Thinking in terms of backpacking gear requires you to eventually take a long, hard look at what does or doesn’t belong as added weight in your pack, saving yourself from waking up in the morning feeling like you were giving the trees a ride on your back instead of hiking through them.
A lot of this boils down to personal preference, while other pieces of equipment can make or break your trip. You want to look back on your backpacking memories fondly, not questioning your decision as to why you ever started in the first place.
For us, this means debating the pros and cons, nice to have versus need to have, and finding a proper balance to provide us with a few morale boosters that won’t have us arguing over why we packed in items that we never even used.
Theoretically, we’d love to have a good book to read in the evenings when we’re relaxing at camp. The ideal book would be lightweight and something which neither of us would mind taking turns reading. On our last trip, we packed in a rather hefty horror novel. We’ve read through it once already and both of us enjoyed it, but by the time we were ready to settle down and crack it open, I was too exhausted to take an interest in a book that was still relatively fresh in my mind.
The result? Extra weight for a book that we didn’t flip through a single page of. Not only was it a bit on the thick side, but it sat awkwardly in our backpacks, so it ended up being an annoyance in more ways than one. This might sound trivial, but everything adds up when you’re trying to tackle numerous uphills and have aches and pains from the previous days of hiking.
Hopefully you’ll be smart enough to determine what works and what would be better served on your car camping adventures.
Now that I’ve preached about it, here are a few of our personal favorites:
1. Flip Flops
Some backpackers might laugh at the thought of needing camp shoes, but for us, taking away our flip flops would be like taking away our freedom. We currently use a pair of watermelon-colored Crocs and a lightweight pair of Nikes. These allow our feet to breathe, while still providing some comfort from rocks and other debris around camp, such as black widow spiders.
Yes, I know, this one might seem like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of backpackers who either sleep in their underwear or their hiking clothes. We get it, it has been humid enough to sleep in the nude (and we have) but we also like to have something to wear around the fire or keep us even warmer in our sleeping bags when the temperature decides to plummet.
3. A Deck of Cards
Lightweight, easy cure for boredom or waiting out a thunderstorm that decides to stick around all evening. Even if we don’t use them, it’s worth it to us to pack them in. Plus, going to bed while gloating is the best way to go bed.
4. Trekking Poles
You’ll see a lot of backpackers on the trail hiking without a set of trekking poles. We were the same way for a long time, but I’m here to tell you that they have made a tremendous difference in the way we hike. Whether you’re dodging massive amounts of mud or lunging up a steep incline, these can be a life saver! We won’t take a trip without them again.
Picture this: It’s 96 degrees outside and you’re several miles into your hike. You never knew that the human head could sweat enough to fill a public swimming pool, but now you’re almost convinced. Luckily, you have your trusty sweat rag hanging off of your pack to lightly dab away your salty disgustingness. It’s almost like flying first class. Almost.
If you have your own personal item that is an absolute must for your backpacking trips, we’d love to hear about them! Leave us a comment and tell us what you’ve found to be essential or a nuisance.