Hack Your Pack: The 8 Things You Need On Every Backpacking Trip

I'm thrilled to introduce another great post by a guest blogger here on Trek Life.  Some know Tara Anderson as the former Marketing Manager for Lijit, others know her as a practiced masseuse, a hilarious speaker and stand-up comedienne, or as a super-mom and accomplished blogger over on her own site TallTara.com.  But what really gets Tara the Trek Life seal of approval, is that in the midst of all of that she still manages to find time to hike, train for marathons and explore Colorado (and beyond) with a pack on her back.  Enjoy...

tara_backpacking

In my hiking career, I've done everything from over-nighters to 500+ mile trips. That time on the trail has given me lots of insights concerning what you actually need to pack for long-distance hikes. While everyone has their own idea of necessities and luxuries when it comes to carrying weight on your back, here are the eight things that I've discovered, in my experiences, to be worth their weight while on the trail.

  • handkerchief: This valuable piece of cloth can be an emergency water filter, a wash cloth and a do-rag...all within the same water break. I never hike without one. There are also the medical uses for a handkerchief that I haven't had to explore yet...to stop bleeding or to aid in the creation of splint.
  • Gatorade/Koolaid: I highly suggest a water-disguiser of some sort. Water is great and thirst-quenching, but there are two situations that occur when you're pumping your own water on the trail. First, the water may not always taste very good. It's not all Rocky Mountain snowmelt and unicorns. Having another flavor to cover up the dirt can help in getting the water down. And secondly, you're going to be drinking a lot of water. It's pretty much all you're drinking. So it's nice to have something different...a new flavor to give you something to talk about while you're hiking. Seriously. It's the little things that keep you going.
  • duct tape: I'm not the first to praise its virtues and it's really no wonder. You can fix anything with this stuff. I've used duct tape on blisters, tent rips, holes in food bags, you name it. Plus you can carry it easily by wrapping some around your trekking pole.
  • trekking pole: I saw thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail flying by on their poles but wasn't fully convinced of their importance until I hiked with some. Trekking poles make uphills and downhills easier on your knees, in addition to proving helpful in river crossings and mucky swamp explorations. And now, there are tents that use the trekking pole as a center stake. This is one piece of equipment that fulfills a dual function of also easing my mind when I'm in the tent alone at night.
  • spoon: Forget a fork. You don't need it. Spoons are the way to go. Only slightly less important than the knife, but way more fun. And if you're an ultra light-weight freak, cut the handle in half and save yourself 4 oz.
  • hammock: I'm not just saying this because I'm writing for Trek Light Gear. A hammock can be used in a variety of ways on the trail...as a tarp, a sun shade, and backpack cover. Not to mention what a hammock does for a camp spot. Like I mentioned before, when you're on the trail, small things make a world of difference. (I've heard stories of people sleeping in the hammock every night while out backpacking, but have yet to try this one myself.)
  • skirt: I've hiked in skirts and been with men who've hiked in skirts. There is much to be said, once you get past the funny looks, for the skirt's comfort and ease of use. If you don't believe me, you should give hiking in a skirt a try. It allows for an increased sense of freedom (especially down yonder), makes it super easy to go to the bathroom and is an excellent conversation starter.
  • running shoes: This is the hack I evangelize the most. It all started when talking with customers in the shoe department of a gear store where I used to work. I would lug heavy hiking boots around for them to try on and none of the customers ever seemed particularly happy or comfortable while wearing them. When I first started backpacking, I didn't have money for an expensive pair of boots. So I brought my running shoes on a trip and was really happy with that decision. In addition to being lightweight and quick-drying, there were a joy to put on every day. Granted, I didn't have the ankle support of those in proper hiking boots, but I was also strengthening my ankle in the process. I've never worn boots on any long-distance trip and have met very few other hikers who prefer boots.
These are just a few of my trail-worn hacks but definitely not a complete list. Sometimes backpacking circumstances force us to find a new use for something and sometimes, it's simply a matter of trial-and-error. What's worked for you? Share your backpacking hacks and we'll all be better trekkers for it.
Seth Haber - Founder, CEO
Seth Haber - Founder, CEO

Over 15 years ago I started a small business with the goal of making the world a better place one hammock at a time. Thanks for reading and being part of this incredible community - never stop paying it forward.


14 Responses

Trek Light Gear
Trek Light Gear

April 12, 2017

Kreyton: I can't say that I've ever hiked with a skirt myself but I've definitely heard and read lots of people swear by them in the hiking and backpacking community over the years. I think there are even some larger companies that make men's hiking skirts, but the one that seems to be most recommended in forums and elsewhere is these guys: http://www.macabiskirt.com/mens_home.php

It looks like they've got plenty of sizing options and the skirt itself is adjustable in crazy ways depending on how you want to wear it. Worth checking out!

