One can never read to many pieces of wise advice before heading out into the wild, I always find. So here is my share of wisdom, or at least things which to know I found useful. As in “Do bring a sewing kit” and “Don’t bring Thoreau’s Walden”.
- You will feel every gram you pack. So pack light. As in no hairbrush. No extra extra shirt. No two books just in case you get bored of one. No fun sweaters just to mix it up a little. Think layers. Think multiple-use. Think light gear.
- But do bring a warm sleeping back. It’s worth every extra ounce you carry because cold nights really, really suck. I have been superhappy for a view years now with my North Face Blue Kazoo, that I bring on any backcountry or regular camping trip and it’s kept me warm in Iceland in late fall and up in the chilly altitude of the Himalayas.
- Dr. Bronners 18-in-1 liquid soap is the way to go: good for washing yourself, your dishes and your clothes and apparently can even serve as toothbrush and deodorant. For the other 13 uses, check out their webpage.
- Don’t forget the basic backpacker ethics: Brush up on your Leave-No-Trace-knowledge. Bring ziplocs to carry your waste out (you can not have too many ziplocs with you, as a general rule). Read up on where it’s sensible to set up camp. Know what the rule for human waste is on your trail. Make sure what water sources you’ll have on the trail and if you’ll want to use a water filter or iodine tablets.
- Bring a travel sewing kit.Your pants might rip in the most inconvenient spot just about halfway through your trek and if you did as suggested in point 1 you will not have a second pair. Thread and a needle will really come in handy right about then. Believe me. And do bring some duct tape too, in case anything else rips or breaks (read this article on how to fix anything with duct tape, just to get you started. The possibilities are endless)
- Trail food doesn’t have to be just cereal-bars and freeze-dried meals. Be creative! And if you need some inspiration to get you started, make sure to check out this blog post on backcountry gourmet.
- If you bother to bring along a book, bring one that you will actually read. I carried Thoreau’s “Walden” up and down Clouds Rest, Half Dome and Mt. Whitney and didn’t read much more than ten pages (not to say Thoreau isn’t brilliant. Just that his book is not really a page turner). My friend had Stephen King’s “Gunslinger” with him and couldn’t even put it down on the most stunning view points. Now that’s worth the weight carried.
- Bear cans are bulky and heavy. Bring a pack that is big (and empty) enough to fit them. Especially if you trek with a group. You don’t want to be that guy or gal that just can’t fit any of the group gear and food in the bear cans into his or her pack and ends up just packing the group’s sunscreen.
- Mix your trailmix up with an extra helping of M&Ms. And bring some supplementary M&Ms and Skittles for summit celebrations. So much better than just the plain old Cliff-Bar.
- Don’t skimp on weight and cost of coffee. Bring a Bialetti or at least a coffee filter. Chilly camp mornings will as of now be the main event of the day. Especially if you have a morning-person hiking buddy who’ll prepare the coffee for you, while you still snuggle away in that extra warm sleeping bag you brought along.
I am curious: What are your backcountry-hacks? Where do you splurge weight or cost-wise? What do you bring on every trek?