Bringing Ease to Trail Life: How to Pack with Outdoor Accessories

We’ve probably all seen those before pictures of backpacking gear laid out on the floor in a visually appealing way, and the after picture of the full backpack with all the gear inside. But how do we go from the before to after in an organized manner? And when backpacking, we know we need a backpack, tent, sleeping bag and the 10 essentials, but what other things are helpful when on trail?

Hello there! I am Lexi and I am a hiker and backpacker based out of Seattle, Washington. I have been backpacking for about seven years now in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) in places like the Enchantment Lakes, Wonderland Trail, a section of the Pacific Crest Trail and plenty of multi- and single-day trips in the beautiful Olympics and rugged Cascades of Washington.

I believe that the outdoors should be accessed by everyone of all shapes and sizes—for me, there’s nothing more empowering than pushing your body to do something challenging like carrying your home on your back.

So here I am, a backpacker who thinks everyone should backpack, hoping to share some of my fails on trail and the backpacking accessories that help solve my problems so you can get out there and be successful, too.

Organization

I might be a fairly experienced backpacker, but I am a less experienced organizer. One thing that makes backpacking a little easier, though, is organizing!

People who are good at organizing say things like “Everything should have a place,” but that definitely wasn’t the case for me when I first started backpacking. I found myself just chucking stuff into my pack. I was also nervous about forgetting things, so I would unpack to double-check I had everything, repack, get nervous and throw something else in there—just in case.

I’d try to be strategic when I packed, but ultimately had to dig through countless pockets to find what I’d be looking for on trail. One time, I remember dropping my clean underwear in the dirt while looking for my headlamp. Every time I took my pack off, it looked like a gear explosion. And it was frequently paired with an anxious exclamation of “Oh my gosh where did I put this?” or “I didn’t leave that at the last campsite, did I?” or “I SWEAR I packed XYZ!” only to find what I was looking for a few seconds later.

I thought that packing accessories just meant more weight to carry around. More weight, more pain, right?

Little did I know, keeping everything organized with a place and purpose would not only keep my gear explosions in check, but help me move more quickly and efficiently on the trail. Less time fumbling, more time having fun.

So, I started using resealable plastic bags to organize. I would stuff my clothes and food in gallon bags, cram my first aid items in a sandwich sized bag, so on and so forth. At the end of the trip, some of these bags might be saved for the next backpacking trip but eventually, especially when backpacking for nine days on the Wonderland Trail, they rip and get gross. I may have felt more organized, but in turn I was generating more trash.

Then came the stuff sacks.

Osprey’s Ultralight Dry Sacks solved my problem. They help me pack my stuff more efficiently, squish it down so it takes up less space and make it easy for me to know where things are.

When my tent is set up and I want access to my clothes, I can just grab my stuff sack full of clothes and toss it in the tent—no risk of dropping my clean underwear in the dirt. Time to hang up food? It is so much easier to hang a stuff sack full of food and cooking gear than it is to hang the entire backpack, which I have indeed done. Having my stuff organized honestly conserves my energy, because I'm spending less time digging through my backpack.

And they can be washed, reused and are super light!

Anyways. Stuff sacks. Game changers.

Protection

Of course, stuff sacks were just the gateway to optimizing my backpacking with accessories. I’ve since discovered so much more. Despite being from the PNW, where rain is something I have to think about all year round, a raincover for my backpack is something I never chose to possess until recently.

While many backpacks come with them nowadays, some don’t. I learned this the hard way when it rained for two days straight on the Wonderland Trail in August. I literally had to wrap the tarp of my ultralight tent around my backpack to keep it protected from the elements. It looked like I was wearing a cape. I was on the trail and didn’t really care how silly I looked, I just cared that my stuff would be dry when it was time to set up camp.

If I hadn’t narrowly managed to save myself with the tarp, sopping wet gear could have kept me from finishing the trail. A raincover is necessary, yet I didn’t have one. Now, I always bring two so both my friends and I can be prepared when backpacking.

If your pack does not come with one, the raincover from Osprey fits my Osprey backpack and my non-Osprey backpack, which I appreciate.

Versatility

On every single backpacking trip, I get to a point where my camp is set up and I want to go explore. That could look like an all-day adventure where I’m hiking around, like in the Enchantments, or a short walk from the camp site to the lake or stream a quarter mile away to filter water and enjoy the view.

In both scenarios, I’m not trying to wander empty handed. I might want water and snacks, need my water filter and water bladder, pack my first aid kit or cooking products for a dinner with a view. Who knows, I might even want to pack a flask and a mug to make cocktails.

I would either hold everything in my arms if it was a shorter distance, or I would pack these things in my big backpacking backpack and carry it all with me. Neither option is ideal, but they work. I had never considered bringing an extra backpack or waist pack because of the weight and space it adds.

Until now.

Osprey’s Ultralight Stuff Pack and Waist Pack are easy to pack down super small and make these mini adventures go more smoothly, efficiently and comfortably. Plus I look cool doing it.

Another plug for a waist pack: if you are in a bit of a bigger body like me and you don’t yet own an Extended Fit backpack, you might have trouble accessing pockets on the waist straps of your pack. Meanwhile, my friends might buckle their waist straps and the pockets are positioned right on their hip bones. They can easily access lip balm, bug spray, snacks or sunblock while I have to take my pack off or have a friend grab these items for me.

I have learned that Osprey’s Ultralight Waist Pack is a great option for solving this problem.

If a waist pack isn't really your thing, there are other options as well, like Osprey’s Pack Pocket.

It’s something I didn't know I needed until I tried it. There are a few different versions of it, depending on your needs, but it is basically an extra pocket that you can attach to backpack with hook-and-loop straps. The one I use is waterproof.

This is a great alternative to the waist pack as you can attach it right to your chest strap or waist strap and have easy access to the small items you might need on trail, like those gummy candies that get you through all those miles. And I believe that access is everything. When I can’t easily access my sunblock, I might avoid getting it out and then get sunburnt. Or when I can’t easily access my snacks, I might not fuel my body properly and then I am exhausted. Easy access to items like this makes SUCH a difference when backpacking.

To wrap up, backpacking accessories might not be necessary survival tools in the outdoors, but they do make life on the trail easier and more efficient. Now let's get out there and log some miles in 2023! Happy trails ????