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#202627 - 02/15/19 04:13 PM Common But Unnecessary Items
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 784
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
There are a few items I've seen pop up on packing lists over and over, so I've included them in my gear too, for the most part. But, I question if these will ever be used at all. Here's the ones I can think of off the top of my head:

* obscure repair items; gear repair tape is king, in whatever flavor you like - duck, Tenacious, Gorilla, ... I've started carrying Lowe's brand house wrap tape as well (similar to Tyvek tape), because it's waterproof and sticks to pretty much everything. So, is it really necessary to carry safety pins, zip ties, super glue, patch kits, a needle, spare cordage etc.?

* floss; I floss every day at home, but for short backpacking trips, I consider brushing to be enough. I still carry the floss for emergency repairs though, but I've never used it.

* fire starters (i.e. magnesium, vaseline soaked cotton, etc.); This one may be divisive, however I expect the best way to get out of an emergency situation where you need a fire for survival is to not get in that situation in the first place. That's easily done in East Texas and South Arkansas, my usual stomping grounds.

* more obscure FAK items; gloves (depending on group and likelihood of seeing other people), antibiotic ointment (depending on trip length), super glue, clotting agents, etc. For longer trips, I get that even minor wounds need to be properly treated and protected, but for overnights? For more serious injuries, there are alternatives to specialized items (spare clothes to stop bleeding, cap with a small hole on water bottle for irrigation, tape and guaze instead of bandages, trekking pole as a splint, etc.).

* TP; I prefer wipes, and in truth this, along with lots of warm clothes (because I hate being cold), is one of the few luxuries I insist on, but I list it here, because I figure there's lots of folks that are fine with leaves or grass or pine cones or whatever.

* a 2nd/backup lighter or matches; sometimes I go stoveless, in which case even 1 lighter is my "backup" lighter

* spare headlamp batteries; unless I'm night hiking, it's very unlikely I'll need these, especially since the lamp on my phone serves as a backup.

* power bank; depending on the length of trip and how I use my phone (usually as a camera only and left in airplane mode and power saving mode), I probably won't need this. In fact, I've never brought one.

* a compass; Yes, this is heresy, I know. But if you're in a small and/or easy area (i.e. a state park), a place you know like the back of your hand, following a really well marked trail, or if you're in any situation where you're extremely unlikely to get lost or the consequence of getting lost is less than an hour of extra walking to get found, then why bother?

How often, if ever, do you use these items? What situations would you be comfortable without them? What alternatives have you come up with to carrying these items?


Edited by 4evrplan (02/15/19 04:14 PM)
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#202629 - 02/15/19 06:33 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: 4evrplan]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6632
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Good post! Hopefully it will stimulate lots of discussion! Here's my take:

Obscure repair items: A lot depends on the length of trip. I always take a couple of safety pins, and have Gorilla duct tape on my trekking poles. I've used the safety pins (in my youth they were called "Wyoming buttons") a few times, such as when the tent door zipper (always a fragile item) broke. I used the duct tape twice. It was very useful when my grandson sprained his ankle--I used to wrap his ankle on top of the elastic bandage. Being quite stiff, most as good as a splint, it held firm and stable while we hiked out--and by applying it over the elastic wrap it wasn't stuck to his skin. The other time was when I tore a hole in my pants on a day hike, with no sewing kit with me. That didn't work too well--the duct tape kept coming off the fabric and sticking to my skin (in a sensitive spot!) instead. I take a needle to remove splinters (needed about every third trip); the hole is big enough to thread dental floss (which I do use on my teeth--my bridgework was a big $$$$ investment). That's my "sewing kit" (and it now is part of my dayhike kit). Now that I have a more delicate sleeping pad (Exped UL downmat), I do bring part of the patch kit, enough for 1 patch. Everything depends on what you have, what state of repair it's in (those pants were old), length of trip (the longer the trip the greater the risk). Most of what you mention, I never take. I have one of those nifty Ti potty trowels from QWiz, which can double as an extra tent stake should I lose one. Or I could whittle a point on a stick.

