Every day in our quaint office in Salt Lake City our intrepid reservation agents Karen, Natalie and Lauren field questions about how and what to pack. We figured what better time than the busy river-season to talk about the zen of a good river pack. Please enjoy!
– The office staff
By: Easton Smith
Finding the golden middle ground
With all of the awesome gear on the market today, and an endless list of possible scenarios in which you could use that spiffy new solar coffee maker, it can be hard to decide what you actually need to pack for your next river and/or bike trip.
You definitely don’t want to wait until you’re caught in a rainstorm to remember that rain jackets exist. But you also don’t want to spend so much time thinking about your gear that you lose site of why you’re taking the trip in the first place, which is to relax, recharge, and remember what it feels like to disconnect from some of your technology and possessions.
After dozens of backpacking trips, I’ve come to realize that there’s a golden middle ground between overpacking and underpacking. Ideally, you spend just enough time thinking about your gear before the trip that you don’t end up thinking about your gear on the trip.
Thankfully, Holiday has made packing for your river and/or biking trip pretty simple.
Start with the basics, and work your way out from there
First of all, Holiday’s got you covered when it comes to life jackets, cooking and eating implements, chairs, waterproof bags, basic beverages, and, of course, gourmet meals.
Everything else is up to you. But don’t be intimidated, we’ve got a suggested packing list for you to use.
My recommendation is to begin packing with the basics, and work out from there. Start by making sure you have these in your bag: a sturdy tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, insulated under layers, warm outer layers, socks, swimwear, rain gear, a mug, a large water bottle, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a headlamp, all of your essential toiletries and medications, a pair of solid hiking shoes, and a pair of comfortable, durable sandals.
Now, with all those basics covered, you can start in on the non-essential, but still pretty basic stuff like bug spray, kleenex, extra snacks, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed sun-hat, sunglasses, an extra pair of shoes, chapstick, extra shirts, and a camera.
When you’ve got all of that stuff double-checked and pack away, you might be surprised to see how little space you have left in your bags. Think of this as a blessing, rather than a curse. When you have to whittle down what you bring along with you, it can help you to figure out what you really need to have a good time.
Do you really need to have your Mp3 player as you float down one of the most scenic places on earth? Can you last five days without that awesome new denim jacket that you bought? Do you really need to bring every book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, or could you make due with just two of them?
One important thing to remember when you’re packing for your trip is that there are some items that are never allowed on a Holiday trip. The list includes glass-bottles, radios, firearms, pets, your racist cousin, and your misogynistic uncle.
Besides these prohibited items, you should think hard before bringing a wad of cash, a stash of diamonds, a laptop computer, or anything else that you would miss if happened to end up at the bottom of Lake Powell. We don’t ever expect to lose gear, or to have thefts during our trips, but when you’re on an adventure, sometimes things get a bit… adventurous.
A few final pro tips from a desert rat…
Here’s an assortment of tips that I can give you for desert adventuring, in no particular order.
It’s important to remember that, even though you will be in the desert, long sleeved shirts and pants will be your best friend in combatting sunburn and pesky bugs. It’s better to have a light-weight, long-sleeved shirt than a tank top.
Pack enough beer. Holiday provides juice, water, gourmet meals, and a ton of great times. But we don’t know what kind of beer you like, or how much beer you like. Go ahead and stock up, so that you don’t end up unwinding without your favorite beverage.
When in doubt, ask. We work hard to make sure we don’t embody the competitive, broey, more-expert-than-you culture that you can sometimes find among outdoor enthusiasts. We aren’t going to shame you for not knowing how many lumens your headlamp should have, or what a throw bag is.
On a related note: just get the gear that works for you. You don’t need to have the most expensive or ‘cool’ brands. I still rock a backpack that my uncle gave to me for my first backpacking trip, because it works! In fact, I think the real cool cats are the ones who can piece together a whole gear set from free boxes, garage sales, and a length of cordage.
Check your gear before you really need it to work. Does you headlamp need new batteries? Does your tent have a rainfly? Do your shoes need new soles?
And my final pro tip: don’t worry! As long as you have any life-saving meds you may need, everything else can be figured out on the fly with the creativity and generosity of Holiday guides and guests. If, after all of this, you do happen to forget your rain jacket, don’t worry. We won’t leave you high and dry.
Easton Smith is a Local Wasatch Front resident and writer. He spends his time community organizing, rock-climbing and playin’ some mean banjo. For more writing from Easton, check out his organizing collective’s blog “Brine Waves” here or stay tuned for future loggings in River Currents.