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The following link shows my packing check list and
equipment options for three season trips.

Mark Jurey's Packing List


4 oz. Fishing System
Catch one fish and the extra weight is free

Folded rod showing the wire tab, "kite" winding system and high tech rubber band


When I was a kid, hiking in the eastern Sierras, we brought very little food. We couldn't afford the weight and usually starting the fire took longer than catching dinner or lunch. More recently, as I hike early in the season, I was shocked to find hungry fish waiting in most off trail streams and lakes. These days I only fish for fun, but I thought that it would be great to find a minimal fishing kit that is light enough to take everywhere I go.

If you have ever watched a fly fisherman you will notice that they don't actually use the reel most of the time. Line is played out in a big loop before casting, and the fish is pulled in by hand. This seemed like the perfect way to save weight and use a much more fun fishing technique.

My first reelless rod was an old plastic handled, two piece, drugstore spinning rod and reel. I cut off the reel, and drilled lighting holes in the handle. It was light but was only about 5' long and too stiff to cast very far. It's great for stream fishing however.

The one in the photo is a cheap "Back Country" retractable 7'6" fly/spinning rod with a cork handle. It folds to about 2' long and even came with a light cloth storage bag. I added a coat-hanger wire tab and cut a groove in the bottom of the handle to hold the fly line. The tab is wrapped onto the rod with thread then sealed with epoxy. This one will cast about 100' - far enough for even the biggest backcountry lakes.

The one disadvantage - and if you fish you will notice immediately - is that the rod is not balanced. A real fly rod has the reel at the bottom end. This makes the rod balance in the hand and lets you flick the rod with only a wrist action. If you miss this, I suggest that you rubber band a small water bottle or rock to the bottom.

In my survival kit, I carry a few mosquito flies, silicone water proof grease, a few feet of extra leader, and a small plastic magnifying glass.

20 oz. Stephenson Backpack Frame
I got my pack in the late 60"s and still use it every year.

Many are trying to make a frame that has the advantages of this system
- some have contacted me with questions and dimensions, so here they are.

This is the later heaver version - my wife's pack.



"Jack" Stephenson was an aerospace engineer and had early access to high quality materials and high tech processes. In 1956 he founded what is now called Stephenson's Warmlite - his son still produces and sells the tents and bags that he designed.

My first 60's pack was one of the first made and weighed 38 oz. (frame -20, 6 pocket pack & ties-18). In the late 90's, got one of the last ever made for my wife - it weighed 57 oz. (frame -33, pack & ties-24). I suspect that they beefed up the aluminum structure and bag to protect themselves from those that don't take care of equipment. Either way, they are the best investments I ever made.

Jack liked to hike naked and this pack was designed to work that way. The only hot spots are where the "hands" hold the hips. The frame arms extend so that the weight sits on the hips and hugs them like two hands - the wind can literally blow up your backside. The more weight the more the "hands" push in to grab you. It is not necessary to snap the belt except to keep the pack from moving around and jumping off the hips. Because of the extended arms and slim pack, the weight balances perfectly - the shoulder webbing is used just to keep the pack from flopping backwards as you move around.

It can also be adjusted as you walk to work as a standard hip belt pack, or with as a standard shoulder pack - with weight transferred to waist or shoulders or hips mode or any combination so that every part of the body can get a rest or cool off.

Today, the best option I have found for packing cool and light is the LuxuryLite frame. I know only what I read on their site but it looks like a good place to start. It will not balance on your hips but it will be light and cool on your back. Or, you can try to build a Stephenson replica yourself based on the dimensions above - it won't be easy, but it would be rewarding. Good luck.

2 Quart Aluminum Pot
Big, efficient, light, multi-use tool

Super tight lid is a must - steam is blowing from holes drilled for the paint can bail.


For years I packed with a big 2 quart aluminum pot I found it in a fire pit. It was free, black, dented, and had a handle sticking out the side - but it was very thin and light. I continued to use it for about 30 years because it was so useful and light. My ancient Optimus 8R gas stove(minus the case) fit inside, along with much of my food and other cooking stuff.

Because it had so many uses, and replaced so much other equipment, I found it indispensable. I set a pot of water in the sun for a few hours for a hot shower or laundry. Filled it with snow and set it next to the fire for water in the morning. With fish in the bottom it became a frying pan. With a rock on top, a short term bear/chipmunk canister. I used it to dig trenches and scoop water from springs, carry extra water to the camp site, etc.... A few scrubs with clean sand, and I was ready for tea....

My "new" pot is a modified Open Country pot that weights 6 oz. I lightened the lid and pot by grinding off the rolled edges almost completely. I took of the bail tabs (they would cut up a pack) and used the holes for a lighter paint can wire bail - It's removable and fits in the pot. The lid fits so tight that it will lift the pot if I'm not careful. It is the perfect diameter to hold everything I need and works better than my original. For a short trip, it even holds most of the food. Every time I take the smaller grease pot, I regret it.

I have never understood the fixation with tiny small diameter pots. I know that in some cases they are easier to pack, but, even that advantage is soon lost when real world concerns are added to the equation. They fall over, they use more fuel, they loose more heat unless insulated, they are very hard to clean and eat out of, but most importantly, they require that you take extra stuff.

I vote for aluminum. It transfers heat better than titanium or steel and it's much cheaper. And, if you check the specs, I think that you will find it's actually lighter. Titanium is almost impossible to cook in - the hot spots burn water. And, stainless steel takes much much more fuel to heat.

