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Food Bag and Clothes Bag for 10-day to two week backpacking trip

Hi.  I an gearing up for many section hikes of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the coming 5-7 years.  These hikes will be from 10 - 20 days in length (estimate) with mail drops every 5 days or so for food.  Initially, these section hikes will occur in May and September in these states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  I will probably hike Vermont and New Hampshire in August, Maine in late-August and early September (based on current plans).  I am more traditional in thought regarding equipment and weight (i.e. not a ultra light hiker).

I have a new pack (yeah) which is to arrive soon (REI Traverse 70, green, from the Used store)!  Now, I need to purchase some dry bags to keep my clothes and food.  I'm planning to purchase the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks from REI (they are on sale now).  I was thinking of a 13 L bag for clothes and 20 L bag for food.  If these are too big, at least I can compress them when rolling up and "locking" the bag.

Any thoughts on the size of the Dry Sack for the clothes and food, based on the 10-20 days of hiking mentioned in my plan statement above?

Much thanks!!!

21 Replies

@KenBrenner What an awesome plan!

I think you're very much on the right track with your sizes of bags. One suggestion I would make, however, is potentially splitting your food bag into two smaller bags instead of one big one. I find that in some cases it is much easier to find food when I am able to sort it into a couple of different bags (preferably different colors too!). That is definitely a personal preference idea though as I have seen it done in both ways.

I'm excited to hear you finally got your new pack ordered! Thank you so much for your patience there as I know you've had your eye on it for a while.

I'm going to tap some of our experienced folks here to see if they're willing to lend some thoughts (or read up and learn some new tips as well), ideas, or insider local knowledge to your plans for the AT: @Philreedshikes @OldGuyot @hikermor @Hikes_in_Rain @MDarrall @John @Joe @taskmaster @CajunHiker what tips, ideas, or encouragement do you have for PoppaHiker?!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Hi @REI-JohnJ!

So much appreciate your response.  Will welcome some others' comments.

I plan to make the dry bag purchases prior to the end of the Anniversary Sale.

RE: Organizing.  Thanks for the tip - and I agree!  Even when I do my food for a day hike, I break it into zip lock bags by type, etc.  My wife would tell you I'm "Mr. Organized", which is one reason I got the Traverse 70 pack.  So, my food for a trip will be the same (probably larger zip lock bags).  

RE: Pack Order.  Suzanne in the Used Gear department exceeded expectations and provided excellent customer service.  It is supposed to arrive tomorrow (Tuesday, 05-19).  I plan to have my wife take my picture in it and share it with my new REI friends (you, Ian Erickson, and Suzanne).  Then, I hope to go on a long day hike Thursday using my new pack (to get used to it).



Thanks, @REI-JohnJ, but I'll have to defer to the thru-hikers here. I've never been on the trail for more than 2 nights! 

Hi @KenBrenner ! (Hi @REI-JohnJ  as well!) And good morning from VA!

Some random thoughts on this.

Have you put 'Bears' into you decision making process? lol. 

Options are, don't hang food (popular with thru hikers staying in the shelters), hang food, use an ursack.

I used to hang, now I have my trusty ursack (from REI no less).

If you hang, I recommend some sort of dyneema wire (rope) from lawsonequipment.  I use something 'slick' so it doesn't drag so much on the tree limbs and brush, and, after a very tough lesson learned (I'm might have posted a story about this somewhere here, involving night time and adult beverages, and general forgetfulness), a cord that is reflective to the beam of your headlamp.  pro tip: carry a very teeny stuff sack, maybe 3-4", put a rock in that, then clip with small 'biner' to your cord, then toss over limb.

All that said, I now use an ursack exclusively, no odor liner, except in the Sierra Nevada where a canister is required.

On the clothes bag situation:  I bought this great stuff sack from REI that is lined on the inside with a cloth material, so at night, you turn it inside out, re stuff the clothes, et voila' ! a fantastic pillow!

I always recommend lining your pack with something like a trash can liner so EVERYTHING is water proofed, so I haven't been worrying too much about waterproof stuff sacks.

Although backpacking in Iceland last summer I was pretty paranoid, so I carried some 1 or 2 gallon size zip locks (from the Dollar Store).

I also use very large zip locks in my top pack compartment (those never stay dry in a rain) and for my camera.

Lastly, I also recommend only 1 set of spare clothes. That 'dry set' is for camp, after you arrive soaking wet from an all day rain.  Then change back into your wet clothes the next day and walk them dry.  Unless it's freezing - and - raining, then you're screwed. Only choice is to put on your dry clothes with enough rain gear to keep them dry, and hopefully because it's cold, you won't get your clothes wet from sweat.  Your dry clothes and sleeping bag are your last line of defense from hypothermia.

And lastly, lastly, unless you are just in love with walking in tree tunnels all day, everyday, I recommend "go west young man!", get out of the tree tunnels and walk all day with mountain views and the horizon all around you, on the PCT, the JMT, the CDT or where I go, Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming.

Oh yes, sorry, one more thing, If you haven't already, check out, all things AT. (and tree tunnels) 😉

good luck


REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes Thank you Phil, I appreciate your response and information.


I couldn't agree with you anymore @Philreedshikes .  That's a great way to put the response.

For me, the location of the hike is key.

Bears, bears, bears.  I tried the bear hang, but I have shoulder issues that can make it tough at times to hang after hiking 10-20 miles. 

I'm a fan of the bear canister.  While I haven't used one yet, that's my next purchase.  

In Virginia (where I mostly hike), the bears can be bad.  I carry Counter Assault bear spray any time I hike.  Might be something else to consider.

There are many videos at REI's channel and other (Dan Becker, Sintax77, et. al.) that might give you more insight.


@CajunHiker  I'm in VA also, (Hampton)

REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes, Are you doing the Virginia State Parks Trails Quest (  I'm on track to finish it by the end of the year. 

Maybe we could do a hike together?  

@KenBrenner  I use a 4L dry bag for clothes (spare socks, 1 pr undies, sleep long johns-can be an extra layer in a pinch, 1 extra shirt).  My sleeping bag (depending on weather) fits in an 8L dry bag, but usually I use an inflation bag (20L dry bag) for my pad- to put my sleeping bag, sleep clothes and pillow in.  I don't have to compress things as much.  I keep rain layers, gloves, beanie handy in case I need a layer.

Electronics, first aid, medications should be protected with a plastic bag or dry bag.

I have been using the sea to summit ultra-sil bags for the past 10 years. About 6 trips/year...they are great!

Ellen Rosenberg (Mom)