Four Things I Will Never Hike Without Again

The past few years, I have been swirling around in the Ultralight (UL) vortex. I saved for and invested in UL gear. I tried hiking stove-less. I cut out all luxuries from my pack, and I. am. over. it. The ultralight philosophy can be great. A light pack allows people to hike trails faster if they have time restraints. It can enable folks to get outside who would be limited by a 40 lb. pack. Yet, I have come to the realization that UL is not for me. With that said, if you are like me and more interested in hiking a little slower with more luxury, here are four items that made my hike of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail immeasurably better and are definitely not UL.

1. j5Create 5-port USB Super Charger  ($30)

j5Create super charger on striped background

j5Create USB Super Charger at a trail angel’s home in Raleigh, NC

It may seem bulky, but my five-port USB charger is a lifesaver on trail. Only one outlet available? Only want to stay in town for an hour? No problem. I can charge my many devices all at once. Increasingly, how we move through the outdoors is becoming more technological, which means more devices to charge more frequently. When I first started backpacking, I had a phone that remained in my pack for the entirety of the trip. I had a disposable camera. My headlamp called for disposable batteries, and I had never heard of a battery pack. Now, when I set up to recharge, I plug in my phone, camera, watch, headlamp, battery pack, and headphones. I do not have to bring more than one outlet cube, only cords. This charger also charges things so much faster, which is helpful when I am not spending a full night in town.


2. Silver Shadow Carbon Umbrella by Six Moon Designs ($40)

woman with reflective umbrella on a dirt road in a forest

Using the Six Moon Designs umbrella to block out the sun while walking through the Croatan National Forest

I’ll admit it. I used to think these umbrellas were ridiculous. I thought that they would be cumbersome in the wind, that they could not be all that effective in the sun, and that there was definitely no way they were useful in the rain. The MST demonstrated otherwise. Especially with all the exposed road-walking, either on paved or on sandy, dirt roads, the umbrella made it at least ten degrees cooler under its shade. Even in an afternoon rain shower, it kept me dry. Though I do not think it would work well in a windy storm, it was perfect to keep the rain off in the humidity of the coastal plain and avoid sweating to death in a rain jacket. It is my new favorite piece of gear, and both trips post-MST when I left it behind, I wished I had it. I will admit, though, they do still look a little ridiculous.


3. Journaling Supplies

three journals, a printer, printer paper, scotch tape, scissors, washi tape, and super glue on a wood floor

My ideal journaling set up.

My journaling operation has slowly expanded over the years. At first, it was only pen and paper, then some scissors, tape, and glue to paste in mementos. Now, I go all out. I carry different colored pens, decorative Washi tape, and a handy little bluetooth photo printer. I collect tickets, wilderness permits, and bumper stickers as I go. I create mini scrapbooks as I hike and travel instead of pretending like I will go back and add photos when I get home. Spoiler: I never do. It is definitely a luxury, but it increases my enjoyment of my trip exponentially. There is no better way to relive some of my favorite adventures than going back to my journals.


4. AeroPress Coffee Maker ($32)

coffee maker on coffee cup in forested background

My AeroPress at work in the wild!

I am a self-proclaimed coffee snob…and a bit addicted to caffeine. I tried coffee-less; it was a hard no. I have tried every brand of instant specialty coffee I could find; they were good but did not quite do it for me. On this trip, I finally gave in to the luxury of the AeroPress. Carrying coffee grounds—pack it in, pack it out—is the only con, and this contraption makes a delicious cup of coffee. It is very easy to keep clean, and can realistically brew coffee for up to three people at a time. For when I am feeling even more decadent, I bring Copper Cow’s sweetened coffee creamer to stir in once it is brewed.




Note: I am not sponsored by any of the companies that produce these products nor did I receive any compensation for including them in this list. Maybe that will change in the future *hint hint*.

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Comments 7

  • Wazo : Aug 13th

    I am very much a live and let live especially when it comes to gear. However, I find UL to not be my style. In my time, I’ve seen a lot of UL starters realize that weeks or months of discomfort gets very old. Laugh at my jet boil all you want, but I enjoy great food and real coffee. It is a personal choice. I just happen to choose to agree with you.

  • Broadwing56 : Aug 13th

    Agreed, I’m tired of all the snobbery about grams carried. Yeah sure extra ounces equal pain but so does not having something to make your trek more enjoyable. Hiking used to be about getting out there and enjoying where you were hiking, soaking up the nature, breathing fresh air etc. it seems we’ve gotten to more of a point where it’s a race to finish. Sure snap a few selfies, but, miles accomplished in one day or a week seems to be the main priority. Even have speed hikers now! Jesus what a perfectly good waste of the beautiful outdoors. I liked the days when we hiked on trails less traveled hardly seeing another human at all. No social media posts, just out enjoying nature. Ah yes, those were the days!

    • Jhon : Aug 14th

      Then don’t hike that way. You have heard the saying, HIKE YOUR OWN HIKE? Well there you go! Have fun

  • Jhon : Aug 14th

    I super agree about the Umbrella.
    And it keeps that cold rain off your shoulders and hands. As the book, _I HIKE_ by Lawton Grinter said:
    • “Many hikers walk very quick in the pouring rain to generate heat and keep warm . . . water proof jackets keep the rain from seeping in but the cold rain zaps the heat from your upper body through convection — a simple fact for allowing COLD water to land on your chest and shoulders for hours on end. With the umbrella, the rain never hits your chest and shoulders, thus allows you to stay warmer. It’s like walking with a small tent over your head. p.173 ☂⛺”
    • Way back in 1993, Ray Jardine in his book, Beyond Backpacking, was saying the same thing about them.

  • David and Moose : Aug 19th

    I love the 5 port charger. All I have the charge is my phone and battery bank, but if you’re staying in a hostel with limited plugs, and everyone wants to charge their devices, you’re the hero with one of these.


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