There are so many small, shiny objects that vie for my inclusion in my pack but each one weighs something. It’s easy to say, “It’s not very big and it weighs nothing.” I had a small stuff sack in my hand that felt like air but weighed in at one ounce. Put 16 of those in a pack and they add up to a whole pound. I try to limit the little things but I still have many small luxuries. As long as I can haul it comfortably they make life easier on the trail, and some are part of the Ten Essentials.
Here are 10 little things that go in my pack:
Sunscreen for my face: I like Beyond Coastal products because they are offer broad-spectrum protection and are packed with moisturizing botanical antioxidants that feel good on the skin and aren’t greasy. The Cherry Blossom lip balm (SPF 15) even tastes good. The face stick (SPF 30) is easy to apply without getting sunscreen all over my hands and doesn’t clog my pores.
- Sunscreen for my body: Another product I like is the Colorscience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush. The micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect against UV rays and the mica makes it feel silky smooth as it’s brushed onto skin. I use it for my arms and legs. The tube slips easily into the mesh side pockets of my pack so I can see it and remember to apply frequently.
- Chums Eyeglass Retainer: Chums makes a variety of retainers but the ones I like are barely noticeable, made from stainless steel or monofilament (we have one of each between my husband and me). Now my glasses hang safely around my neck and I don’t even notice the retainer. I take a lot of photographs so the sunglasses are on and off all day long. I wear a hat and used to perch my glasses resting on the brim but it was too easy to forget about them, take the hat off and lose my sunglasses. I tried some of my old collection of eyeglass retainers but they were bulky, uncomfortable or wouldn’t fit around the thick arm ends of the glasses. Now I’m a Chums fan.
Native Eyewear: I’ve tested quite a few sunglasses and many are excellent but the ones that go in my pack are Native Eyewear. I have a few favorite styles that look good on my smallish head, including the Linville, Hardtop Ultra and Toolah . The Native glasses cool the glare of sun glinting off of Sierra granite and make the world look better.
- Eye mask: In late June-early July the sun rises mighty early in the Sierra. That’s bad enough, but try sleeping in Alaska or the Yukon where it never gets truly dark. A dark eye mask allows me to get a good night’s sleep and I can even sleep in if we don’t have a pressing schedule.
Body Glide: Whether it’s a hot spot heating up in preparation for a blister or chafing in sensitive areas, Body Glide has been a lifesaver. I like the regular formulation but prefer Body Glide for Women, which has extra moisturizers.
- Wet wipes: I like to wash up near a lake or stream but when it is raining or I can’t find a private spot at a crowded campsite I like to use a wet wipe to do a spot clean. I’ve found that they work better than toilet paper because they are stronger and are the equivalent of a large wad of TP. To save weight I sometimes remove them from the package and leave them out on the counter to dry at home. At camp I can add water if I want to restore the “wet” to a wet wipe. I’m not picky about brands but a nice wipe for sensitive areas is from Sweet Spot Labs.
Pee rag: I still remember when I first read about a pee rag on a hiking forum. First I laughed, then I became intrigued and then I tried one. I took a quarter of an old, soft, cotton bandana, poked a hole through one corner for a tiny carabiner and attached it to my pack. It was so convenient to use while hiking and while I have eschewed using toilet paper for a long time I found that the pee rag was an improvement over the little dance I used to do after voiding in the woods. The Kula Cloth is a fancy improvement over the basic bandana.
- MaskIT sanitary bags: I’m a big proponent of “Leave No Trace” principles and packing out toilet paper has got to be most people’s least favorite thing to do to protect the environment. I discovered the MaskIT bags at the Outdoor Retailer trade show and love them. Instead of using bulky, thick zip top bags I just include a lightweight, opaque MaskIT bag in my toilet kit, which also contains TP or wipes, a trowel and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. The biodegradable MaskIT bags were originally designed for disposal of feminine hygiene products, but work well for used TP or wipes also.
- Thin cord for laundry: In case it’s not obvious by what’s in my pack, I like to be clean. That extends to clothing so I do laundry on the trail frequently. I have a short length of cord (jute cord or paracord will word) that is long enough to tie between two trees if they aren’t too far apart. I can hang my camp towel, socks and a shirt on the line. If I have a large load of laundry we’ll use Steve’s longer rope. To see my method see my article: Doing Laundry on the Backpacking Trail.
These are just a few of the little things that make backcountry living easier for me. What do you have tucked away in the crevices of your pack?
See related posts:
- What’s in my wilderness backpack: The big three
- What’s in my wilderness backpack: The kitchen sink
- What’s in my wilderness backpack: Clothing system
- Meal planning for the John Muir Trail
- Doing laundry on the backpacking trail
Disclosure of material connection: I received some samples of a few of these products for testing purposes but the opinions expressed are solely my own and wouldn’t have made it on the list if I wouldn’t have bought them myself. I’m still using these products more than four years later. They include Beyond Coastal, Chums, Native Eyewear, Body Glide and MaskIt.