The Bigger Three - Josh Wood

Posted by Ettienne Montzka-Caceres on

When talking about backpacking, the bare essentials are usually called “The Big Three.” The Big Three are your choice of backpack, sleep system, and shelter. These items comprise the most important kit you can take with you on a trip. The backpack should be large enough to accommodate all of your gear inside. The sleep system is the combination of sleeping mat and sleeping bag (or quilt) that you will use; which depends on the environment you will be in. While the shelter will be key to keeping dry and storing your gear.

But, what are the ‘Bigger’ Three? The Three Passes Trek, in the Himalayas of Nepal. This is a 21-day trek that travels to Everest Base Camp and across three glacial mountain passes about 5,300mts. This is the pinnacle of trekking in the Nepali Himalayas. In October, a friend and I will be doing this trek as independent hikers; no porters, no guides. October is the ideal time of year to trek, as it is just after monsoon and there should not be much, if any, rain at lower altitudes, nor snow at higher altitudes. Still, the evenings are likely to be at least -10c higher up.

Rain. Snow. Glaciers. These beg the question, when tackling the Biggest Three, how does one pack and prepare?

One of the great joys of trekking in the Himalayas is the tea house culture. The entire journey is lined with Sherpa villages. This means that each night, in exchange for purchasing a couple meals, you can stay in the tea house. The tea houses tend to be rustic buildings without heating in the bunk rooms. This means a good sleeping bag is a must, but a tent and sleeping mat are not necessary (unless you plan to sleep outside). Because I will be eating at the tea houses, I also won’t need to carry my cookware and stove. This will greatly reduce the pack weight and required pack size. Out of The Big Three, this leaves just one: a good backpack to old my gear.

My packing list is detailed, but the basic items I will need to carry are:

  • First Aid

  • Navigation

  • Trekking Poles

  • Clothing

  • Outerwear

  • Head-lamp

  • Water

  • Snacks

To hold and carry this gear I am planning on using my Kaipak 38L. This is my favourite backpack! I mainly use it for day-hikes and overnight trips due to it’s size, but when I don’t need a tent or sleeping mat it should be the perfect size. This pack suits a medium build and boasts a super-durable G-1000 outer. If I were to pick another pack, it would probably be the Abisko 45LThe extra space may be of benefit if you have bulkier gear.

When it comes to packing and preparing, this is only the tip of the mountain. I am refining my packing list and procedures with each training trip. My training mostly consists of working as a Wilderness Guide and hiking in the mountains on my off days, but soon I will be hitting the gym again with some specific goals in mind. But you will have to wait to hear about that.

How do you like to prepare for multi-day trips? Do you focus more on the packing or the training aspects of preparation?


Coach Josh Wood, BHSc, is a fitness coach and outdoorsman who brings together fitness training and the real world. Working as a Wilderness Guide in Tasmania, he strives to help people find their passion for activity, and loves introducing folks to the art of backpacking.

To follow his adventures head over to @coachjoshwood


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