Universal Basics
Water, matches, salt, sunscreen, sun glasses, hat, and a bandanna -
- lessons learned the hard way. -


* Please note that I am not a doctor -these stories are for entertainment purposes only!

What's so great about salt?
When I first started backpacking, I had endless pretzel dreams until I finally got back to civilization. Days of sweating had probably robbed my body of basic minerals. My obvious salt deficiency could have been very serious and only my youth may have protected me. A balanced blend of required minerals from dried fruits and vegetables would have been nice to have, but salt could have saved the day. Salt helps the body to store water - a very good thing in the heat, or extreme cold.

On one memorable trip, I nicked my finger cutting tent stakes with a pocket knife. The next day, my entire hand was swollen and throbbing with every heart beat. Far from the trail head, and with no other options, I soaked the finger in near boiling salt water all evening. Next morning, the swelling was completely gone and wound sealed over. After that, I have often use salt to disinfect and suck poisons out of minor local infections.

What's so great about a bandanna?
I must confess that I was a scout and for years I didn't even carry a bandanna for fear of being... busted. But, I now find it to be one of my most important pieces of equipment. I almost always have one around my neck - to keep the sweat off of my collar, sun from my neck, block the wind, or soaking wet to keep me cool. Other uses are endless and include: pot holder, wash rag, towel, pillow cover, ear warmer, sweat band, hat holder-downer, small parts protector, emergency knee/arm/ankle support & bandage, water filter, air filter, etc. etc. etc... oh, yeah, Kleenex & emergency TP.

When it's hot, I wash it almost every stream crossing. I wrap it wet around my neck or it dries on a hot rock almost instantly - it never leaves my side... unless I leave it drying on the rock. I can count at least three really nice ones that lost that way. But things are never lost; I once stayed in an abandon sheep herders cabin, midwinter near the White Mountain cold weather research station. I got there at sundown and my eye lashes were starting to freeze. A note, tacked to the door read, "take what you need, leave what you can". I left some rice and used the big wood stove. So, If you really need that cool gray bandanna of mine, you are welcome to it. I'll use the zebra striped one till next time...

What's so great about sun screen?
I know, you already understand how important it is, but another story is always fun. So.. while my 25 year old dermatologist is burning spots off my face, he says "did you use sunscreen when you were younger". Sun screen was not even a word when I was younger. We had Glacier Cream from Germany - a gunky white zinc oxide paint that we scooped onto our nose - usually after it began to blister. We thought it made us look like real mountain climbers. After a few years, we realized that this stuff was also necessary up our noses, in our ears, and even on our eye lids. Did I mention that it was greasy and smelled like rotting fish?

What's so great about sun glasses?
I know... So... cousin Paul and I were taking an early spring trip to see if we could be the first to reach the pass - this was before cross county skis were sold in the US. We proudly laid down the seasons first foot prints. The next morning, Paul says, "hey I can't see a thing". I look out of the tent and I'm have my own problems. So, being the really smart people we are, we decide it must be snow blindness. It was a rather interesting day, sitting around camp, wondering if our vision was ever going to return.

We now know that this sort of insanity can cause permanent problems and early cataracts. Paul and I are fine so far, but with the thinning atmosphere and increased UV exposure, eye protection is definitely a must have. I cary a spare pair of lightweight cheep ones hidden in the bottom of a pocket.

What's so great about hats?
... Have you ever had the top of your skull sun burned really bad? Can you imagine what a blistering and flaking head looks like to members of the opposite gender?

What's so great about water?
Well, according to Ray Jardine, hikers should drink at least one quart per hour. And, if it's hot or at altitude, even more. He thinks that most of the complaints of backpackers - from back pain to altitude sickness - are symptoms of dehydration. I don't usually drink that much, but I Have experienced all of the medical problems he describes.

The water contained in an apple, carrot, or potato is not as heavy as that in your water bottle... because you eat the container. This natural "bottle" has the perfect balance of carbs, vitamins and minerals required to fuel your hike. So, when hiking where water is scarce, fresh food is the ultimate ultra-light solution - you carry fewer containers, and less dried food, and have a healthier diet. So, consider using fresh food as your emergency water supply.

45 years ago, I met someone along the trail without a pack. In those days, even seeing someone was rare, so we always stopped to talk. He said that he was on his way out, after his annual two week hike to get in shape. He brought no food, but drank massive volumes of water and took vitamins and minerals every day. At the time, I thought he was a little tweaked, but I now know that he was way ahead of his time. We can live for a very long time without food, but only 5 to 10 days without water.

What's so great about matches?
... I'm 12, Paul is 13 years old. It's very dark, we're on the far side of the pass, tucked just below the tree line, under 1/4 of a WW2 parachute - our first tent. A howling wind starts to lift the "tent" and rain is soaking my cotton covered down bag. I take the home-made, wax-coated, strike-anywhere, matches out of the sealed container and attempt to light a fire. The countdown begins as one after another the matches refuse to light the ever wetter wood.
Paul: " So how many more do we have? - " Mark: "Four - but who's counting?"
Paul: "It's getting really cold." - Mark: "I'm trying."

This brings us back to another backpacking basic - the inspiration for this site. With the Penny Stove we would have had three safe and reliable options. One match and 2 oz. of Everclear could provide two people with all three -in about 5 minutes.

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©2006 mark jurey