The 10 Non-Essentials

We’ve all heard of the 10 essentials.  But what about the 10 things you absolutely don’t need to carry in your pack?  It’s common sense that one of the best (and easiest) ways to lighten your pack is to leave things behind and replace them with either multiple-use gear or skills.  Some of you may disagree with my choices and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of having carried some of the items below in the past.  But after a lot of trial and error (and careful consideration), here are 10 pieces of gear I consider to be the 10 non-essentials:

1.     Candle Lantern.  Terrible weight-to-light-output ratio.  A good headlamp is far lighter, brighter, and more versatile. 

2.    Camp furniture.  Why carry a camp chair and table?  Part of getting out is exactly that:  getting out!  It’s not about trying to recreate your living room in the woods.  To me, it diminishes the experience of being outdoors. 

3.    Radio/iPod.  An MP3 player prevents you from absorbing the sounds (and quiet) of the forest.  Nature provides its own music.  You can listen to your iPod all week.  Why drown out the few opportunities you get to hear woodpeckers pecking, the wind rushing through the trees, or the elk bugling with Lady Gaga?  You can wait until the rave next weekend.

4.    Tent stake hammer.
  Ever hear of a rock?

5.    Saw.  It takes more time and effort to saw through a small branch than to simply break it with your foot.  For larger pieces, burn them in halves, thirds, or fourths, then throw the pieces into the fire.  Spend more time enjoying the fire than preparing the wood for it.

6.    Axe.  Unless you're building a log cabin a la Dick Proenneke, see # 5.

7.    Trowel.
  Multi-use substitute:  your knife.  Some people suggest digging your cat hole with a stick or your boot but if you’ve ever tried that, you know it’s pretty ineffective (especially if you’re in a hurry).  A knife actually works almost as well and as fast as a trowel if you know the technique (think cutting out a circle in the dirt, then scraping out the middle).

8.    Espresso maker.
  Les Stroud eats grubs and scorpions for a week.  You can’t go a couple of mornings without a fancy Italian espresso?  If you really need your caffeine fix in the morning (like I do), try something lighter and more compact like Starbucks via.  It isn’t exactly a triple venti latte, but as they say, everything tastes better on the trail (even instant coffee).  So go ahead and rough it a bit (not too much).  Your back (and taste buds will thank you). 

9.    Ground cloth.
  I think a lot of people will disagree with me on this one but I haven’t used a ground cloth for years and my tent floor is fine.  Not one leak.  It’s about site selection and preparation.  Clear the area of sharp objects like pine needles, rocks, etc. Most of us don’t keep a tent long enough or get out enough to truly benefit from whatever protection a ground cloth might offer.  It’s just extra bulk, weight, and one more thing to set up and pack away. 

10.    Gun.
  Grizzly territory?  Yes.  3 miles in on a trail in Rocky Mountain National park?  No.  Political issues aside, the weight-to-usefulness ratio of a firearm is probably the worst of any piece of gear imaginable.  Some people carry them for decades without ever “needing” to use them.  All that accumulated weight for nothing.  I know some will argue “but when you REALLY need it, you’ll be glad you have one”.  And that may be a valid argument if you’re in a dangerous place (like on safari in Africa).  But the reality is, for most of us, a gun simply isn’t necessary in the places we hike.  It reinforces the same false notion perpetuated by outdoor gear marketers that nature is out to get us and we need to protect ourselves from it with more equipment (i.e. buying their gear).  Ray Jardine describes this myth much more eloquently than I can in his writings but basically, it puts us “at war” with nature rather than in harmony with it which (to me) is one of the reasons for getting out.  I think we enjoy backpacking because it gives us a chance to get back in touch with our natural state a little bit.  Carrying a gun automatically puts us at odds and skews our perception of our place in nature.

