Every single time, I start with the feet. Then I work upward.

In the summertime, it’s socks and sneakers and sandals. Then pants and shorts and bathing suits. Between 3 and 10 Hawaiian shirts. A raincoat. Sunglasses. Backup sunglasses. A hat. Another hat. Okay, one more hat.

This list ideally begins in a clean notebook but, more often than not, it’s on the back of a Chinese takeout menu that’s been lounging on my desk for a while. And once my pen hits paper—or menu—a process begins that I’ve romanticized my entire life: packing.

The thing is, before every single adventure—no matter its size—there is packing. It can be as minuscule as remembering your phone, wallet, and keys on your way to a party, or as colossal as organizing enough food, water, and gear to survive in the woods for months. Either way, you’ve gotta pack. So, I ask you this: why not enjoy it?

A finely packed bag in the wild (AKA Silvertip, BC). Photo: Guy Fattal.

I enjoy the hell out of it. And my process doesn’t stop with the chicken-scratched takeout menu. No, no, no. After the pen, I go digital. We’re talking spreadsheets.

I fill out my spreadsheet as best as I can, all on my own. Then, because I’m human and therefore forgetful, I ask my wife if I’m missing anything critical. For example, at the top of this blog post, I didn’t mention underwear. Gotcha. Other important things I often forget: toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, and all other hygienic products.

Of course, the spreadsheet is color-coded. Don’t knock it ’till you try it. Blue is for the basic clothing: your shirts, your pants, your too-many-hats, etcetera. Red is for the gear gear: goggles, helmets, wetsuits, you name it. Yellow is for snacks. Green is for toiletries. Pink is for random shit.

Sometimes, when I’m in the thick of a spreadsheet, or zipping up a perfectly packed bag, I wonder why the hell I love it so much. Sure, it’s about my OCD tendencies and paralyzing fear of forgetting underwear. But over the past year and a half at home, I finally came upon the real reason:

We work so hard to plan and save up for our trips—the big ones, the small ones, and the in-between ones. We dream day and night. We brag to our friends and family and coworkers across the months and days and minutes leading up to it all. And once we finally get to experience these trips, they come and go like the blink of an eye. So, if I can extend my stoke on the front end, even just a bit, by packing my bags like an excited little kid, I absolutely will.

And if I don’t have to unpack within the first day, week, or even month of arriving back home, I absolutely won’t. That bag stays in the middle of the hallway as long as possible, dammit.