Cross Packing

You will oft read me say that “such and such” is an important skill, but Cross Packing is one that stands out as being incredibly important every time you Hike. Whether you are hiking for a day, or going on a multi-day hiking trip, if you have two or more people you should actively cross pack.

What is Cross packing? The concept is one that you will no doubt be familiar with if you have done some hiking in the past, even if you have never called it by name. Often there are large or heavy items that can be shared between multiple people on a trip together. These include things like hiking stoves, tents, food, even things like a first-aid kit. These big-ticket items are quite heavy or cumbersome in terms of size, but between Liz and I for example we only need one tent and one first-aid kit. Why would be both carry things like this when we can share? We wouldn’t.

There are more complex strategies to cross packing though. For example, while I carry the tent, I make sure that Liz is always carrying a tarp and rope. This means that should we for any reason get seprated, we will both have a form of shelter. We both carry a stove each, I usually carry the MSR and food that can be cooked on the MSR and Liz will carry the Trangia and food that can be cooked on it. While this sounds like we have over-thought the situation, by cross packing intelligently, should we ever get lost, we can both survive quite comfortably without each other.

Next time you hike try packing with a buddy and sharing some of the items that you dont really need to take two of. This can help you shed some weight that you could carry for an entire trip without using, and also make you a safer hiker.

Not sure on what to pack? Check out this Hiking Check-list.

3 Responses to Cross Packing

  1. I so agree with hiking with a buddy. But it’s usually a case of carrying our own stuff. I think cross-packing is a wise idea. Will work well when hiking Sedona with a friend. Thanks for this post.

  2. Cross-packing (inter-dependence) has its uses, especially on more advanced expeditions where each member of the team brings a unique skill. For instance, the person with medical training should carry the comprehensive medical kit, and leave only minimal trauma kits with the others.

    If in dangerous territory, the one most proficient with the firearm should carry the rifle and ammunition.

    The women should carry the cooking equipment and laundry supplies. (kidding!!!)


    That being said, personally I like hiking as my own personal ‘unit’. I like knowing that in my pack is everything necessary to live out of for a week or two.


    I have hiking with groups before, and before on multi-day treks (7-10 days), I have said “Hey, you guys go on ahead I like this area, I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.” We always remained in radio contact however I could travel at my own pace when I don’t ‘cross-pack’.

    With the exception of comprehensive medical kit, I believe that on casual hikes (not Everest summit attempts or Antarctic expeditionary teams) people should be able to survive comfortably on their own with the supplies in their pack, and not have to be dependent on another person.

    • Hi Cam,

      You’re right about specialisations, its very important to make sure everybody utilises their full skill set as often as possible (even things like first aid should be practised regularly, even if not on a sick / injured person). As Creek at will attest; “its not if, but when”

      In Australia, firearms are prohibited in nearly all national and state parks, its not something that we tend to encourage. While I appreciate the value of a .22 or small calibre rifle in a survival situation, its not encouraged here.

      You’re right about having everything to survive, in the post I talk about making sure that Liz and I balance necessity with practicality.
      Liz carries the tarp as an emergency shelter, while I carry the tent. Owning and carrying two tents, when we share one anyway is pretty wasteful. She carries the Trangia, ill carry the MSR. She carries emergency water treatment pills, I carry the Katadyn. This way, we are hiking with our own “Unit” of gear and could survive easily and comfortably by our selves, however we share the more weighty items and have the light-weight alternative in the other pack.

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