So, those are what I consider to be the 10 non-essentials.  Which ones do you agree/disagree with?  Do you have your own that I missed?  Please post your non-essentials.
The 10 Non-Essentials The 10 Non-Essentials Reviewed by Jason Klass on July 09, 2010 Rating: 5


Anonymous said...

I like your thoughts Jason. I do prefer to cary, and not just cuz the kritters. But I respect your opinion and will give it consideration the next time - In The Wild.

Jason Klass said...


You mean because of other people? LOL, somehow, I KNEW the gun thing would be the first to get a response. ;)

Anonymous said...


Thanks..There is so much heavy stuff that retailers try to sell to us. I also would of agreed with number 10 until i saw Deliverance. Did you hear those banjos?

Unknown said...

I used to carry one of those espresso makers (still do for car camping). I tried the Via route, and it tasted to me like, well, really good instant coffee.

I found a french press filter that exactly fit my Sno-Peak 600 cup, which is sometimes the only pot I take.

It weighs nearly nothing, and I can indulge in my addiction with full satisfaction.

One of them, anyway. Now if I can figure out how to brew beer in the cup....

Anonymous said...

Another good coffee source on the trial is coffee bags. tea bags but with coffee. they are light and simple.

Jason Klass said...

Yep, I've tried those and they're actually pretty good. Very close to "real" coffee. Thanks for bringing that up.

Anonymous said...

I also vote for dehydrated beer! I thought everclear was the UL beer (multi-use etc)...

I have to admit, it was hard for me to give up my precious camp stool. I do love that thing...

Unknown said...

Your gun chat is very amusing to us Europeans - nobody carries a gun here!

My favourite non-essential is spare shoes. I just take dry socks and a plastic bag for each foot.

The item from your list that I'll carry most often is an axe. When it has been very wet the only way to get dry wood is to crack open a soggy log.

Stephanie said...

I totally take my iPod! I think that I may have the opposite problem of most though, I don't usually have time to watch podcasts or shows when I am at home so relaxing in the tent is where I sometimes enjoy them. It is "me" time in camp and away from the world so I don't feel guilty about whether I spend it sleeping, playing cards or watching TED talks! =)

The gun issue is a thorny one. While I totally agree with you from the standpoint of fear of the wilderness, it is definitely people that concern me more. I haven't hiked as a solo female, but if I did, I think I would be foolish to not protect myself to the fullest extent. Sadly, there have been murders of female hikers and that is why I would carry. Jardine usually hikes with a partner so I understand why he takes that stance in his books. I used to be very anti-gun, but not carrying a gun doesn't stop violence against women. Protecting yourself, however, does.

Mark McLauchlin said...

Spot on Jason. Being a lightweight hiker I haven't carried anything on your list for years. Nice one!

Joe Newton said...

Agree with everything on your list Jason. I could see a use for a small hatchet in the forests of a deep Scandinavian winter over here but these trips would be few and far between.

baz carter said...

A great post Jason, had me in stitches :)

The only thing I'm guilty of is carrying trowel. I now use a tent stake trowel, fashioned out of a snow stake. Used as a trowel when needed and as a stake when I pitch my shelter. I havent worked out yet what I'm supposed to do if I need the trowel when I've got the shelter up :)Good point about using a knife but with the mini SAK that I carry I fear that I'd be in deep do do before I'd scratched the surface!

As for the iPod, it's natures soundtrack for me every time.


I agree with everything except the potty-trowel. I see your suggestion as an excellent way to quickly ruin a good knife edge.

TDale said...

Candle lanterns have a place. When you're in a no campfire area with a group, two or three candle lanterns provide a "campfire".

Anonymous said...

Since I take scouts hiking, I do bring a saw. I have one of those Pocket Chainsaws that rolls up and its in a small tin can. Amazingly, boys do love to build fire.

On occasion I have brought a 2 and a half pound kids camping chair. The weight to comfort ratio is something I can justify, seeing that I am over 50, and this old ass of a body does not want to do what it once did.

Chris said...