If a kilt is more your style, this company makes 'athletic kilts' and they've got a lightweight one they call a hiking kilt: http://www.sportkilt.com/category/52/Hiking-Kil…

Kreyton
Kreyton

April 12, 2017

A SKIRT! Come on. I'm 6'3 , 200+. What size and were do I find one! Man I think I'll stick to my columbia shorts

uberVU - social comments
uberVU - social comments

April 12, 2017

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by TrekLightGear: Hack Your Pack: The 8 Things You Need On Every Backpacking Trip http://su.pr/7sq6Hp…

Tweets that mention Hack Your Pack: The 8 Things You Need On Every Backpacking Trip -- Topsy.com
Tweets that mention Hack Your Pack: The 8 Things You Need On Every Backpacking Trip -- Topsy.com

April 12, 2017

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Seth Haber – CEO and Hike Zurround, White and Bishop. White and Bishop said: RT @TrekLightGear: Blog: Hack Your Pack: The 8 Things You Need On Every Backpacking Trip http://bit.ly/2WkT2J […]

Jonathan Kitchens
Jonathan Kitchens

April 12, 2017

Not kidding… I might give the skirt thing a try. Never hurts to give something a fair shake ;)

john
john

April 12, 2017

I completely agree on the running shoes. Light and nimble is the way to go. I’m convinced the extra bulk and weight of of high-top hikers makes for more fatigue and a false sense of security. I wore high-tops playing basketball many years and sprained my ankle many times. I wore heavy high-top hiking boots when on the trail and also turned ankles easily. Then I switched to lighter low-tops and the sprains ceased. Not to mention that a big hiking boot when worn with wool blend socks are REALLY hot, make your feet sweat and blister, then you need the liners, etc. But I still have guys constantly asking, “You are going to wear those?!” Yep. A pair of low rise moisture wicking running socks without liners and low top lightweight shoes. I can go all day. I’ll see you when you get to the top…after you tend to your blisters, boys.

Everything is better in a Trek Light Gear hammock. | Hiking Mom
Everything is better in a Trek Light Gear hammock. | Hiking Mom

April 12, 2017

[…] This gear review is a long time coming. Especially since I’m friends with Seth, the owner of Trek Light Gear, and have known him since his pre-hammock days. It’s been exciting to watch him start his business and grow from a small kiosk on the Pearl Street Mall to selling his hammocks on the Home Shopping Network. (In fact, way back when, I wrote a guest post for the Trek Light blog about the 8 essentials you need on every backpacking trip.) […]

Publisher Spotlight: Trek Life
Publisher Spotlight: Trek Life

April 12, 2017

[…] You can read more about the hammock lifestyle on the Trek Life blog (if interested, you can see a guest post written by a certain someone, ahem), follow them on Twitter and be sure to make time in your busy […]

sisk is a risk
sisk is a risk

April 12, 2017

Interesting approach MLipenk. I just wonder how one stays dry with running shoes. I use Goretex Asolo and have the confidence to step in wet areas.

But I will confess I am still trying to figure out the blister thing. I have 1 problematic spot, that I just can not solve…

loridisqus
loridisqus

April 12, 2017

I met a guy wearing a kilt on the AT. Looked cute and he said it was functional (I didn’t ask what was underneath). I’m on the East Coast and as convenient as it may be, I always wear long pants because of the ticks (esp this year 2016 it is crazy). ALSO with the advent of lighter low-hikers, I would ALWAYS go with a hiker with a steel shank instead of a running shoe. I can’t imagine hiking without a steel center to ease the pain of all of the rocks here on the east coast!! Just my 2 cents :)

Dylan Childers
Dylan Childers

April 12, 2017

Lol I love my hammock, and yes, I do sleep in it every night on the trail. It’s a little harder to learn how to use than a tarp or a tent, and has a little more fiddle factor, but it’s the best sleep I’ve ever had. Not to mention I don’t have to bring a chair, and I can have breakfast in bed.

a man
a man

April 12, 2017

It’s called two pairs of socks. I’ll beat you to the top and my feet won’t be wet from wearing shoes lol.

Rankaroo
Rankaroo

April 12, 2017

Water is human life…interesting post.

Redefined
Redefined

April 12, 2017

The Gatorade or water disguiser is really important. I cant go on any long distance hike without them…. Nice article and thumbs up.

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