We have all had those moments in our lives on the trail where we'd wished we had that one item….
You know. That one thing you said to yourself, “I really wish we had that right now!”
Over time and with more adventures under your belt, you start to have your, what I like to call, “pack-hold items”. These items essentially just live in your backpack and are there no matter the adventure you embark on. These are the types of items that you learned, from those one or two weird experiences out there, that you really just needed to have with you.
These items can serve multiple functions, provide that sense of comfort, or just be that one odd thing that could really make or break a trip. For instance, I always carry a small pad of paper and pen in case I need to leave a pertinent note somewhere or to log important trail features I may need to remember for next time.
Of course, whether you are out on a day hike or a multi-day overnight, there are the core and essential items you should always pack:
- Navigation tools—I like to carry that good ole’, trusty map...no batteries needed!
- Plenty of food and water (and then some extra)
- Sun protection (I love sun hoodies)
- Weather-ready gear (never leave home without that rain jacket! During colder months, I always carry gloves, a beanie, extra clothes or extra socks)
- First aid kit
- Fire starters (lighter, matches)
Beyond the essentials, there are also some items that are just plain useful or comforting to have out there. So I turned to other experts who spend the majority of their lives figuring out their “pack-hold items”; I asked a bunch of my fellow backcountry guides at the Wildland Trekking Co. what they always carry in their packs.
Here are some of their responses:
- Water purification. There are many water filters, pumps and tablets out there to turn backcountry water sources into drinking water. One simple and light-weight treatment system almost all of the guides at Wildland Trekking carry in their packs is Aquamira. In 1-2oz bottles, you can get powerful, packable water treatment drops for individual use.
- Tenacious Tape or seam sealer. Several of the guides have reported being happy to have had these items when rips appear on their essential gear items or on hydration bladders. Tape or seam sealer to the rescue!
- Extra cordage (for hanging shelters, repairs or food hangs in bear country) and extra shoe laces.
- Extra water capacity and electrolytes. A small, ultralight, collapsible 1-2 liter water bottle you can throw in your pack is great for when you need to store or carry extra water and some electrolyte tablets are essential to get that extra hydration help you may need.
- Pocket knives with pliers and can openers, like a Leatherman. A pocket knife is an essential packing item, but having a can opener, small scissors and pliers on the pocket knife are also key. For instance, those of us guides that work in the desert love the pliers for getting cactus needles out! Others find the pliers useful for repairing zippers or fixing backcountry stoves.
- Extra padding, like the Thermarest Z Lite Pad. One guide swore by having this extra pad around as it serves many functions: serves as a knee pad when cooking in the dirt; serves as extra space to spread out food/gear at camp; serves as a sitting pad; provides extra cushion at night; serves as an extra pad if someone’s pad is leaking. It can also replace a ground sheet if you're into cowboy camping. The pad also would make for nice splinting material in the event of a backcountry emergency!
And lastly, here are some comfort (and fun) items that were called out:
- Fleece-lined stuff sack for that extra nice material to lay on if you go with the makeshift backcountry pillow route or a compact, inflatable pillow
- Deck of cards
- Sun umbrella or sun gloves for relief in desert environments
- Trekking poles
- Hydro flask water bottle to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold
- Luci Lantern
- Lightweight down booties to wear for those cold nights at camp
- Small mirror, to check yourself out of course!