I have to say that you hit the nail on the head with this post. I'm not a UL backpacker, more of a Lightweight Bushcrafter so I always carry a very small axe. My weapon of choice is the Vaughan Sub-Zero that weighs in at 1lb. I gave up the carrying a firearm years ago. Too much time in State and National Parks where it brings big trouble if found.

Eugene Smith said...

Nice post Jason...however I actually find I enjoy the faint atmosphere an elk bugle adds to my Lady Gaga listening, I think it's the whole remix concept.

Robin said...

I don't bring any of these things except a trowel - Put my good knife in the dirt and rocks? no way, I love my knife! This may depend on where you hike, someplaces have softer dirt then others.

I do also sometimes bring a couple if tea-light candles. They make a nice "camp fire" that can be comforting.

If you figure out a way to manufacture dehydrated beer or dehydrated water - call me - I'll sell my investment in the Brooklyn bridge and invest in that.


Lance Milks said...

Awsome post Jason,

I go over this type of thing at every seminar I speak at. The one question I always get is "do you bring a gun". Well here is my response. When I paddled in northern Cananda, you bet. Everyone had one for bears it was considered taboo not to. As far as backpacking here in the East there really is no need. For one thing they are illeagal in most places. Two, for it to be usealbe its going to be out of you pack and on you somewhere. If I come hiking by you with a gun on my hip, then I just made you uncomfortable and your thinking "who is this guy". My choice, I carry a small 2oz can of 3.5 million OC spray. It stays in a little velcro pouch on my hip belt and no one has ever asked what it is. For all they know its a GPS. Im not so much worried about animals but I do hike solo a lot and you never know who you might come across.

I also wouldnt stick my knife in the ground. I have found that a good stick diggs just fine.

Four Jacks and a Pup said...

Good thoughts Jason. Non-essentials are a great way to lighten your pack. I might disagree on the iPod one though. I wouldn't use it while the great sounds of nature are available, but what about a rainy day stuck in your tent where there's nothing better to do?

Anonymous said...

great stuff Jason! But you left off one of my favorites.....the solar shower!

Rand :-)

Anonymous said...

I honestly hate when someone makes a comment about someone else's comment about guns. WHO CARES! Carry them or don't. Whatever. What's next, why a 3" bladed knife is more offensive than a 2".

How about this to add to your 10 non-essentials:

Condom - For water storage in a pinch and for family making prevention

Floss - For conventional purposes and cordage

Superglue - To bond and to close wounds

UL Hammock - For a seat and lounging (the Nano 7 by Grand Trunk is 6.7 ounces)

Any good book

Credit card, cash, and ID - stuff that most of us carry, few of us put on our list, but is actually an essential in real world movement and commercialism but otherwise nearly completely useless on their own in the wild

Cell phone

Toilet paper

MP3 player

Comfort food/more food than you need

Spouse's who don't want to be there

Unknown said...

Thought provoking as always Jason. My thoughts:

1. Lantern. No argument from me.

2. Furniture. I hang in a hammock and use it as a chair all the time. I'm a better person for it.

3. The people I hike with snore. It's either the Ipod or drag their tents off a cliff with them in it.

4. Hammer. Your rock is good.

5. I have a wire saw. Weighs an ounce and has come in handy.

6. The saw makes a heavy axe a non-starter.

7. Trowel. Don't want to dull my knife digging in the dirt.

8 thru 10. I'm in complete agreement with you.

Other useless things:

Stove fuel. Who needs it with all that free wood lying around?

Tent. I don't go into the woods to suffer. Hammock is more comfortable and versatile where I hike.

Unconventional fire starters.

Tinder. It's all over the place, why carry it?

First Aid kit. Improvise.

Tom C. said...

I'll keep the trowel. It seems whenever nature calls, the Rocky Mountains live up to their name. I've broken two plastic shovels over the years, and enjoy keeping a fine edge on my knife. The solution to the beer problem is to find a hiking partner who is not an ultra-lighter and willing to share. I'm still looking.

