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Spring Cleaning: Reorganize Your Hiking Gear with Lightweight Packing Solutions

Posted by HikerCass at Mar 09, 2015 10:20 AM |
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Spring is the perfect time to reorganize your hiking gear. We show you our favorite tips and products to help you minimize gear chaos and start the hiking season off right.

There are many things to love about spring: warmer temperatures, longer days and the sweet promise of another hiking season just around the corner. But before you hit the trail, it’s time for some good old-fashioned spring cleaning.

Don’t know where to start? It’s as easy as one, two, three.


Small Items

Don’t let your matches or your toothbrush get lost in your pack—give them a home. Here are some of our favorite organizers for everything from toiletries to odds and ends.


  • Tired of trying to squeeze the last bit of ecofriendly shampoo out of too-stiff travel containers? Switch to the ultra-malleable humangear GoToob. The multipack ($22) contains three 2 oz. bottles that are perfect for everything from wilderness wash to contact solution.
  • They also fit nicely inside the Outdoor Research Backcountry Organizer ($30), our favorite ultralight kit that’s heavy on both zippered compartments and handy pockets. (Pro tip: The Backcountry Organizer isn’t just for toiletries. We also used it to organize electronics and camping knickknacks.)
  • For car camping, try the eBags Pack-it-Flat Toiletry Kit ($30). It’s the Cadillac of bags, with an expansion slot, plastic-lined outer compartment (handy for wet items) and hook for hanging.

Odds and Ends: Organizing small essentials like fire-starters and snacks is simple with a new generation of ultralight and ultra-tiny bags.

  • Others are water-resistant, like Gossamer Gear Ultralight Ditty Bags ($16, Q-Series).
  • But they all have something in common besides their small size—they’re tough. Although they feel as thin as paper, these three bags floated around in our packs for weeks on end and held up incredibly well.

Large Items

Once your small items are packed away, it’s time to tackle the large ones: clothes, rain gear and camp footwear. For these, stuff sacks and packing cubes are the way to go.

Stuff sacks:

  •  Mesh stuff sacks have long been a favorite of hikers because of their see-through and lightweight construction. These days they’re better— and stronger—than ever, especially Sea to Summit Ultra-Mesh Stuff Sacks ($10), which are the most durable stuff sacks we tested, thanks to 15-denier multifilament nylon and double-stitched seams.
  • If you’d like to store your large items in a waterproof organizer, try the SealLine Eco See Dry Bag ($20). It comes in different sizes. The small one is perfect for electronics and maps; the large one can line the inside of your backpack.
  • For the best of both worlds—the light weight and small footprint of a stuff sack and the waterproof protection of a dry bag—check out Hyperlite Mountain Gear's Large Cuben Stuff Sack ($26). It has enough space for a two-day food supply or a summer sleeping bag.

Packing cubes:

  • Sometimes it can be nice to have a little more structure for your packing solutions—and trust a zipper over a drawstring. When that’s the case, go for the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set ($38) or Lewis N. Clark FeatherLight Expandable Packing Cubes ($20). Both come in different sizes, have handles at the top for easy extraction from your bag and collapse down small.
  • The Lewis N. Clark packing cubes go one step further by offering an expansion compartment.
  • An extra bonus with packing cubes: they also work nicely in a suitcase during travel.


This article originally appeared in the March+April 2015 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.