3 Ridiculous Luxury Items I Refuse to Hike Without on the Pacific Crest Trail

If someone held a gun to my head and told me to drop my total pack weight by 4 pounds, I could do it in less than ten seconds. Not by gorging food, but instead removing a few simple ‘luxury’ items that I refuse to hike without. Some individuals consider things such as a slightly heavier sleeping pad to be a luxury, while others feel even a lightweight pillow is a necessity. I do not pertain to either of these groups. At a base weight (the weight of all of your gear minus consumables) of nine pounds, my Mountain Laurel Designs Pack exudes an ultralight facade, but deep inside lie three stupidly heavy items that I refuse to go without on the Pacific Crest Trail.

1. My 1.5-pound Nikon D3400 Camera

If I had a nickel for every time an individual has said to me “You lugged that all the way up here?” Yes, yes I did. A DSLR interchangeable lens camera is not unheard of on a long-distance trail. However, in recent years Apple has truncated most people’s need for a camera with the release of the iPhone 11 and 12. While I will always admire the quality produced by these little boxes, the photographer inside of me desires the quality of a DSLR camera, and will not settle for anything less. I have had my Nikon D3400 since the age of 12. Five years later and it has traveled to three different continents, 16 different states, and an absurd amount of summits. It has also been dropped off several cliffs. It is still in perfect, working condition. Was I going to replace it with a smaller point and shoot camera with comparable quality? Yes, yes I was. But I’m broke. And trying to baby a new 1000 dollar camera on the Pacific Crest Trail would have been hell, so I’ll stick with the 1.5-pound weight penalty.

Trying to get the perfect photo of my idiotic cliff-dwelling best friend on the summit of Half Dome.

Tactical way to stow the D3400 when posing for pictures.

2. “The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters” 500 Page Paper Book

If I were to depict my love for backpacking in a set of photos, most of the images would show me relaxing by a lake, or high up on a cliff-side, reading my paper-back nature/mountaineering novel. On the Pacific Crest Trail, my days will be a little different than the lackadaisical days I experienced on previous backpacking trips. Instead of 10 mile days, I’ll generally be pumping 20-30 mile days, sunrise to sunset.  Regardless, I will be beginning my thru-hike with my backpacking classic, “The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters.” Don’t let the title or the page count intimidate you, it’s actually quite a small book and truly not as gruesome as the title suggests. The book weighs in at one pound, but the entertainment it will provide in the first weeks of 10 mile days and later in Sierra snowstorms will compensate for its chunkiness. Don’t try and sell me on reading on my phone or a kindle, that’s just absurd.

Reading “The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters” lakeside in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Overlooking Yosemite, indulging in Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.”

3. 1 Pound Jar of Biscoff Cookie Butter

While not included in my base weight, my one-pound jar of Biscoff Cookie Butter takes the crown for the most outrageous thing in my pack. If you’re not familiar with cookie butter, you will never understand my reasoning behind lugging it to Canada. Biscoff Cookie Butter is made with Biscoff cookies and carries the same consistency as peanut butter. It’s a vegan, nut-free Belgian delight that is worth its weight in gold. I can’t say I’ve ever had it on bread (the ‘correct’ way to eat it), but I opt instead for a by-the-spoonful technique. Two tablespoons of cookie butter provides you with 170 calories, 1 gram of protein, 17 grams of carbs, 11 grams of fat, and 11 grams of sugar. You can show me lighter, more caloric/nutrient-dense snacks all day, but my Biscoff butter will forever hold its place in my shoulder pocket.

For reference, because I know you’ll be going out to get one at your local grocery store after reading this.

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Comments 14

  • pearwood : Mar 16th

    Hi, Rachel!
    My monstrosity is my two pound Argus C3, aka The Brick. It’s a 1947 model, which makes it three years older than I. (Why? Because I have been a computer and network geek for most of my 71 years.)
    My AT trek is kaput for this year but I’m hoping I can get enough strength and stamina built up to give it a go next year.
    Blessings on you way,
    Steve / pearwood

    • Rachel Guevara : Mar 17th

      I would love to see photos produced by the Argus C3! Do you have anywhere where you upload them?

    • David Roberts : Mar 17th

      I learned to take photos with one of those when I was in high school in the early 70s. But as a current high school photo teacher, I could recommend several inexpensive film cameras that would be lighter and give more flexibility in photo taking.

  • Samo : Mar 16th

    That Biscoff butter is a great idea! What is more caloric dense than 30g at 170 cal?

  • Hiker88888 : Mar 17th

    2. “Mountain Disasters” 500 Page Paper Book

    Can you post a link to this book or isbn number? Thanks

  • Ram : Mar 17th

    Wow – for someone so young I’m amazed you turned your back on kindles. I can understand the feel of a well-worn book but the ability to carry so many books on a light- weight device with self-generating light for nighttime reading is just insane. As far as dealing with excess weight, I’ve read stories of hikers cutting their toothbrushes in half and stripping labels off of tea bags in desperation to get that weight down. You must have pistons for legs to handle those climbs. Now the food side of things is understandable – I used to carry a container of peanut butter and honey all mixed together for finger licking snacks. Damn, I loved that stuff, even now. Good luck to you!

  • Loren : Mar 17th

    I dayhike with a real camera–a phone can do just as well on the simple stuff, a phone isn’t going to get the hard shots. If I’m out after wildflowers I’ll carry a true DSLR–even more ability to get the harder shots. I can’t imagine carrying a book like that, though–out there it’s the Kindle app on my phone. For an extended time away from power a dedicated Kindle might make more sense (they let you read a lot more pages for a given amount of power) but I can’t imagine bringing a real book.

  • Wolf of the Wind and Wood : Mar 18th

    I love all these stories from people who are doing what I am hoping to do one day. I was thinking that your cookie butter isnt a bad choice. Seems like it provides some fat that is needed quite honestly by the body when doing these type of trips. I think its really cool about the book. I debate if I ever will, I think I will and then think not… but yes. Maybe its like the people who say vinyl records are just better I dont know, I do know there’s nothing like a real book and nature to read it in. I hope you find enlightenment and direction on and from your trip.

  • Zach : Mar 19th

    It’s about time someone memorialized cookie butter. Well done.

  • Ross Nicholson : Mar 21st

    Whatever you do, bring microspikes for the PCT just after Apache Peak! A guy was killed there slipping on the unseen glacier. I fell 150′ ! Someone else fell the week before me and we both had to be helicoptered out. I’m never going to heal looks like. I’m on a walker.

  • soooozyq : Mar 25th

    GIRL. Have you tried the crunchy biscoff cookie butter?? Life changing.


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