Basti said...

Thanks for another great post, Jason.
One thing I've always carried but never used was the second pot of my (old) pot set. Not to mention the lid/ pan or even the tea kettle...
Fortunately I'm now a totally convinced ultralight-backpacker.
And a gun? In europe you would get more problems carrying such a thing than leave it at home. And even for most parts of the US I think that a pepper spray would be more than sufficient.

Matthias said...

The most ridiculous items i ever have seen on trail was someone carrying a Box of hot choclate (750g)and a nother one with one liter of ketup!

Both where crawling like snails under way too heavy backpacks.

I personally like taking ipod with me, if i have to stay in a hut i can listen to music when others are about talking way too loud in the back. Other reason it pushes me forward when iam tired of hiking. But in general i like sounds of nature way better and i dont use ipod all day every day.

Mac E said...

I agree with most apart from the gun issue on which I'm not qualified to comment.

The other is the knife as a trowel, I carry an MSR snow stake as a trowel. My knife is usually Wenger penknife with an 1 1/2" blade or a Bundeswehr issue pocket knife which are both too small. In any case I wouldn't use a knife as a spade in the same way I wouldn't use an electric drill as a hammer.

a2eric said...

Good topic. In the past, I never carried a saw. But then I picked up a "Sawvivor" and wow! Takes very little effort to use this full size, folding saw. Weighs only 10 ounces. My tent has a screen floor. More and more tents have them now. One of those poly ground sheets from GossamerGear weighs less than an ounce and is very durable for multiple use. Inexpensive too.

Kathy Handyside said...

I kind of like those little backpacking tables, though - the ones that fold up and stand only a few inches above the ground. It gives you a flat and stable place to put your stove and keeps your food up off the dirt. I figure if I cut down on weight elsewhere, I can justify the 20-some ounces of the little table. Of course, it also depends on where I'm going.

Desert Dog said...

Gee, I like my candle lantern for the nostalgia but I've got to agree that it is wasted weight.

Knife as a trowel? Don't think so. A stake or stick is fine.

I can go either way on the gun. If you do carry, then at least learn the laws and get some training.

Great post!

Ryan said...

There is such a thing as dehydrated beer.

Some old guy said...

Knife to dig a hole? Not my knife, maybe I'll borrow yours. :) I do carry one of those Montbell trowel thingies, weighs 1-1/2 ounces or so, because Ouachita dirt is notoriously hard to dig in, being mostly rocks, but don't think I've ever had to use it. I always seem to be able to find a hole left where a small tree fell (read, was knocked over by a big tree falling) and use that, then fill the hole with leaf litter, rocks, scraped earth, etc.

I take a tiny earplug-only radio to check the weather forecasts at night. Sometimes I'll even listen to a little music if I'm having trouble getting to sleep.

I've often considered carrying, but never have. I guess the first time I stumble on a redneck dope patch or meth lab I'll regret it. But I swear, if I run into one more stubborn timber rattler this year I might start carrying my .22. "Why did it have to be snakes?" Wish I could hit a moving wasp with that .22, but they're like zombies, you can't carry enough ammo. I sometimes carry some bear spray. I suppose it might even work on bears. I don't mind being with someone else who's carrying. Kinda like it, even.

I once met a guy who'd humped in three gallons of red wine in bags. And I a/m/know this guy always carries an Olympus 420 DSLR and a couple of paperbacks.

Anonymous said...

I 35th (I cannot say second, can I?) the snow stake/trowel idea. That is what I do. My knife, while already dull, is just too small a blade to dig a hole of any sort.

I'm with you on the saw/hatchet thing. I even used to have one of those small string saws but it never seemed worth it. I did exactly what you do, let the fire roast/burn a larger log in half and then toss both pieces in to the fire.

If you must must must have that CrazyCreek knock-off, at least get the sleeping pad sleeve one.

