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I am trying to decide on a backpack strategy for Himalayan expeditions to 6k-7k peaks. Typically, these involve a few days approach march to the base camp. Then the actual climbing is another 3-5 days from base camp / advance base camp to the summit.

In total, I will need to carry the following -

  • Crampons + compatible ice boots
  • Ice axes and trekking poles
  • Some carabiners, ice screws, pulleys, ascender, descender,
  • Shovel
  • Snow anchors
  • Rope - 40/60m and some cords
  • Waist Harness
  • Helmet
  • 2/3 person tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Stove, fuel
  • Food
  • Water bottle
  • Down jacket
  • Heavy gloves/mittens
  • spare socks, 1 set clothing, inners
  • First aid kit
  • bivvy / emergency kit
  • might have missed something..

How much space (liters) do I need to fit all this?

In general, if we use top of the line products, the weight and volume can be reduced. But for now, let's assume good quality but not the most expensive gear.

A rule of thumb I've heard (not verified) is for high altitude expeditions, use a 90 liter pack. Assuming 90 liters is needed, what's a better strategy -

  1. A single 90 l pack, or
  2. A 60-65 l pack and another 35 l pack. This way, the bigger pack stays at base camp and the smaller 35 l goes up the mountain. Alternatively open the route with the smaller pack and then load ferry the larger pack using fixed ropes.

We could also would hire porters/mules until the base camp and climb by ourselves (with a guide) beyond that. In this case, it might be easier to load the 65 l pack on the mule and walk with the 35 l pack.

Even when 90 liters has to be carried by oneself, is there an advantage to packing it in two packs - wearing the bigger one on the back and the smaller one on the front? There seems to be some studies that distributing the load over the front and back is better.

I would really appreciate from folks experienced in multi-day high altitude expeditions about if my line of reasoning makes sense and what is a good strategy?

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    So I wouldn't want the extra weight and hassle of 2 packs on the hike to base camp, but I'd be looking hard at ways of shrinking the pack at that point. Mountaineering packs tend to be quite good for attaching stuff on the outside after all
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 11:54
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    Packing strategy is something I know a bit about. High altitude mountaineering much less so
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 13:00
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    An empty 35 l backpack weighs very little. You can put it inside the big one empty, and then re-pack before the climb. In my experience, 90 l is barely enough for just normal kit and food for some days (ten or so).
    – Tomas By
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 13:35
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    I am a bit scared when I read your question. Doing a 6k-7k peak is not like a Sunday afternoon hike, You should not do it unless you did some experience on lower peaks. However, your question looks like you are a beginner, an experienced mountaineer would not ask such a basic question. Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 6:45
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    @WernfriedDomscheit Thanks for your concern, appreciated. I have already done 5.5K+ peaks. The pack we used on those was 90L to carry a load of 18-20 kg over 25 km tough terrain to base camp. From base camp to summit, only the technical climbing gear was needed. However, those climbs were organized larger groups by someone else, so I am not too aware of all the specifics / logistical details. Some gear, like ropes, etc. were shared. There were porters for kitchen stuff. This time we're getting our own gear, starting with an easy 6K. The 7K in the title is to make the responses "future-proof".
    – ahron
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 8:41

1 Answer 1

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From your description I don't see how bringing two packs will help.

If your ascent is actually a full 3-5 days from base camp then you will have to bring pretty much your entire gear... Certainly all the technical mountaineering gear, tent & sleeping bag, the best and warmest clothes, emergency stuff and of course food and cooking equip.

You might leave some spare undies and socks at the bottom, and some extra food/fuel you'll need for the way back out... but how much are you really saving? I don't think you'll be saving enough to cram all the rest into the 65l pack, let alone a 35l one...

So from what I can see from your description you might be stuck with the 90l option all the way to the top, and then the question is why carry another 500ish grams for nothing?

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    Yeah.. on reflection, the only purpose the 35L pack can serve is as a summit pack... when you are already wearing the warmest clothes and don't need to carry the tent or sleeping bag cuz you plan to return to summit camp.
    – ahron
    Commented Apr 2 at 13:20
  • That sounds a lot more reasonable. Without having any experience myself I guess that the summit can easily be hard enough to merit bringing an additional lighter and smaller pack to make the summit attempt just a tiny bit easier.
    – fgysin
    Commented Apr 2 at 19:32

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