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10 Items Not On Your Usual Backpacking Gear List

There’s ultra-light, lightweight, casual, and heavy gear that folks take on the trails.  Then there’s a category all on its own of “You brought what?”.

Here’s a list of ten things that I or other folks have brought on the trail which may not seem to be great idea, but definitely pay off.

(Note: as an Amazon Affiliate I will make a very small amount of money if you use any of the Amazon links below)

1.       Camp Towel – one of those fake chamois towels has shown up in a lot of places, but the trail? Yep. People have used them to wipe off condensation in tents and rainfly’s, dry off gear, wipe down sweat and rain before getting into the sleeping bag and more. They are super absorbent, light and a towel the size of a bandana is all you need. 

2.       Speaking of Bandanas – this is my catch-all cloth.  Wiping sweat from my brow as I hike, filtering out sand and grit in the water before it goes into the water filter, waving down a friend on the trail, (always buy brightly coloured bandanas), protecting ears and neck from sunburn, tying around a bandaged cut on my leg, wash cloth for my face and hands, etc.  Multi-purpose in paisley. 

3.       Deck of Cards – I never saw the benefit of bringing a deck of cards until a friend pulled out his deck and we spent an evening playing cards and laughing it up.  A deck of cards weighs very little and is a compact way to provide entertainment. 

4.       Duct Tape – I’ve always had this rolled up on my hiking poles, around my lighter and a couple of other places too.  It’s saved boots that have the soles coming loose, patched tents, rainflys, jackets, packs, and more.  You can reinforce seams that are starting to come loose, shore up a hiking pole that’s started to crack, prevent blisters, tape down bandages, emergency fire starter, mark your gear.  Duct tape is awesome. 

5.       Disco Ball – What!?!  Yes.  For one hiker stuck in a rainy tent, a little disco ball made all the difference in the world. The disco ball refracted the raindrops into a mesmerizing light show, transforming her cramped shelter into a personal dance party. 

6.       Bubble Wrap – A hiker has some items wrapped up in bubble wrap, and when he sprained his ankle, was able to use it as a makeshift splint providing support and padding.

7.       Tea Strainer – Being a tea aficionado, a hiker brought along their tea strainer.  On a particularly dusty trail they found it made a great way to filter out sand and grit from the water source, turning their luxury item into a survival tool. 

8.       Ziplock Bags – I use these a lot.  Food storage, food garbage storage, keep my electronics (batteries, back up battery for phone, phone, etc.) dry, collect water, collect dry tinder, even cook up freeze dried food in the freezer Ziplock bags.

9.       Trash Bags – Instead of wrapping your backpack in a cover, put a garbage bag (I recommend either the trash compactor or the heavy-duty contractor versions) in your pack and load everything into it. Cinch off the end with a twisty and you’re pretty much guaranteed to keep all your gear dry.  I’ve also used them to collect tinder, branches and other firewood and to keep it dry here in the Pacific NorthWET.  In a pinch you can make them into a rain jacket or rain skirt.  They also make good water collectors in the rain or just by scooping up a gallon or two of water from a lake or stream. 

10.   Hot Sauce – I’m not one for spicy foods most of the time, having been brought up on traditional English cooking.  Nonetheless, a little Tabasco in a freeze-dried meal or added to Top Ramen in the pot can help make the same old, same old, a little more interesting on the trail.

What have you brought on the trail?

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