Walter Underwood said...

I bring a Crazy Creek chair, but I also use it under my sleeping pad.

With a bigger crew and a bigger first aid kit, you might bring a small folding saw instead of Sam Splints. You can do some pretty creative splinting if you can cut wood precisely.

Anonymous said...

Jason, great site and nice article. I agree with all you say but would like to put a different perspective on some of the items. Specifically the candle lantern. I put it in what I call my "Luxury Items" list. I've replaced my candle lantern w/ 2 lighter, brighter, etc battery models. I'm going back to the candle variety. I like the glow it puts out and how it illuminates my campsite. So yes, we study, and read sites like yours. We buy UL gear and really think about everything we pack. But some times a few extra ounces is just that, and well worth it.

Anonymous said...

In cold weather, a candle lantern will raise the temperature in a tent by at least 10 degrees. I always bring mine. You can leave a candle lantern burning all night without worrying about asphyxiation.

Anonymous said...

Like you list, but peronally I would say that an axe is pretty essential item to bring on a hiking trip. Specially if you are hiking in the woods. If not an axe, I would probably bring a larger knife. In the mountains on the other hand there are less wood to collect which make an axe unecessary to bring. There are small and lightweight axes.

Unknown said...

On our A.T. thru-hike my wife and I were taking a break near a road crossing in Tennessee when guy in a car pulled up and engaged us in conversation. when he asked if we carried firearms we didn't answer directly, politely finished the conversation and continued down the trail.

Robin said...

This must be one of the most commented on posts you've had.

I got this quote on Twitter this morning and thought it fit in well so here it is: "Man loves company even if it is only that of a small burning candle." ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


Craig said...


I agree with most of your post. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Candle Lantern: I had one, very messy and heavy.

Camp furniture: a rock, log, or stump works just as good.

Radio/iPod: I am going to the wilderness to escape civilization.

Guns: While I am a hunter and a gun lover, I have never taken a gun backpacking or hiking. I have never needed one. If I am going to carry something that heavy, I prefer my camera.


Adventureboy said...

I agree with everything except for the candle lantern. I know that headlamps put out better light. But I love reading by candle light.

Mr. Wright said...

People actually hike with guns? I didn't know that. I wish I still didn't know that.

I'm tempted to bring a hammer for tent pegs, but they sure weigh a lot. Use a rock? Easier said than done.

The iPod, though, is something I take, but I only listen to it at night to get my mind off of the rabid human-eating raccoons that haunt my imagination.

Unknown said...

Re: Espresso maker

I agree that you shouldn't carry an espresso maker. But I refuse to give up a good (!= instant coffee) cup of coffee in the morning.

That's why I always carry some sugar and mokka coffee powder.

Put a spoonful (or two) of both into a metal cup or small pot. Boil. Done.

Drink carefully, because the grounds are still in. It's not an espresso but another excellent coffee.

Jon said...

Here's my list of non-essentials.

Europe...Wear The Fox Hat said...

Your axe chat is very amusing to us Americans - nobody carries an axe here!

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of this but if your knife is stainless steel and you stick it in the dirt you could chip the blade.

If your backpacking in very wet conditions it would be much easier to cut vertical wood where there is no moisture and split the wood with a large knife or hatchet.

Brian said...

I almost always camp in grizzly territory, and I've had a few close bear encounters. I also own a lightweight .44 revolver, which I can shoot fairly well.

But I never bring it. Too many stories about a handgun NOT stopping a bear, and very few stories about bear spray not stopping a bear. A gun can miss, and a direct hit is still a coin flip as to whether it will incapacitate the bear in time.

Bear spray doesn't miss. And, except for extremely rare occasions that gun enthusiasts love to over-credit, it DOES stop the bear.

I carry bear spray, and I sleep well at night.

StovieRay said...

Great post. I carry a cheap plastic garden trowel that weighs very little - I'll get the weight and add it later. It's handy for other things as well, like prepping a fire site and rapping a raccoon on the snout.

