Packing Your Backpacks for Backcountry Camping

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Here's a picture showing what to pack when you are backcountry camping and how to pack a dry bag.
This picture shows much of the gear mentioned in this post. You can see the Home Depot food bucket, the green Slogg bag, the Pocket Rocket stove, the Platypus water filter, the tarp and our youngest preparing food. This was taken in the fall in the backcountry at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

The following post is a transcript from our podcast.

Pamela: Hello and good day, eh. We are Pamela and Tim and Thomas from We’re here because we wanted to inspire other families to enjoy camping adventures such as we have with our kids. Today, Tim and Thomas are going to talk a fair bit about backpacks, while I sit in and listen. And then we’re gonna get into some partnerships that we’ve come up with lately. And I will turn it over to Tim.

Tim: Okay, so Pamela is now going to go have a nap in the corner.

Pamela: Nobody puts Pamela in the corner! [That’s a Dirty Dancing reference for anyone who is considerably younger than us]

Tim: I have a couple of things I want to say. I’m blown away by the fact that we have over 1000 downloads. This was a Sunday hobby that Pamela arranged largely to keep me busy, I think. Because that’s the kind of person that she is. She knows how much I enjoy it. So she does all the stuff. She does all the heavy lifting. I do a bit of research and I go blah, blah, blah. Then she edits everything, transcribes it, and then posts it on the website. She does all the things so big, big genuflect for Pamela. We obviously have a new voice. I’d like to introduce you to our eldest son, Thomas.

Thomas: Hello

How To Pack Your Backpack For Backcountry Camping

Tim: There you go. We actually got an email from a wonderful fellow, Chuck, and he’s asked us about a handful of things. So Thomas and I are going to talk about how we go about using some of the gear we use. Specifically, Chuck has said he’d be interested in hearing about how we pack our backpacks. So when we’re canoe camping, we have two different packs. It’s about to change for this year. We have a 70 litre Mountain Equipment Co-Op Slogg. I think it’s the Slogg 70. It’s a waterproof rubberized pack. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about it before. We keep food, cooking, and some other things in there. It leans in that direction. We have a barrel from Home Depot, a five-gallon pail. That’s what we use for our food barrel. I know it’s different from what most people use, but raccoons chewed through my Seal bag in year one or year two. So we had to abandon that. It was no longer waterproof and apparently, it didn’t keep smells inside. We’ve had zero problems with that since the orange Home Depot bucket. I’m sure any bucket would work. It seals up nicely. And they can’t open it and they can’t chew through it. So yeah, it’s bright orange. It’s bright orange so it’s very easy to find. It goes in the centre of the Slogg 70 bag. I think the mess kit goes on top of it. I think there’s just enough room to get enough folds on the top to make it waterproof. And then around the sides of the Home Depot bucket, inside the Slogg are all of our cooking utensils, spoons, flippers, tongs, that sort of jazz. We usually take a roll of paper towel with us that goes down the side and two rolls of toilet paper. That’s important stuff to take with you. That goes down the sides. The Pocket Rocket stove goes in there, the fuel goes in there, the newspaper for starting your campfire, our wood saw. Often we spread multiple boxes of waterproof matches around. Some waterproof matches will go in there. The cleaning towels. Dish soap, all that sort of stuff. So kitcheny, and the fiery sort of things. That’s how we pack that puppy up. And if there’s still spare space, who knows we’ll throw in some of the ropes. Maybe the one that we tie off to hang our towels and whatnot on. Our towels go in there too because I guess they’re soft and they’re packable and that pretty much covers that bag in particular.

Thomas has a Dakine backpack. I can’t remember what the litre-age is. I think I think I figured it out at 40 litres or 42 litres but I’m not positive. It’s a pretty decent-sized bag and has tonnes of pockets and little cubby holes in it. The beauty of that is you can have things separated out. You can put all your safety stuff, your first aid kit and matches are easily accessible. I’m going to flip it over to the kid now.

Thomas: Yeah, I tend to keep anything that’s super necessary or is often in and out on the outside or at the top of the larger pocket. We’ve got a few external pockets – one at the top of the bag on the flap that covers the rest of the bag. It fits generally the first aid kit as well as a few other essentials such as our rain ponchos. We’ve got another on the front of the bag, the outermost portion of the bag. We keep other essential things there. If the rain ponchos don’t fit in the top pocket, then I put them in the outer one as well as the maps and compass. There’s an access port on the back of the bag, the inner portion that’s against your back. I will sometimes keep the map in there because it’s got a few pockets on it. So when the bag is in the canoe, generally, we can just unzip that and reach for the map, super easy access. There’s a pocket on the side. That’s usually where my water ends up in there, or snacks do. Then the large portion is generally clothing and all the rest of the stuff. I guess anything that doesn’t end up in the seventy litre.

Tim: Right, so the rope bag, the extra pegs, that sort of stuff. The tarp will end up in there. Sometimes it ends up in the Slogg because it becomes part of the kitchen. What about the outside of the bag? What do you do with it?

Thomas: Oh, generally I will attach either sleeping bags or sleeping mats to the outside with the straps that are already on the bag, or other straps that we have in the rope bag. Usually, really whatever I can attach to the bag I attach to the bag, anything I could put in the bag I put in the bag.

