How To: Remember Your Gear

We all do it: forget things we need on a trip. Here are some pointers on how to remember all of the things, learned with personal experience by one of our Bellingham Branch volunteers.
James Pierson James Pierson
Bellingham Branch Leader
January 11, 2017
How To: Remember Your Gear
Photo by Sarah McCroy.

We all know how important good planning and preparation are to a successful outing. Familiarizing yourself with your route, having the proper equipment, checking the forecast, and reading past trip reports are all things that we can do to make our excursions more successful, regardless of whether they be a paddle, hike, climb or ski.

Well, for this edition blog, I’m going to share with you a few tips that I learned the hard way just last week when I pulled a couple of bone-headed blunders all in the same day. Hopefully they’ll help you be more organized, less forgetful, a better partner, and have more fun.

I had two days of backcountry skiing planned with one of my coworkers for the week between Christmas and New Years. We met early on the morning of the first day, loaded up everything into his truck, and headed to the mountain. All-in-all, that first day went well, even though it was storming heavily and very windy at times - so much so that there were a few instances when I just had to stop and brace myself against the gusts. We had a handful of powdery laps through some mellow, treed terrain before finally calling it a day and heading back down to the parking lot. We drove back to town, settled on the meeting time for the next morning, and I headed home for the night.

Sounds like a pretty standard outing, right? Well, my mistakes happened in how I planned and prepared for the second day, as you are about to see.

I got home and started laying out all of my damp gear to dry overnight. Then I hopped in the shower, had some dinner, set my alarm, and jumped in bed - eagerly looking forward to next day.

Forget Something?

The next morning I rolled out of bed, got dressed, grabbed a quick breakfast, and started repacking for the day. I had things scattered around the house in a few places, but I quickly had them packed and ready. I met up with my buddy at our carpool spot, threw my stuff in his truck, and we headed for the mountain. We chatted about the day before, the weather and avalanche forecast for the current day, our possible objectives, all the things you are supposed to do. Then, about 25 minutes into the drive, it hits me - my bibs! I forgot my bibs!

 We turned around and headed back to town, adding over and hour to our drive that morning. It was such a silly mistake that could have easily been avoided if I had done a couple of things:

  1. I should have made a checklist for my equipment needs -  Numerous studies have been done on the benefits of making and following a checklist. Surgeons, airline pilots, firefighters, and emergency response personnel all have checklists to help them do their job. It’s not necessarily the big issues that you are worried about (I remembered my skis and boots, right…). A checklist will help you remember the smaller things that can quickly add up to affect the overall outcome of your task.
  2. When I laid out all of my damp gear from the night before, I should have kept everything in one general place, and kept it all visible so I didn’t have to hunt around for things in the morning. I had scattered things around the house to dry out, and I had hung my bibs on the back of a door. That morning, as I was gathering things up, they were hidden from my view - out of sight, out of mind! Keeping everything in sight would have helped me make sure to grab it all.

With my bibs in hand, we headed back to the mountain. Once we arrived at the trailhead, we made our final plans for the day. With the wind-loading from the day before, we abandoned the idea of some more technical lines we had discussed earlier, and we settled for some less avalanche prone terrain. I pulled a few extra things out of my pack that we weren’t going to need (harness, a few carabiners, small rope) and left them in the back of his truck, then we headed out.

The skiing that day was great! It was partly cloudy, but clear visibility. The storm from the day before had left us with pockets of fresh powder. We skied multiple laps on a couple of different slopes. It was one of the better days of skiing that I’ve had in a while!

Forget something...again?

At the end of the day, we skied back down to his truck, shed our gear, and started the long drive back to town. Once we got back, I unloaded my gear, we said our goodbyes and he started his drive home. 

Unfortunately, it took me about 40 minutes to realize that I didn’t have all of my gear. When I had pulled that extra equipment out of my bag at the beginning of the day, I put it in the corner of his truck bed. Then at the end of the day, he had put some of his gear on top of it. When I grabbed my things at the end of the day, I did a quick check in the back and didn’t see anything else of mine. Again, out of sight, out of mind… I quickly made an embarrassed phone call, and drove down to meet my buddy half-way.

What I should have done in this situation is keep all of my equipment in one place in his truck. I could have easily prevented this by having an extra duffle bag or reusable shopping bag that I could put everything in and keep in one place. Something like this is great for extra clothes to change into after a trip, a snack for the way home, or in this case, extra items that I decided to leave in the truck.

Lesson Learned

We all make mistakes, and in this case, mine were both pretty silly and luckily didn't have a huge impact on the overall outcome of my day. However, it could have easily been more dramatic if it had taken me longer to realize my forgetfulness.

In the future, I can help eliminate the chance of forgetting something if I use a checklist, keep my gear in plain sight, and bring an extra bag for things I want to leave behind in the vehicle.

I hope these three simple tips, learned the hard way in my case, will help you be better organized for your outings, reduce your chances of forgetting something, and help you have a better time.

And lastly, sorry for all my forgetfulness Ben! I owe you some beers!

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Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Apr 17, 2020 07:31 AM

Great tips. I tired of looking for the 10 essentials list to support trip packing and now use a 10 Essential Bandana laid on on the bed. Small graphics represent each of the essentials and as I gather head lamps, first aid kit...I simply place each on the corresponding graphic. When all are covered, I've got the 10 Essentials.