The Starbucks Via makes a nice espresso with only a couple ounces of water. I also have a french press plunger that fits into a Nalgene liter bottle, but between the apparatus, the coffee grounds and the cleanup, the instant is fine for any trip longer than three nights.

One note about MP3 players. When you are in a shelter with a bunch of people who are snorkling and snurping because they inhaled the fine air in nature all day, it's nice to be able to screen it out.

Julie said...

The process of elimination is very much applied in here... but if given the chance I would definitely bring everything especially the radio. I got a handy radio which keeps me entertained during my trips.

JoeS said...

Ipod to drownd out people noise or racoons? A pair of foam earplugs are much lighter. About heavy items suppliers sell you, I once sold a big "Bowee" knife to a guy who wanted bear protection in the everglades. I sold it to him but told him if he got close enough to a bear to use it, to bend over and kiss his sorry butt goodby!

JoeS said...

Oh, and I used to carry a candle lanetrn, when my flashlight batteries failed (in the days before LED's) it did not put out enough light for night hiking. I didn't learn until I stayed in some of the cabins in the Porcupines, it still didn't put out enough light. I now have a brighter but heavier LED lantern for cabins but otherwise leave it home.

Gram Geek said...

I would add toothpaste to the list. Smells like candy to bears and you don't need it. A brush alone or a brush with a little salt works just as well and doesn't pollute. Relax, your teeth won't fall out if you go a few days without it.

Unknown said...

I'm happy to say I weeded out my saw, axe, and lantern a while ago,and haven't looked back. I do carry a .3 oz mini tea-strainer that I use with coarse ground camp coffee to get my morning fix. I also keep a fiberglass trowel which weighs about an ounce and is not only great for cat-holing, but is a must for setting a good tent pad in the wilderness; as opposed to trying to dig out half-buried rocks with my UL tent-stakes.

Being that I am in the remote parts of the Boundary Waters area for much of my outdoor life I do carry a sidearm, and am grateful for it. As I hike and portage the backcountry I run into bears regularly enough. While I agree that bear spray works equally well if not better in most documented cases, I opt for my gun for three reasons.

#1. Familiarity. I don't take bear spray to the range and therefore am not confident in my ability to operate it in any environment, from any position, and under duress. My S&W, on the other hand, I have a fair amount of training for said scenarios. The two times I have come across a bear of questionable intentions within a close proximity, I have been completely secure (as I avoid eye contact and back away), that should the bear charge, there will no fumbling with a Velcro'd belt pouch or an awkward safety catch on a device I've never used in a crisis. On top of bears, I've also been stalked by a mountain lion and had a few brushes with starving coyotes. Something tells me the sound of bear spray would not be as great a deterrent, "Go away! pshhhh... Hey, stop laughing, I'm scary! pshhh..."

#2 S.O.S. Few distress signals are as well known as the three shot signal. Sure an old CD makes a great signal mirror, but worthless while deep in the woods. Neither does a whistle carry anywhere near as loud or far. High pitched whistles blend with many aural environments, gunshots not so much.

#3 I also carry for reasons other than "the kritters". I'm not at all paranoid, I do know full well that folks I come across enjoying the solitude are far more likely going to be tree-huggers than psychos killers; but sometimes they're one and the same... lol, JK. Seriously though, I have come across some very sketchy characters, one of whom even asked if I was armed as he eyed my pack.

Finally, in regards to weight, which is a concern to me, my Scandium-framed S&W .357 Mag weighs in at 12oz, and in my mind is worth that weight in gold.

Anonymous said...

Instead of a gun hike with someone who runs slower than you, that you can put up with for a week, but could live without. To escape a predator I don't need to be fast, just faster than you.

Unknown said...

I disagree with the candle lantern inclusion; I wouldn't go into the woods without mine. Yellow, flickering light (not glaring blue-white light) doesn't wreck your nite vision, a candle is a fire-starter extraordinaire, a hand warmer, it requires no batteries and will heat your shelter.

