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What’s in my pack: Paul Hersey

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January 2021 Issue

Climber Paul Hersey loads his pack with many of the same items of gear you find in a tramper's pack.

Renowned New Zealand mountaineer Bill McLeod reckoned that if you couldn’t eat it or abseil off it, what was the point of carrying it.

While trying to follow this philosophy, writer and former outdoor retail store manager Paul Hersey found that packing for a backcountry trip almost became a fetish.

“These days, thankfully, it’s mellowed to more of a measured fixation,” he says. While Hersey’s trips are generally with a mountaineering objective in mind, much of the gear he carries is also suitable for tramping. “The main difference is that climbing kit is heavy and takes up most of the pack. Therefore, everything else needs to be lightweight but still do the job.”

I use either the Cactus High Summer (no longer made by Cactus) or the CiloGear WorkSack. Both are robust but light enough, and allow me to store extra closed cell foam in the frame backing in case of an unscheduled night out.

I have an MSR Hubba Hubba NX. It’s not much cop in high winds and is fiddly to pitch, but it’s lightweight and spacious with two separate vestibules. My winter climbing tent is the single skin Rab Latok Mountain, or the lighter Black Diamond First Light if the weather forecast is bomber.

An unfortunate experience with frostbite a few years back taught me to never scrimp on decent footwear. I use running shoes for the approach to a climb and then either a pair of Scarpa Charmoz (for summer climbing) or Scarpa Phantom with a built-in gaiter for winter use.

Sleeping gear
I sleep as cold as I can. While this means carrying a less bulky sleeping bag, it also encourages me to get up and get moving when the temperature dips before sunrise. I favour a synthetic sleeping bag and the Marmot Pounder Plus works well enough even when wet. I’ve recently started using an inflatable Exped Synmat because I’m getting old.

The best climbing raincoat I’ve owned is the Berghaus Mount Asgard Smock. Earth Sea Sky comes a close second with the heavier Zeal jacket. I also love Earth Sea Sky’s Silk Weight top on a hot day and Icebreaker socks. Rather than carrying a bulky mid-layer, I focus on thinner pieces that are multi-use.

In summer, the MSR Pocket Rocket is fine, but in winter I upgrade to the MSR Windburner because it’s far superior at melting snow and ice.

PLB, first aid kit, headlamp and spare batteries, map, camera, a walking pole to combat the inevitable decrepitude of ageing knees and a roll of Leukoplast – enough tape fixes most breakages to kit or body.

Food and hydration
I enjoy Back Country Cuisine freeze-dried dinners and bulk them up with couscous if needed. When tramping, I might take ‘luxury’ food items like cheese, crackers, salami and sachets of tuna. Climbing, I rely mostly on One Square Meals, Gu Energy Gels, and Nuun Electrolyte Hydration Tablets. MSR MugMate coffee filter is my alpine-start best friend.

Climbing gear
A technical climb usually requires two half-ropes, a harness, helmet, two ice tools, crampons and various paraphernalia for protection on rock, ice and snow. Murphy’s Law dictates that if you leave it at home to save weight, you’ll need it on the climb.