Fire starter: I don't build fires (increasingly illegal out here in the fire-prone west). I make sure my insulation (sleeping bag and insulating clothing) are packed in a waterproof dry bag in my pack, so even if I fall in and am completely immersed during an icy stream ford (it happened to me once), I have dry clothing and a dry sleeping bag to change into right away and warm up. Trying to start a fire under those circumstances reminds me too much of Jack London's "To Build a Fire"!

FAK--I am prone to the dreaded infected hangnail, so I do carry lots of bandaids and antibiotic ointment. I also take a couple of Immodium, a few benadryl (wasps are a problem here in late summer and fall) and half a dozen ibuprofen. A couple of non-stick gauze pads go with me (the duct tape will hold them on.) The only things I haven't used are the benadryl and the gauze pads. Any good wilderness first aid course (highly recommended!) will teach you how to improvise for the once-in-a-lifetime accident. Of course if you are leading a group, you'll want one more complete FAK per group (the more people, the higher the risk of something happening). Of course, if you have specific medical issues or take medication, you need to prepare for that.

TP--I use small squares of paper towel--much more absorbent and can be moistened with water if a wet wipe is needed. Much easier on the delicate tissues down there, where I have medical issues.

Batteries, power source. I take an extra set of camera batteries (and always keep the camera on power-saver mode--it has a viewfinder). I leave my cell phone (a "dumb" phone) hidden in the car (no reception out here in the western mountains, generally not even at the trailhead). My headlamp uses lithium batteries, so I just put in fresh ones at the beginning of a longer trip. The ones I remove are used around the house.

Navigation--I do take map and compass. even if it's a place I know well. I've had to give the map (always a photocopy of the original) to confused people a couple of times, or at least show them where we are. Plus my favorite thing when on a high place is to sight in on and identify surrounding peaks. I enjoy it and it keeps my map/compass skills up to date. A lot depends on whether you have a good sense of direction and can "read" the terrain--some people do, and some don't. If you're in the "don't" category, a GPS is probably a good idea. Do note that I live in the Pacific NW, where we have thick forests and moss grows on all sides of the trees!
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#202630 - 02/15/19 10:41 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: 4evrplan]
Petro1234 Offline
member

Registered: 10/27/16
Posts: 54
Loc: engeland
Safety pins, can come in handy for materials, clothes and as already mentioned by oregon mouse tents, zip ties packs, think of all thoes buckles and such. If your pack rips you are knackered, i have sat and sewed packs more than once.

Floss, i carry one of these everywhere in my wallet, stuff in your teeth is annoying. link strogly reccomend these.

Fire starters are a bit poncy unless you light your stove of it, I take lighters anyway, and if you can find enough stuff to burn you should be able to start a fire without starters.

Fak. I never see the point of these, medicines I can do without, and anti septic, if your cut is that bad evac out before infection sets in ! A bit of cream will not save you when your rolling around in the dirt ! I just take enough stuff Ie pads to cover any cuts to keep them clean.

Tp? You could always just beday your ass ? But tissues have so many more uses.

Head lamp, I use a coin cell head torch, batteries and torch weigh nothing, less than spare 3aaas

I like a powerbank and headphones for music as well as a camera.

Newer carried a compass as usually maps showed the terrain and i new where i was, UNTIL I went into the woods and got lost, i imagine any featureless area is the same.

My eventuallity pouch consists of a spare tin opener, file glue duct tape medical tape plasters sterile pads, cotton wool, zip ties, file for metal, pliers, washing up liquid mozzie rep, washing soap, tooth brush, tooth paste, dry wash, safety pins buckles, needles, thread, wire, lighters, usb for phone. Some i use regularly, some rarely, and some not at all, but the heavy stuff i use.

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#202631 - 02/16/19 08:48 AM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: 4evrplan]
Pika Online   content
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1789
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
I carry a small piece of the self-sticking ripstop tape and 18” of duct tape wrapped around my hiking pole. I don’t take zip-ties or glue but I have a small sewing kit that gets used. I also take a few safety pins ever since a total zipper failure on my pants.

I make a fair number of long trips in western wilderness so I often take a spare pinchlight and spare coin cells for my headlamp. I also carry an aggressive fire starter for those times “you absolutely, positively must have a fire”. I always carry a backup BIC lighter too. I have been using my current primary BIC Mini for over ten years -very reliable.

