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Why Categorize Your Gear

Organizing our hiking gear into types or categories by function has several advantages. The primary advantages are:

  • It makes it easier to remember all of the individual items.
  • It helps us to keep related gear together when packing.
  • It can help us to better manage our pack weight.

Presented on the next pages of this section of the web site is a unique Big Four / Little Four gear categorization system to assist you with your gear planning.

When you are working with your gear list whether preparing for a trip or just trying to find ways to lighten your load it can be difficult to remember all of the individual items on the list. Most backpackers group their gear into categories to make it easier. By using categories you can pick one and then concern yourself with a more manageable subset of your total gear list at any one time.

Only having to remember all of the items in one related, functional group is certainly easier than trying to randomly remember all of your gear items at one time. Categorizing is a method of focussing our minds. If when you are assembling your gear for a trip you concentrate on one category of gear at a time, you will be less likely to forget items. A written checklist helps as well. The best aid is a written checklist with the gear organized into groups by function.

The second advantage to sorting your gear into groups is that it can help you organize your pack. Items that function together are best packed together. For example it is generally better to keep your tent pegs and line with your tent, and to keep your pot with your stove, and so forth. If your gear is sorted into groups, it also makes it easier to figure out what should go on top or where it is more readily accessible and what can go deeper down into the less accessible areas of the pack.

The third advantage of helping to managing our pack weight becomes most noticeable when trying to lighten up pack loads.

Unfortunately there are no real standards for categorizing hiking gear. One backpacker will have what he thinks of as shelter that only includes a tent or tarp or bivouac sack while another backpacker will include his sleeping bag and pad in his shelter category, and yet a third backpacker will not have a shelter category at all. Instead they might have something like a major or core gear category that includes some but not necessarily all of these same items.

A problem with non-standardized systems is that it makes it hard to compare individual category weights or packing systems or other relevant information. Another problem is that most gear categorization schemes end up with a miscellaneous category that can be especially hard to monitor and control.

Over time I developed a gear categorization system that works well for me and has no miscellaneous category. A lot of the other gear information on this web site is based on this categorization system. The following web pages explain the system and how to use it.

Hiking Gear Types Categorization System

Hiking Gear Types Using the System


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