5 non-essentials that I take anyway

Go light. Carry less. 4lb base weight. Go fast. Only the necessities. If you don’t need it, leave it in the truck.

These are the words I keep hearing when I think about what to carry when packing for any hiking or backpacking outing. However, I’m also a Search & Rescue volunteer, so I’m constantly conflicted on the definition of what’s ‘necessary.’ Always be prepared. Plan for the worst-case scenario

What’s necessary to me, may not be a necessity to many. But I tell you what, they sure enhance the experience & comfort. And while I often go light, these 5 items can definitely enhance your next trip into the wilderness.

  1. Power bank. I use this mostly for charging my phone, but just as often find it useful for charging the devices of others. (Now that our phones serve largely everything but a phone (camera, compass, GPS), extended times & days in the backcountry can see a phone drain quickly. Side note: I bring way too many back-up batteries for GPS & headlamps too.
  2. Pillow. I used to never carry a pillow. “Who needs it?” I’d ask myself. I’d jam clothes in a stuff sack & suffer as my head painfully hit the ground throughout the night. I’d wake up with a sore neck. These days, I carry a small inflatable pillow and my body thanks me as I get older.
  3. Bluetooth speaker. I know, I know — ‘how dare you?’ many purists would ask. Trust me, some of the best sounds I’ve ever heard are the sounds of nature. And silence. There is no silence like camping next to a snow-covered lake deep in the midst of winter. However, sometimes, I like a little ambient music — I’m a music junkie. I always have calm, therapeutic forms of acoustic tunes or meditative instrumentals going on in my regular life. When I’m deep in nowhere, sometimes I like to play soundtrack music, or listen to a podcast as I fall asleep. Plus, the one I carry also has the ability to charge things via USB. It can be a nice touch.
  4. Seasonings. As I transitioned from car-camping to backpacking, I used to hold ambitious meal preparation ideas & plans. While I still do some cooking, I largely cook up dehydrated store-bought meals or, as I eat kinda weird during training, ones I’ve prepared in advance. As I stressed over meal planning & food storage, I continually found that by the time I found and made camp, I usually just wanted to sit & take in the views, make a fire and relax. Food prep became a chore. And one I didn’t need. However, by storing some of these small lightweight seasoning packets in my food bag, I found I was able to spice things up when necessary & also share them with others when somebody mentioned they wished they had some salt or spices. And they weigh nothing.
  5. Hextarp. I’ve gone back & forth on this one so many times. I carry it & never use it. I don’t have it and wish I did. I think of it almost more as an insurance policy today. The UST Hex Tarp is (fairly) light weight & cheap. It’s super handy, with numerous setup configurations. It gives me peace of mind - that if downpours come - I’ve got a contingency plan other than throw on raingear or hide in my tent. When you hike/camp 4-seasons in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a fair price for a little added peace of mind.

So while I constantly struggle & go back and forth on ‘go light’ or have some comforts and convenience, it’s a balancing act. And what’s necessary is always debatable.

So what do you carry that’s unnecessary but necessary?

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