On the longer trips, one to three weeks, I will take a small external charger for my cell phone and Inreach. I use the phone for evening music, as a camera and as a keyboard for my Inreach, otherwise it’s off. I use the Inreach to stay in touch with my family. There are GPS chips on both phone and Inreach if needed. My main navigation is with map and compass and has been for seventy years: I never go without them.

I take a small toothbrush, dental floss and a small container of tooth powder.

My first aid kit is pretty simple: assorted-sized bandaids, gauze pads, a blister needle and a fresh scalpel blade and some medications. A lot of my gear can be repurposed for first aid use if necessary and I can call for help using my Inreach if needed. I do carry an Ace Bandage.

For TP, I use small (about 5” x 5”) squares of mechanics bench towels. They can be moistened without falling apart and are both soft and tough. You can get them at any auto supply store. They are pretty light. Be sure to “pack it out”.

Other than the power supply, most all of the above go with me on any trip. It is all in the “better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” category in my mind.



Edited by Pika (02/16/19 08:51 AM)
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#202632 - 02/16/19 09:42 AM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: Pika]
balzaccom Online   content
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1865
Loc: Napa, CA
Ok--only a few things here I would do without.

Powerbank? No need. We don't take our phones, and that is actual weight, compared to most of the other things on your list.

FAK? We only bring things that we are trained and competent to use. That limits the FAK quite a bit.

Second lighter? Or yeah, because we cook on a stove and we've learned not to place all of our trust in a single lighter. We have sewn up rips in a pack with needle and thread, and I still think this works better than tape. And we use tp.

I find that the real weight for many people is either extra feel or clothing. And that stuff weighs much more than a needle and thread, or dental floss, for example.
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check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#202635 - 02/16/19 01:16 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: balzaccom]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 784
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Originally Posted By balzaccom
I find that the real weight for many people is either extra feel or clothing. And that stuff weighs much more than a needle and thread, or dental floss, for example.
That's a good point. I guess a lot of these items don't get talked about much in weight savings discussions, because the cost of packing them is grams, not ounces, and you can get greater returns optimizing the "big 4", or clothing and kitchen kit, as you point out.

It's also a great point that phones and power banks weigh a great deal more than the other items I've listed. Electronics in general are heavy, and yet items like smart phones, power banks, sat messenging/rescue devices, hand held GPS, solar chargers, mp3 players, and standalone cameras (eg GoPros) have become a common part of many peoples kit. Increasingly, people want to stay connected, posting their experiences to Facebook or vlogging for their YouTube channel.

I'm kind of the opposite. When I get out there, I want everything to slow down, and I want to just be in the moment. The only electronics I carry are my phone and headlamp. I don't bring spare batteries if I can get away with it. I'd probably turn the phone off completely and leave it buried in my pack, except that it's the only camera I bring. Even so, I find the urge to see if I have service and use it to entertain myself at times is almost overwhelming. I consider it a healthy mental exercise to force myself not to grab the phone and to focus on simpler things.

The sat messenger/PLB type devices are interesting too. I have never had one of these. It's not just the weight that prevents me from carrying one, it's also the expense. Obviously they cost a lot up front, but there's also the ongoing cost of service. All the trips I've done so far have had low risk, and I haven't felt the need to carry a rescue device. But, for trips in which there is higher potential for something to go wrong, I would consider making this investment (in money and weight).
_________________________
Hiking is the ultimate realization that the journey is more important than the destination.

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#202640 - 02/17/19 08:11 AM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: 4evrplan]
Mbphoto Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/19
Posts: 22
Loc: Switzerland
Why would you cut back on emergency gear?!

Isn't that the gear you want to have with you but are glad to never need to use it?!
(It's like mandatory health insurance in Switzerland.. you're annoyed you have to pay monthly but you're so glad you never need the money you paid them.)


Also, in my opinion: most of the excess weight is what we carry around on our ribs. laugh
(Unfortunately, I don't have kilos that I could shed before a hike, but most hikers I meet throughout the day could definitely lose a dozen pounds before a long trek and then bring all the heavy stuff along and not feel a difference laugh )

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#202643 - 02/19/19 10:47 AM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: Mbphoto]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 784
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I wouldn't make a blanket statement and recommend everyone do away with their emergency gear. We all have to manage the risks intelligently and come up with a solution you are comfortable with. For me and the kind of backpacking I do, it doesn't make sense to carry a lot of extra weight that a) I will almost certainly not use and b) even in a situation where I would use it, there is an alternative with acceptably low risk (to me).

