5 Lightweight Backpacking “Luxury Items” That Make Hiking More Fun
Lightweight backpacking isn’t all about counting grams and ounces and becoming a slave to the scale. It’s also about freeing up space in your pack for things that can make hiking more fun!
Here are five non-essential gear items you may want to consider adding back into the mix once you’ve gotten the weight of your other gear under control…
#1. Amazon Kindle e-Reader (6 ounces)
If you are like me, and you love to read on the trail, the Amazon Kindle eBook Reader is the best invention since peanut butter! I like to read in the morning while I drink my coffee, at breaks while I rest my feet and in camp. Reading calms my mind (which tends to run like a faucet during long hikes) and helps me to relax and focus.
The newest version of the Kindle weighs just 6 ounces and has gone way down in price from when I bought my first one (now just $80). It can store a zillion books in memory, the “e-ink screen” can be read in full daylight (unlike LCD screens on devices like smartphones and tablets) and it can last up to a month on a single battery charge.
Packing Tip: Like most electronic devices the Kindle is susceptible to water and shock damage. To protect my Kindle I stuff it in the center of my clothing sack (Sea to Summit waterproof dry sack). This protects it from rain and the clothing protects it from being accidentally bashed by something while it’s in my pack.
#2. Ipod or MP3 Player (2 ounces)
For me, music is an important part of a long-distance hike. Although listening to the sounds of the birds and the trees is fun for a while it can get boring after several hundred miles. Music provides a welcome distraction and helps set the tempo for high mileage days. I have found that doing a 30+ miler is much easier with music than without.
Earbud Tip: In areas where there is a chance of being attacked by wild animals (such as rattlesnakes in the desert or bears in Alaska) it is smart to keep the volume down and use only one earbud so that you can still hear what’s going on around you.
#3. Digital Camera (6 ounces)
If you like to take pictures a digital camera is a must have. I have done some hikes before where I did not take a camera, but always regretted it later. It is amazing how quickly important experiences in your life can fade into the distant recesses of your memory (even though at the time it seems like you will never forget them).
My current camera of choice is the Canon A1200 because it is super cheap ($80) and light (6 ounces with lithium-ion batts). Canon’s entry level “point and shoot” cameras take remarkably good outdoor pictures. Many of the photos in my Pacific Crest Trail Gallery were shot using a Canon A610 (one of the early predecessors to the A1200).
Hiking Camera Features: Two things I look for in a backpacking camera are: 1) An optical viewfinder in addition to the LCD screen (LCDs are hard to see in direct sunlight) and 2) Powered by AA batteries (which are more convenient than rechargeable battery packs).
#4. Trail Journal (3 ounces)
If you like to write and share your experiences with others you may want to keep a trail journal. Like photos, this is something you can look back on to remember your adventures.
I’ve never been able to keep up on a trail journal for very long myself. Writing requires too much brain power (which I am lacking after a long day of hiking). But you may find journaling to be a stimulating, therapeutic and enjoyable way to wind down after a hike.
Notebook Weight Cutting Tip: A typical cheapo notebook with pen weighs about 3 ounces and a waterproof notebook about 4 ounces. If you don’t need all of the pages that come in your notebook you can remove the spiral binding and rebind as many pages you need with string. (Check out Stick’s Blog for tips on how to do this…)
#5. Deck of Cards (3 ounces)
Backpacking consists primarily of four activities: Walking, Eating, Sleeping and Sitting Around. If you have a couple of trail companions playing cards is a fun way to pass the time when you are just sitting around (rest breaks, lunch, mid-day siestas, around the campfire, zero days)
Like to play chess instead? Check out my instructions to make an ultralight trail chess set.
What kind of non-essential gear items do you like to carry to make backpacking more fun? Please post your comments below…