while David Howard, our languorous former senior editor, took last place at 40, slowed by a gas-station run for AA batteries and beef jerky. Here's what bogged us down, and a few fast fixes.
Hurdle #1: What to eat
"I refuse to pack a dozen of those sugary, single-serving oatmeal packets," says editor-in-chief Jonathan Dorn, "but measuring out two breakfasts' worth of the good stuff–plus adding cinnamon and dried cherries–cost me valuable time."
Next time you're vegging in front of Heroes, premix bulk ingredients in heavy-duty zip-top bags so you have a dozen meals ready to go.
What to wear "Because I get cold easily, figuring out the best clothing combinations is my Achilles heel," says Rocky Mountain editor Steve Howe. "Before a trip, I stand there in the garage debating what I might need."
Throw extra layers in a duffel, take it to the trailhead, and let the local conditions determine your apparel choices.
What's missing It happens to all of us–you can't find your headlamp, or realize you loaned your titanium spork to a friend. "I lost ten minutes trying to locate my digital camera's memory card," says associate editor Shannon Davis.
Inventory your gear and use the process to personalize your weekend checklist. Check off items as you pack them–and again when you return them to their usual drawer or bin. True weekend warriors organize their gear into clear plastic tubs that can load easily into the trunk of a car.
Hurdle #4: What goes wrong A full hydration bladder buried inside a car full of gear is like a bomb primed to explode. "I've soaked my stuff half a dozen times by leaving a nozzle open, or squishing a bladder under someone's heavy boots," says associate editor Jason Stevenson.
Wait until you get to the trailhead to insert your hydration bladder into your pack. Stash full reservoirs inside a hardcover container, or rest them on top of your gear in a plastic bag, with the nozzle plainly visible.