Take the backup lighter for example. I consider it worth the risk to only carry a single lighter for several reasons. I live in the southern US, where the winter weather is generally mild. I do not hike in extreme weather, and even if the worst were to happen and I got caught out in an ice storm or freezing rain, I would hunker down and wait it out in my shelter. I'm very careful to keep my backup insulation dry, packed away in plastic in the bottom of my pack, so even if I were to become completely submerged in water, like OM, I would still have shelter and dry warm clothes and sleeping bag. My single lighter is unlikely to fail, but even in an emergency, I probably wouldn't use it anyway, since changing into my dry warm things and getting into my shelter and my sleeping bag is much faster and far more sure than starting a fire.

Again it's not for everyone, and I would never preach that you should leave out any safety or backup gear. If carrying an extra lighter gives you peace of mind, then by all means go ahead and carry the extra lighter. Extend this logic to other gear as well (compass, rescue device, and so on). If you are being thoughtful and realistic about the risks and making a decision appropriate to the trip, I'm not going to have a problem with your decision either way. I hope no one reading this forum thinks I'm trying to influence safety related decisions; I'm merely trying to discuss the factors involved so we can all be better informed to make those decisions ourselves.
_________________________
Hiking is the ultimate realization that the journey is more important than the destination.

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#202644 - 02/19/19 12:46 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: 4evrplan]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 949
Loc: Torrance, CA
I agree with not carrying extra items... even FAK stuff. Some people will just take more and more FAK items for the appearance of safety. The best advice is what Balz said: only take FAK items you are trained to use. I tell new backpackers your FAK should be able to handle cuts and blisters and medicine you regularly take at home. If its not in your medicine cabinet at home you probably won't need it during the hike.

I do carry a power bank, because my cellphone replaces a lot of items I used to carry that weigh more including: books, back-up light, camera, & extra maps. Bringing the power bank is new to me and I am still trying to dial in that part of my kit. If I can stop bringing extra batteries for my Steripen and headlamp in a nice small package it will be a weight savings. My previous camera had a replaceable battery that was light, but they no longer make cell phones with replaceable batteries frown

I do carry a small button compass. I've never used it, but I have heard lots of stories of people lost in the woods walking in circles. I'm not going to be way-finding with it or any complex compass work. I just want something to keep me from second guessing everything when I am disorientated.

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#202645 - 02/20/19 06:19 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: 4evrplan]
Petro1234 Offline
member

Registered: 10/27/16
Posts: 54
Loc: engeland
What is the problem with these items ? Organisationally they are a nightmare, unless you get them all in one extras bag. Weight wise, it varies.

A back up battery worth taking comes in at around half a pound so that is a burden.

First aid bits are 2oz, if youare carrying more 5hen have a rethink about how much you hurt yourself, and whether you plan on living outside with grevious injuries.

Sewing kit (including safety pins) 1oz

Extra lighter 1/4 oz

Compass 1oz

Zip ties buckles etc 1oz

Nail clippers 1oz


Seriously the little things are not worth worrying about.

Its more the 2lbs of food per day and the 4lbs of water that are my biggest concern.

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#202646 - 02/20/19 09:35 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: 4evrplan]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3015
Loc: Portland, OR
We can all thank thru-hikers for pushing the envelope on lightening up our loads and teaching us some highly useful tricks. But unless you are hiking massive miles per day, gram counting down the level of worrying about a bit of floss or duct tape just to save half an ounce becomes more of a way to noodle around with your hobby when you aren't hiking than something that enhances your hiking experience.

Having said that, I, too, have thought long and hard about every item I take on my backpacks, and that includes counting out squares of toilet paper per day for some multi-week hikes I've done. So I am as guilty of this as anyone. blush I just recognize that it's obsessive behavior when I apply this kind of gram-paring to an easy three-night trip. grin

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#202680 - 02/23/19 09:57 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: aimless]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2835
Loc: California
I really wish thru-hikers would not be referred to as "the way to go". Unless you hike like they do (20-30 miles a day, hitting civilization about every 3-5 days or less),counting on "trail angels" and the "trail family" to back you up, then what works for them likely will not work for you.

