Tita Ruby's Tips for the Aspiring Mountaineer
Tip Set 1: "Come, let's pack!"
by Ruby Bayan, 1999
A. Pack light - every little gram counts.
Imagine yourself strapped with a load on your back, climbing a flight of stairs, 490 times (that's how high Mt. Arayat is). Now don't you want that load to be as light as a feather? Walking up an incline is an ordeal in itself -- now you have to carry your kitchen, your bedroom, your closet, and your toilet on your back! So..
1. Bring the lightest version. Your Swiss Knife - sure you have the model that has everything in it. But it's heavier than your trek shoes. What's the probability you will use at least 50% of the neat gadgets attached? Get the basic knife with the can opener. It will suffice.
Your shades and your cap - take the lightest ones you can find. Clothes with labels, appliques, cuffs, collars, and extra buttons and pockets have no place in your trekking wardrobe. This is a climb, not a walk in the park. When buying your shoes, sandals, flashlight, toothbrush, comb, wallet, t-shirt, shorts, pants, thermals, jacket, and whatever else you might need, insist on the most lightweight product you can find. Every extra gram is added torture to your climb.
2. Repack your toiletries. Remember, this is a 2-3-day expedition, not a vacation. And you're lucky if you get to bathe more than once during the whole trek. So, soap, the smallest in the market (or the sliver left-over in the bathroom). Shampoo, sachet. Toothpaste, sachet. Deodorant, trial size. Your sunblock, lotion, muscle pain medication, and cologne (why not?), repack them into tiny plastic containers. You know the small container used for film? You can use that to repack your foot powder. Make sure you label the containers so you don't end up shaking foot powder onto your scrambled eggs.
B. Pack right - convenience is the key.
Your whole life is in that backpack. How you pack it will determine how much time it will take you and how much energy you will spend to get to the things you need at any given moment. Timing is critical in a trek. And energy conservation is paramount. You don't want to have to wrestle with a disorganized backpack.
1. Pack clothes by event, not by type. I once had a climbing buddy who packed his clothes in resealable plastic bags (as we were wisely taught), with all the socks in one bag, all the underwear in another, all the t-shirts in yet another bag. When it was time to freshen up and change attire, he needed to open all the bags, pulling out one item from each, then resealing all of them again. His backpack was a mess, and he was exhausted just from picking out the clothes he needed.
Pack your clothing based on when you will need them at any particular time. Put all the related items together (socks, underwear, shirt, and pants), one bag for sleeping, another for the descent (if different from the ones you slept in or the ones you used for the ascent!), and another one for the clothes you will wear for the bus ride home (IF you are able to take a "shower" at the outhouse behind the municipal hall!). That way you pull out and open only one bag, which you will then use to seal the soiled ones you took off. Saves a lot of time and energy.
2. Pack food wisely. Yes, it's margarine instead of cooking oil. Margarine is solid and therefore, less messy (worry about cholesterol when you get home). For cooked food like chicken-pork adobo, a tight-seal Tupperware is still the best container. For other foodstuff, there's the lightweight yet sturdy cheese ball canister. That's where I pack bread (it doesn't get sqwooshed!), or the rice (already in a sealed plastic bag) with the tomatoes.
How do you pack the raw eggs? One way is to sink them into the rice. Make sure the rice is packed tight in the canister so your eggs don't jiggle around. Another is to keep the eggs in their original styro packaging and put the whole thing inside the cheese ball canister. You can fill the gaps with small packs of dried fish or dried beef, coffee and sugar sachets, instant noodles, etc. The canister is not good for cooked food, though, because the pressure at high altitude can pop the plastic liners and the canister's lid is not tight enough to prevent a leak.
With frozen foods like bacon and hotdogs, keep them frozen until you're ready to leave. Then wrap them in several layers of newspaper and put them inside plastic bags. Even on a hot trek they will remain cool until you need them. The same goes with frozen water.
3. Pack with ease of access in mind. Your ID (or dog tags) and whistle are hanging from your neck. You have a belt bag for items you need to reach in a flash - Swiss knife, lighter, compass, mirror, first aid, money, pen and paper, some trail food, camera, and cell phone. Your backpack's topload (or front pocket) holds your trail water, other trail food, flashlight, maps, garbage bags, gloves, and rain parka, things you will want to pull out without having to unbuckle your pack.
Now the pack itself needs to be organized so that the heaviest items are in the middle (like your water supply). Too heavy on top will make you keel over, too heavy at the bottom will force you to bend lower to balance the weight. Keep the pack's center of gravity in the middle, so it rests on your waist or lower back. With that in mind, choose the items you may need to pull out in a hurry and load them on top, like your jacket (sudden cold spell), sandals (river crossing), or bag of toiletries and tissue paper (you know!).
4. Pack with some foresight. Don't forget the moist wipes. You don't have the luxury of a bidet up there. These wipes are almost a necessity for the ladies. And the best for your virtual bath, though some will swear by rubbing alcohol.
Slip in your pack a couple of yards of that plastic straw twine used to tie bags and boxes at the supermarket. It's almost weightless but pretty durable. You can use it to tie down a flapping fly sheet, or hold together a busted backpack. You can cut it up to serve as trail markers. Or tie it across trees to hang wet clothes from.
They say paper plates are ideal. I say paper plates are hard to handle when you have to eat standing up. There are new plastic plates in the market, thinner and lighter than paper but very durable. They're disposable, yet reusable. Same with plastic cups (choose those that won't shrivel from boiling soup). As for the utensils, I've climbed with guys who pack plastic chopsticks instead of a spoon and fork. But I suggest you bring one lightweight metal spoon. For cooking and for a little touch of home.
Never climb without a pen and paper. You must chronicle your trek. Landmarks, contact persons, timeframes, fares and fees, directions, etc. Remember to bring the lightest ballpen you can find. Ballpen not sign pen. Or you'll sadly discover that your journal has transformed into one psychedelic inkblot after a sudden downpour.
Invest in a lightweight, compact, waterproof camera. Mountain climbing is an experience of the senses. But the only thing you can take home with you is a set of beautiful pictures of the climb -- memories of a truly unforgettable adventure, in print.
C. Pack your trash!
It goes without saying.. but I'll say it nevertheless.. you can't leave your trash on that mountain. So, be prepared for trekking down with everything you did not consume and are not biodegradable. That means extra garbage bags (you do know that the big garbage bags are also the best for insulating your feet during chilly nights, and for wrapping your backpack safe from morning dew, right?). Plus a spare plastic grocery bag for the probability that you may have to put the "basura" inside your backpack for trekking convenience.
Your climbing team must agree, before you even discuss who's going to bring what, on how you will manage your garbage. You can designate one "basurero" or divide the trash equally among yourselves. You can have the one with the lightest pack volunteer to carry the trash.
Whatever you agree on, just make sure not one little bit of anything you brought up there gets left behind. So that the next climbers will find the mountain as pristine and magnificent as the day you first set foot on it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tip Set Intro Tip Set 1 Tip Set 2 Tip Set 3 Tip Set 4 Tip Set 5