“Oh my God” backpacking items!

Jim and I did the John Muir Trail in 2016, and we found that our gear was great, but we had a few pleasant surprises. We discovered a few things that we remarked gave us particular joy, and we made a list of them.  I doubt I’ll ever backpack again without these 6 items.

1. Miso Soup: When we got in to camp for the night, we were invariably tired. The first thing we did was heat some water, and have a cup of Miso Soup. It was salty, restful and felt restorative. It weighed very little and really hit the spot.

2. Camp Chair: We carried the REI Flexlite camp chair on the JMT.  On the one hand, you want to keep your pack as light as possible, and I was about at my max when we picked up a food drop. Each day after the food drop my pack got lighter and lighter, and a luxury item made more and more sense. However, at camp every night being able to sit and rest seemed more like a necessity then a luxury.  It was so resting to have a seat with back support. Call it a luxury, but I’ll be taking the Flexlite the next time I do the JMT.

3. Gravity filter: it seems like I have spent a lifetime pumping water at camp, and its not that big of a deal. However, to have to pump zero water for the whole trip was surprisingly joyous.  For a solo hike I take aqua mira liquid drops, but for a pair of hikers or more this thing is wonderful. It really started to slow down, and we needed a new filter cartridge after 14 days on the trail, FYI.

4. Pepperoni instead of beef jerky: As we were packing food we defaulted to our traditional protein source for the trail: beef jerky.  We tried to change up the lunches for each of the 4 segments of our trip, so we got pepperoni in the plastic jars.  That stuff was wonderful. I don’t think I’ll go back to beef jerky for a long time.

5. Deodorant: Jim and I got convinced of the value of personal hygiene  on the trail a long time ago. We swam in lakes, washed our bodies off, washed clothes, and took baths with wet wipes every night. On the JMT we shared a tent, so our tent weight was only 1 lb 2 oz for each person (a Tarptent MoTrail) and we appreciated the thoughtfulness of our tent partner keeping reasonably clean. I keep clean when I don’t share a tent also, as a consideration to myself. We had a travel size deodorant tube that contained a block of dry white waxy stuff. If worked fine, but when it got thinner it broke, and became a pain to use. We thought a gel that extruded or a spray-on would be better.

6. Solar Panel and Battery that worked: Our 2016 JMT was heavy on photography, and we had a GoPro, a Sony a6000 camera, and 2 iphones which we used for videos and timelapses.  We carried a Suntastics 5 solar panel, and an Anker 6700 ma battery.  By sundown the Ankar battery was fully charged with the solar panel, and our cameras and phones were pretty much discharged. I lay in my bag and charged each of the devices one at a time, and it was no hassle. I didn’t go to sleep right away anyway. With a setup like that you could go anywhere and know that you were self sufficient on energy, if there is sun.  It was a nice reassurance.

2 thoughts on ““Oh my God” backpacking items!

  • March 29, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I’ll add a couple of my own “don’t-leave-home-with-it” items.

    Crystal Lite Energy Drink. I’ve never warmed up to hot drinks (pun intended). An icy-cold shot of caffeine with strawberry sweetness gets me going in the morning, and on a break while climbing a pass, it gives me the boost I need to keep going — and they weight next to nothing.

    Ear Plugs. Something about shutting out all the noise (including snores from fellow hikers), such that I can only hear my heart beat and breathing, really helps me wind down and fall to sleep – and a few Tylenol PMs don’t hurt.

    Altimeter. In my mind, elevation gain is 3-5 times more important than mileage. I can hike all day if the terrain is level, but throw in a 1-2k elevation climb and that’s about it for the day. I’ve always carried a mapping GPS, but tracking elevation is what I’m most interested in. With the new GPS watches (and especially the new Garmin Fenix 5 with maps), I may finally leave the larger GPS at home. In addition, most of these watches now have a reasonably accurate heart rate monitor built into the watch (no need to wear an HR strap), so one can monitor map location, speed, elevation, and heart rate from a wrist watch – ain’t technology great!

  • March 29, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Kevin: Brilliant!

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