I am out up to 14 days, over half off-trail, have not seen a single person in up to a week at a time, and have to be 100% self sufficient in conditions thrown at me at elevations of +12000 feet above timber. No way can I carry only what thru-hikers carry. I have a 5-degree sleeping bag and am very thankful I have it! I take about one layer of clothing more than a thru-hiker. I eat very differently than they do since I cannot count on pigging out in town every few days.

That said, I am a real minimalist when it comes to electronics. I backpacked for years without all that stuff and still do just fine. I do not need to be entertained outdoors because just being out there is my entertainment. Often I do not even take any headlamp. I simply never hike at night.

As others have said, I take the first aid gear I am capable of actually using, which is quite minimal. I really do not sweat the little stuff. I save weight by being very careful with food.

Each trip is different. Some mid-summer trips, when mosquitoes are gone, I will do a 10-day trip with only a bivy sack. Some trips I take wading shoes because I really need them. Other trips I go without. I do OK with minimal sleeping pad. IF I could not sleep without a heavier and better sleeping pad, then I would use one.

What I deem as really unnecessary is the concept of an extra change of clothes, just to be "clean". I bring clothing that will keep me warm at my expected low temperature, wearing EVERYTHING. No extras. I wash clothes as needed when weather allows. Quit taking a compass years ago (not needed where I backpack because you can see forever). Fishing gear is also minimal- only fly fish, take one small film can of flies. All fishing gear totals 11 oz. That means I MUST catch at least 11 ounces of fish (after cleaning) to eat to break even, LOL and take 11 oz less food than if I were not fishing. If I do not catch fish, so be it, I am just a bit hungry. Minimal stuff sacks- they do add up. Minimal cook stuff - only one 1-qt pot w/lid, cup and spoon. That's it. Minimal TP- I use a pee rag.

I concede to a few of my irrational fears. I take 3-4 separately wrapped packets of matches. Never even came close to using all but it makes me feel good for very little weight. I have REALLY needed a fire a few times. I take excess allergy pills. I take more than needed hair bands.

It all comes down to taking what you really need, to do what you really want to do, each trip and each person being quite different. Figure out your hiking style, take what you need, after each trip evaluate what you did not use, and fine tune as time goes on. At some point you will figure out that the extra weight of unneeded (but very much wanted) item "X" is not worth carrying. Then you cut it out. Eventually you will have it figured out.

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#202682 - 02/23/19 11:46 PM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: wandering_daisy]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6632
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
You said it better than I could, W_D!

My thing is the extra bandaids and antibiotic ointment to cope with my inevitable infected hangnails. Otherwise, I'm pretty minimal. I do take a headlamp, since my night vision is pretty poor and thanks to an aging bladder I have to get up several times during the night.

I have a relatively thick (2 3/4 in.)--and warm--inflatable insulated sleeping pad. My aging pressure-sensitive shoulders and hips appreciate it.

As mentioned, I use my compass and map to identify peaks--more a recreational use. And we do have thick forests out here in the NW, with moss growing on all sides of the trees, so occasionally that compass is useful.

I cringe when I read of people hiking in the Wind Rivers with 32* sleeping bags. I've been up there with temps down to 15*, and plenty of snow (two back-to-back weekends in August one year, which you undoubtedly remember!) I was actually thankful that my dog got sick so I had to abort the trip!

Unfortunately, I've gotten to the point that short basecamp=style trips of a few miles are about all I can do. But with my lightweight (not ultralight) gear, at least I can do that and still be comfortable.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#202683 - 02/24/19 02:29 AM Re: Common But Unnecessary Items [Re: OregonMouse]
balzaccom Online   content
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1865
Loc: Napa, CA
That's a couple of really good posts from a couple of people who have decades of experience. And I'll add my own years to that as well. We take just enough to stay well in the worst conditions we expect, and we don't need phones or music.

This year, with my wifes foot still pestering her, we'll take even shorter trips...but we'll still get out for quite a few nights this summer. And expect to keep doing that as we stare or 70's in the eye...
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