Packing For An Expedition
Chase Tucker, experienced expedition leader, schools us on packing right and packing light.
What pack are you using at the moment? What do you like about it?
I’ve got 6 or 7 packs but it doesn't seem to be enough! I need a good 70L pack as my last one just rotted away after a few wet days in the Southern Alps last year. My most used pack is a 45L. I love it because of it’s practicality. It has two main compartment access points and pockets exactly where I need them on the hips and shoulder straps. It’s also got technical gear loops for ice axes.
Are there any features of a pack that you see as essential?
It’s got to have pockets exactly where I need them on the hips and shoulder straps. Once I start hiking or climbing, I hate taking off my pack, so I want access to phone, snacks, water and GPS without taking my pack off. This is crucial for me now.
Is there a certain kilogram limit you like to keep your pack under?
The heaviest my pack has ever been was on a climbing trip to Federation Peak in my home state of Tasmania. It was 29 kilograms. My climbing partner and I had the usual week’s worth of food, climbing and hiking gear plus a significant trad rack. I wouldn’t enjoy going much heavier than that, especially in brutal terrain like that. There’s only a couple of packs on the market would suit that kind of trip, it needs to be canvas.
What are your top packing tips for an expedition in the snow?
Pack some skis! But maybe my best tip is go as light as you can and get used to suffering. Snow becomes very hard to walk on when your pack is heavy. Also if you’re not taking an ice axe at least take something you can hack at the snow with, to get snow to melt water, and to chop the tent out if it’s frozen in, which totally sucks but it happens.
Is there a certain way you load your pack?
Bulky and light things at the bottom, heavy things in the middle close to your back, light/emergency things at the top. I distribute most of the weight into my hips because I’ve trained my body to be strong around the core, legs and hips. It’s more complex than that but that’s the nuts and bolts of it.
In terms of keeping warm, do you have any hacks or tips that only true alpine climbers would know?
Absolutely. You have to learn to layer properly if you’re alpine climbing, more layers does not necessarily mean more warmth in my experience. For example I’ve found that if I jump in my sleeping bag with all my clothes on, I’m actually colder than if I was just in wool thermals. Same goes for down jackets. My hack: the only thing you should have between your skin and a down layer is wool.
You’re obviously exposed to the most incredible landscapes – do you take a camera? If so, what kind and how do you keep it charged?
Some of the places I go it’s pretty hard to take a good photo. So I don’t use a big camera, they are just too heavy, so I use my iphone, it takes incredible photos. Lucky my climbing partner Nathan Sharp is an excellent photographer and is happy carrying a huge camera. We have a running joke that he is never in any good photos as a result of this. We use a Goal Zero Guide 10 to charge everything.
Have you ever lost any gear on a trek? What was it?
... this is a sore point. I bought this amazing 900 lot down jacket for my Ama Dablam Expedition, it was enormous and so comfortable. It was brand new and I hadn't worn it yet. It was too hot to wear it on the way to base camp so it was packed in my duffle bag on the back of a yak. When I arrived at base camp, I couldn’t wait to put it on... but it was gone. To this day I have absolutely no idea what happened to it.