Luke Pamer — Yosemite National Park, United States

How I Pack for Working Outdoors

For me, packing my bag every morning before leaving for work has become a kind of ritual. After so many years of doing it, thinking about which bag to pack and what to pack has become a fun routine of experimentation and adventure.

But it wasn’t always that way.

When I first moved to England and started working without an office in 2005, it didn’t take but a couple days for me to realize how important packing would be. I always seemed to forget something I needed; a charger, my graphic tablet, a jacket or whatever. I become constantly aware of shortcomings, and the pain of needing something I hadn’t packed (or didn’t own) quickly manifested itself as pages in my Nomadic Working notebooks. It was only a few months into Nomadic Working that I began to ‘curate’ my pack routinely each morning.

And that’s exactly what it is — curation.

As a digital designer — just like any other trade — I have a range of tools to complete various tasks. A laptop. Pens, pencils & stationery. A graphic tablet. Sometimes a phone or tablet are crucial to my workflow as well. Of course there’s always the array of miscellany; lighter, ruler, various cables, wifi-extending antenna, pocket knife, Sharpie and everything else in my EDC.

Incase Messenger

Over the years in my experiments and changing needs, I’ve collected a pretty ridiculous set of bags. Backpacks, messenger bags and a couple ‘totes’. Nowadays I tend to continually rotate between them every couple weeks because it keeps me aware of what’s working, and what isn’t. Over the last few weeks I’ve been using my 15″ messenger by Incase. It’s simple, well-designed and “just works”. It’s definitely on the small side, but now that there’s a foot of snow on the ground here in Fort Collins and I’ve been driving a lot, I don’t need a bag that holds everything because other stuff is in the truck.

Rapha Messenger

A couple days ago I switched to my 13″ messenger by Rapha. It’s a beautiful, high-quality bag that Ruth bought me for a birthday a few years back. After 2 days of use, I switched to my 8-years-old Incase small backpack. The Rapha was a little too tight to deal with in this cold weather, when I’m always wearing gloves.

Incase Backpack

Right now, the following items are in this backpack:

  • 13″ MacBook Pro inside a Kuzy shell
  • Logitech M570 wireless trackball mouse
  • Incase 4″ USB cable x2
  • iPhone 6+ inside a QuadLock case
  • Mont Blanc slim wallet
  • Starbucks card and Amazon gift card (from Christmas)
  • black Sharpie dual-tip
  • Zebra G-301 gel pen
  • old Field Notes ‘original’ notebook
  • 6″ iPhone lightning cable
  • Apple headphones

For me, this is a very light pack compared to what I’m used to. It’s so light today because I’m working within a mile from home, at Rolland Moore park. I’ll head home for lunch after writing this. But back in England this stash would have looked very different. I’d have been on my bicycle and within 15 miles from home for 6–8 hours. In addition to the above list, it would also contain things like:

  • Laptop charger
  • Rain jacket
  • Black leather Rapha cycling gloves
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Scarf by Woolrich
  • a magazine and/or book
  • Granola or chocolate
  • Possibly a pack lunch
  • Bike U-lock
  • usually a cycling cap, balaclava or ‘neckerchief’

This shows a little of how my needs have changed, at least during the winter, and how I pack accordingly. These cold temperatures are pretty new to me. How I pack in the morning is always a case of considering the work I have for the day (and therefor which tools I will need), whether or not I’ll be out the entire day, what the weather is like, how much travel I’ll be doing, and of course, how I’ll be doing it.

Roughly once a week I’ll dump out my entire pack before leaving the house in the morning. I’m looking for things that weren’t used last week, and thinking about things I needed — but didn’t have. If I have a bit of extra time I’ll look through some of my ‘junk drawers’ to sift through the things I’ve collected to see if any of them have uses for now, because I forget about stuff all the time.

Generally, I like packing as minimally as I can, with a preference for a bag that is most usable and comfortable. I don’t think so much about fashion as I used to — most of my bags are black anyway, and most of them on the smaller end of the size spectrum. I think about organization, comfort and utility. I want the smallest bag that will keep my stuff protected from the elements, and that will suit my needs for the day (with a little bit of wiggle-room).

Another variable that has I’ve noticed is how the progression of technology has influenced what I pack. I almost never pack chargers anymore because the battery life of my phone and laptop easily get me through the day. That’s a very welcome change!