The Science of a Perfectly Packed Com

Nov 21, 2019

Good morning Gulch Blog!

My name is Lindsey Klaff and served as the Turquoise Trail’s program staff this summer. In this role, I am largely responsible for the gear that we use on the road: stoves, tarps, science and art boxes, our lovely groover, etc. All of this goes into commissary trucks, which we affectionately call “coms.” When done right, a group’s com will be packed so tightly and efficiently that it will resemble a game of Tetris.

At the Gulch, being flexible is essential for a successful expedition, so when I was informed that we would be taking “Fancy” instead of another, newer com for our second road loop, I had to really put my com packing knowledge to the test.

Let me paint you a picture of Fancy. Most coms have side boxes for storage; Fancy does not. Most coms don’t have posters of Prince and the Wu Tang Clan adorning every visible surface of the inside walls; Fancy does. 

Despite these quirks, Fancy served us well as we travelled throughout each of the Four Corners states. This was because we kept in mind the golden rules of packing: accessibility, weight distribution, and space efficiency. Any backpacker knows these apply to the perfect pack, but they ring especially true for Fancy.

Accessibility.  It’s 12:30 pm and you’re in the middle of a 4 hour drive from Canyon de Chelly to Grand Staircase Escalante. Your trekkers are getting hungry and the need for PB&J tortillas is urgent. Your staff must unpack the lunch materials and, oh great, it’s all in the far back corner under 80 packs. Accessibility is essential.

Weight Distribution. You’re driving to Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah and boom – you just blew out your back left tire. You foolishly put all your heavy water igloos on one side and now you’re going to have to settle in to an afternoon of tire changing. 

Space Efficiency. You think you’re done with com packing and the back is filled to the brim. All of a sudden three trekkers run up to you with their big packs and duffel bags that they forgot to put in lineup. If you had packed the com efficiently, there should be space for a whole other trek’s packs and even room to see out of the rear-view mirror. 

I hope to impart this knowledge to all future program staff and QMs so you, too, are lucky enough to avoid a summer of vehicle mistakes like TT 2019.


Lindsey joined us as a trekker 2011-2015 and returned in 2019 as the program staff on Turquoise Trail.