5 Items I Refuse to Hike Without

“Refuse” might be a strong word, but I want to emphasize just how much I love this stuff.

Every hiker has at least one favorite gear item. Thru-hikers spend a lot of quality time with their gear and are great resources for opinions on what is the most cost-effective,  highest quality, or durable item out there. Aside from the “big 3” (backpack, shelter, sleep system), there are 5 items I take with me on nearly every hike. If they cost their weight in gold, I would probably still buy them (but not really, I don’t have that kind of gold just laying around).

1. Toe socks

toe socks hiking

I suffered with some knarly foot problems through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and even into Virginia (read: blisters galore). Then I discovered toe socks. *cue Hallelujah* I prefer wool (ex: SmartWool) but synthetics are alright too (ex: Injinji). I wear thin wool toe socks as liners under my merino wool socks (typically SmartWool or Darn Tough) and that seems to work just fine keeping those pesky blisters at bay.

2. Write in the Rain notebook and DIY mini-pen

It is great to be able to jot notes down or leave a note for a fellow hiker without the fear that wet weather or clumsiness will ruin the paper. The lightweight super cheap mini-pen I have was made by Hudson during a shakedown at Bearded Woods. I found a similar tutorial for a DIY mini-pen online (Practical Hacks). All you need is a regular cheapo pen and some scissors or a sharp knife.

3. Brush-mirror compact

image: sheknows.com

No thanks (image: sheknows.com)

For the ultralight backpacker this may seem excessive, but it is essential to me and only weighs a few ounces. I have long and thick hair and would prefer to not have accidental dreadlocks or have to deal with a rats nest on my head when I get to town and shower. Plus, blackflies love darting towards my eyes so it’s nice to not have to drain my phone’s battery while using the front camera as a mirror trying to fish those suckers out.

4. Headlamp with a red LED

red led headlamp 2

Red LEDs are the best. At night, they prevent light adaptation caused by white light by using long/ slow wavelength light which minimally activates cones (responsible for daytime and color vision) while leaving rods (responsible for night vision) active. Basically, using a red lamp at night prevents your eyes from have to re-adjust to the dark after you turn your headlamp off. Added bonus: the red light is more battery-efficient and isn’t as likely to wake other people sleeping around you. For more info on headlamp stats, check out Madison’s comprehensive headlamp guide here.

5. Phone with Lifeproof Frē case

I purchased my first smartphone before my thru-hike (yes that was less than a year ago, I have lived under a rock until only recently) and I discovered what I was missing. Now I can take decent pictures and tell my folks I’m still alive all on one device that can handle being dropped, kicked, and accidentally drop-kicked onto rocky mountain ledges! I can also eat and be messy while taking pictures and get food and/or dirt on my phone then dunk it in a river to wash it off without thinking twice. Plus, it’s Lifeproof so it has a great warranty (that the company actually backs).

I am not paid or compensated by any of the companies I mention… though I’m not opposed.  Hey sock companies, my birthday is almost here.  😉

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