Other than that it is of course, useless and should never be carried under any circumstances.

Anonymous said...

With all the no hunting restrictions in California, many of the apex predators are now heavily overpopulated. 15 years ago you would never encounter a mountain lion or bear on the trail. These days’ bears are common and aggressive. Mountain lion sightings are also on the rise where they were all but unheard of a few years back. While I’m not advocating an apex predator hunt, you need to know what dangerous critters exist where you plan to hike/camp and be prepared. Feel free to keep the pepper spray, I will keep my full frame .45 APC and a couple mags.

bigandbulky said...

Like my grand father always take an axe, but my little hatchet is nothing compaird to most peoples idea of an axe. The one in particular was used tha verry first time it was in the woods when I came accross some good lookin hiker girls and their dog. Long story short she sprained her ankle and I made a crutch likiddy split. And on a flash light. When i go in the woods i am trying to get away form anything and everything electronic. so i use candles. I even have a seperate set of gear that consists of objects that could have been found pre 1900 and many of wich are even iron age and older.

Anonymous said...

I often pack a gun when out and about, a crickett .22 rifle to be exact. Why? In case I want to shoot something. What can I say, I like guns.

ReclaimedByNature said...

While I agree with most thing son this list I will never go out into the woods for any extended period without a hatchet or saw. A full sized axe would be extreme but 10oz for my saw-vivor is nothing. A hatchet is a bit of dead weight but I use it as a hammer and it's also a great make-shift handle for carrying wood. I've had far too many camp outs where there was nothing small enough to "break over your knee" rather the smallest fallen wood you'd find was about 2 foot in diameter and about 100+ feet long. You may be able to scrounge some sticks up for kindling but if you want an actual fire you need to split some wood. Also, if you want to use pine notches (an old Indian trick) you'll need a hatchet to remove them from the trunk.

As for camp furniture I sometimes bring a fold out tripod for hunters. It weighs only about 12 oz but I've regretted not bringing it. For example last time I went on a canoe trip we had to seek shelter as the wind picked up and we were tired. We ended up on a small island and couldn't make use of the log bench they had built there as it was right at the water's edge and extremely windy. Ended up hiding on the low end of the island away from the wind, and had to sit on the cold wet ground while we cooked and relaxed -- not a fun thing to do when you're exhausted from a long day's portaging. I was kicking myself in the butt for not bringing it. One of my winter projects is to build a hammock chair, should weigh about the same but is "stuffable" and will fit into any nook of my bag.

Anonymous said...

Just another to say that there's no way on God's green earth that I am willing going to stick my blade into the dirt and rocks.

Ideally, there are only two things your blade should EVER come in contact with in use- the item to be cut, and if needed, a suitable cutting board.


Jason Klass said...

Fair enough. I can see why you wouldn't want to ruin a precious blade but for those that carry a cheap, easily replaceable one like a Mora, it might not be such an issue.

Anonymous said...

I do bring a trowel - don't want to dull my knife by sticking it in the ground. I also bring a little hip flask with some bourbon for sipping at night around the fire. Great post - thanks.

72HourPlan said...

Ground Cover? I ditched the tent a couple years ago and use a hammock exclusively. Last summer when i was group camping and we had a torrential downpour, I was dry, everyone else was wet. I cant sleep on the ground anymore. :-) In the event I go someplace without trees, then the hammock becomes the ground cover or the shelter whichever is needed. Great articles and site, I am following now. :-)

Ben said...

totally with you on the candle lantern... complete waste of space

Anonymous said...

I always carry a 3 oz. Japanese pruning saw (sharper and lighter than any other saw I've ever used). Can cut through 6" pine and aspen fallen logs in under 30 secs.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! Couldn't agree more. I do carry a trowel in some situations, like when out near or one of the several granite outcroppings in Georgia or out by my childhood home in Arizona where the dirt is even harder than the granite. Other than that, leave it at home.