Tim: It’s about twice as big as it starts out by the time he’s done strapping everything to it. Yeah, it’s a little bit crazy. But you know, you’re going to do what you do, right? If it works, it works. And for the record, I want to say that by and large I pack the Slogg bag, and Thomas packs the Dakine. And we don’t mess with it. I’ll ask him where something is if I particularly need it, but for the most part, he digs in and gets whatever out of his bag, I dig in and get whatever out of my bag. It almost sounds like we only take two bags, we don’t. If it’s short notice, and it’s something that’s very important, you need to know where it is. I can’t know where all of the millions of things that we take are in both bags. I can probably come up with the fact that they’re in the green Slogg bag and come up with it. Thomas is actually pretty good at knowing which pocket it’s in in his bag, so we don’t mess with each other as far as those go. Yeah, that’s probably a pretty decent go on how we pack our bags. Chuck also asked about dry bags. The Slogg is the dry bag. And this year, we’ll actually have two dry bags. We just bought a 120-liter pack. No frame in it, though. So we’ll have to go a little bit lighter to replace the Dakine in the hopes that we can do it with two bags. Hopefully, that means everything can be in the bag this time as opposed to outside of it and banging your hip and all the joyful things. For all intents and purposes, that’s our dry bag deal. I do have a dry bag. It’s a compression bag. And what we do with that is we generally try to get sleeping bags, and pillows in it. Stuff that you can compress. Yeah, theoretically, they’re in bags already. And you can compress them somewhat. But if you put them in those and then you crack down on that puppy, the straps and stuff, it’s waterproof and water-resistant. I don’t know that I would throw it in the lake, but you’d be fine in the rain with it. We have been fine in the rain with it. There are no straps or anything. The straps that compress it, you can use as shoulder straps. I will probably change that system because I tend to re-examine gear. This is why we’re going to the larger waterproof bag for this year. But yeah, I use dry bags. I mean we’re in the canoe. If you tip over so much stuff is A) wet and B) on the bottom of the lake. That’s terrible.

A lot of our electronics and camera equipment also goes in the Slogg because that is, or at least that has been our main waterproof bag. Likely this year, we’ll be able to spread out that load over the two bags now that we’ve got two waterproof bags.

Right. This means that the Slogg is ridiculously heavy most of the time. Depending on the length of the portage, I sometimes have to abandon it halfway through and give it to Thomas, because he’s young and strapping. I am not.

Weight Vs. Need When Backcountry Camping

Tim: And another question that Chuck had was what’s the thought process for balancing weight versus need. Need wins out every time and if it’s too heavy okay, we’ll take it this year, but I’ll start budgeting for finding a lighter version next year.

Or we find an alternative that combines two items that are medium weight into one sort of slightly heavier but while being lighter than the two combined, so rather than taking an ax and a saw, we just take our folding saw.

We have multi-tools. We’ve got a knife if we had to sharpen up something. If I can’t split a log, I can cut that log in half. So there’s the happy trade-off there. We have a BioLite pellet wood burner for cooking on. It in itself, because of the battery pack, and I suppose partly because of the construction, it’s a fairly heavy unit. You’ve got to lug bags of little twigs and stuff around, at least we do so that we have dry ones every time when we get to a site. Pamela picked us up an MSR Pocket Rocket, it might be a Pocket Rocket Two but the Pocket Rocket weighs nothing. And it stashes away nicely in our mess kit weirdly enough, but because you’re carrying canisters of fuel with you, weight-wise it’s probably close to the same.

But we also go through the fuel, it becomes lighter throughout the trip. Whereas carrying the twigs around and the entire kit of the BioLite never comes lighter.

So it’s the same at the beginning, but the Pocket Rocket becomes lighter throughout the trip is a good point. I hadn’t actually thought about that. I take the MSR. I still have the BioLite. I don’t have to clean the soot off from the twigs burning away at the bottom when we get home from the trip with the Pocket Rocket. So I’m sticking with the MSR and it tends to be more reliable. So far so good. We did manage to buy some four-season fuel from Killarney Outfitters last year. We’ve had no problems with it at all. So yeah, although finding fuel is a bit of a deal. I should check our stock on that because we might be taking the BioLite. Twigs are nature, whereas canisters of fuel are like the darn dehydrated eggs I’ve been looking for for ages. I finally had to order them from the States and pay a fairly hefty premium for shipping. Yeah, good fun.

Great Deals On Backcountry Camping Equipment

Tim: I wanted to mention, that we’re partnering with It’s a technology platform to purchase offers via text messaging, which looks kind of cool. And I encourage you to look into it. You can sign up, it costs nothing. And they get some pretty cool deals. I haven’t spent a boatload of time looking through them. But the ones that I did look through were substantially less than what you’re paying at Walmart or Mountain Equipment or where have you. I didn’t see a price lower than the one that they were offering. So there you go.

Awesome. That’s it for us for today other than we have a very talented singer-songwriter here in Canada named Ron Sexsmith. And I don’t know if you recall Tim that he had a really good Dad joke yesterday.

No, but I remember reading it last night though.

Well, apparently, Mother Theresa up in heaven is known as nun of the above.

Tim: I thought that was great.

Pamela: That’s it for us for today. I’m Pamela.
Tim: I’m Tim.
Thomas: I’m Thomas
Pamela: And we’re from please do feel free to email us. Thank you for your email, Chuck. We would love it if you would share camping stories, camping pictures, and anything related to camping with us. Our email address is

Pamela: That’s it for us for today.


By Pamela, Tim and Thomas

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