The easy answer is: NO PACK AT ALL.
For anyone who doesn’t bring a pack, CMH lodges provide daypacks that are small enough to hike or climb unencumbered, but big enough to hold your lunch, water, sunhat, and jacket. With a helicopter to provide easy escape from the mountain elements, we have a lot of options and you don’t need to carry too much.
If you want your own pack for heli-hiking and other summer adventures, that’s great. Using your own pack is nice. But don’t fret it. That’s why we call it HELI-hiking. It’s not about the pack.
Even a trusty book bag works, but a pack with a little more space makes packing - and then later finding your sunscreen in the bottom of your pack – that much easier. If you prefer your own, here are a few things to look for in a good heli-hiking pack:
- Around 25 litre capacity - buy your friend the bigger pack.
- Roomy exterior pocket for easy access to cameras and trail favors - tight pockets look cool in the store, but are a pain to use.
- Lightweight material and design with no frame or super-light internal frame - heavy helicopter should equal light pack.
- Hydration system is handy but not necessary – why not just stop and look around while drinking?
- Ventilation along the back area – it gets warm heli-hiking under the bright alpine sun.
- External strap system of some kind in case you need a little extra space - adventure travel doesn't happen by the litre.
- Bought in an actual, real, live, retail store like REI where you can try on several options for the best fit - as in not bought online with your iPhone while driving in traffic just before your trip.
Touching mountains as wild, vast and un-developed as the Columbias of British Columbia with only a small daypack on your shoulders is a treat that only heli-hikers get to experience. The light-footed sensation of moving easily through such terrain, surrounded by untouched wilderness the likes of which few modern humans ever see, is alone worth the price of admission.
Heli-hiking-as-good-as-it-gets photo by Topher Donahue