As a woman who doesn't hike alone ever, I don't carry a weapon but like Stephanie said, if I were to go solo there is no question I would take a gun, but not for bears.

Anonymous said...

Agree with everything but the trowel. Normally, I'd just use my foot, but that isn't practical where I am for the same reason a knife isn't. Rocks. Where I hike there's often very little dirt, just a few inches of dead plant material over lots of rocks. If I tried to dig a hole with my knife, I'd quickly end up ruining my blade. I prefer to keep my knife clean anyway.

I agree with the gun thing. My boyfriend carries one and I don't like it. He says it's to protect us, but it could also get just get us into more trouble. For one thing, I don't like being alone with someone who is armed. I've been shot before. It hurts. Second, just having one around increases the odds of a firearms accident. Third, being armed often gives people a false sense of security, like a kid wearing a superman cape, makes people careless.

As for something people pack but don't need, tinder. To be more specific, store bought tinder. Ever hear of dryer lint people? I've also found that dry, dead pine needles work ok.

baby giraffe said...

I'm new to the blog and am catch-up reading but I thought this was worth adding.

I backpacked in 5 degree weather by accident last year (20 degree forecast). We kept up with the temp inside the tent (marmot limelight 3 - shared) and out. The tent was consistently 20 degrees warmer than the outside temp. We attributed it to the candle lantern's warmth, but woke to find that it had been out long enough for the glass to be ice cold and the wax brittle. The temp difference between the outside air and tent air was still 20 degrees. The candle lantern had no effect.

Another snowy trip taught us the value of a simple space blanket. We put one between our sleeping pads and the ground. Others packed up to see the impressions of their bodies melted into the snow under their tents. Our was a bit packed from the weight but not melted at all.

We got much more warmth from the 1.5oz of blanket than we did from the 6oz of lantern.

Anonymous said...

OK, I've got a nonessential that I'll bet very few people have thought of: two pounds of poop

No, seriously. If you clean out with an enema the night before you leave, you can leave your trowel at home because you won't need it for a short trip. I just started doing this before my trips and I'm reliably two pounds lighter afterward. I can't do #2 for two days after that. Obviously it's not useful for through hikers.

Why wouldn't you care about "carrying" two pounds less weight? That'll buy you a titanium bear revolver. lol

If you want to try it, there's lots of information online on how to do a home enema safely. It takes a bit of time to do right, and you probably need a quick trip back to the bathroom to let out the last of the water an hour or two later. You don't want to have an 'emergency' on the road en route to the trail, so get it done the night before.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm a backpacking hunter, so my pack holds:
A hatchet, since Francis Sell said to.
A radio, gotta have my "Art Bell" fix.
A gun, since I am hunting.
I liked the Uco candle lantern.

You are right about the dead weight of guns on backpacking trips, though. Maybe I'll leave my 10lb rifle at home. And replace it with a 6lb. M4 Carbine :0

Anonymous said...

Not only do i live in bear country and in an area that recently 2 folks died of 2 separate cougar attacks (as well as one guy from a goat attack... weird I know)

But we have a much more dangerous animal in our woods now....

...the meth man

I prefer to just work on my ability to carry a few extra pounds and ensure that I do in fact make it home. Then again I seldom hike the well beaten trails.

And no I will not use my knife as a shovel.

Unknown said...

AT 19 oz the SOG fasthawk will
dig, hammer, cut, chop, extract
plus it's a blast to throw

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of these. However, nothing will dull the blade of a knife faster than shoving it into dirt, gravel and rock and "scraping" a cat hole. If your are going to do that, just use a sharp stick or tent stake. I bought a fiskars garden trowel for $0.99 at my local Fleet Farm and it weighs next to nothing. Why would I want to dull my sharp knife? So I can saw and hack through stuff later?

Unknown said...

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