Last night was SAR training. Three people, all "ski guides" - though with varying degrees of education and expertise - showed their ski packs. There were some small but significant differences between packs and between how each presenter was evaluated by the audience.
Two kinda hip guys went first. The first one, who had a plethora of pieces of clothing shoved randomly into his pack, claimed that he didn't mind carrying extra weight as he is a big guy (good thing as he is carrying 30 extra pounds on the belly), and, most perturbing, had his shovel handle loosely strapped to the outside (the way he typically carries it). The second, a super hip kinda guy, had a glacier rescue kit, although there is no glacier skiing in our area, included a half sleeping bag that only came up to the waist, and had his compass hidden away in a tupperware container with a lot of other junk in the bottom of his pack. The third guy, not hip at all: older, grey haired, beaten up clothing. His pack was lined with a tough plastic bag, his compass and other essential equipment was readily accessible, there was nothing on the outside of his pack.
As the not hip guy presented, I saw looks going between various other people in the room as if to say "this old grey haired guy, what does he know."
I thought the old grey haired guy knew way more than the others. He knew that stuff in a pack can get wet; very, very wet, even when it is snowing not raining, and even when it is doing neither. He also knew that having anything - let alone important safety gear on the outside of a pack is stupid. He didn't carry spare pieces of extra clothing that were essentially useless when one or two good pieces was all that was required. He didn't carry a glacier kit when he is not skiing on glacier. He did carry a comprehensive repair kit - something neither of the hip guys carried. In fact, his pack contained what it needed, nothing more, recognizing that extra gear and weight that is not necessary at some point impedes safety.
The best pack I've seen is that carried by a local mountain guide who has again, everything he needs and nothing more. Essentials are packed in little zip-lock bags to keep them dry, and are kept handy. First aid kit and repair kit are clearly marked so that in the event he is unable to access them, a client can easily do so. Everything is inside the pack, waterproofed, ready to go, nothing banging about on the outside.
So, who knows best, the hip dudes, whose inexperience was obvious, or the uncool guy with a thousand ski miles under his boots.
There is way too much stuff on the outside of this pack