Worth the Weight: 7 Things that Carry Themselves

A hiker can go mad trying to slim their gear list down to Ultralight. I’m here to proudly put stuff back on your back. To some, long distance hiking is cutting down your stuff until all’s left is an emergency blanket and a stick of butter. Some ounces carry themselves. These items are worth every gram for the time and pain they can save you.

1. Town Shirt

The touch, the feel, of cotton; the fabric that doesn't soak up stank.

The touch, the feel, of cotton; the fabric that doesn’t soak up stank.

I’m talking something cotton, maybe buttons, or blousey. A Town Shirt can be worn at night when your hiking shirt is sweaty and starting to mildew, helps your chances getting a hitch/ride into town, and gives yourself a fighting chance with the local towny talent. A cleaner shirt with help dull down your scraggly,  beardfaced,  stranger vibe. Don’t want to commit to ruining or carrying you favorite shirt the whole hike? Pick one up at a Good Will in town and ditch it in a hiker box a few towns up.

Friction is no Friend

Friction is no Friend

2. Chafe Stick

If this product cost 100 dollars, I’d buy it happily. Luckily it isn’t, so you can use it lucratively without worry. Chafing is inevitable and some of the worst pain you will feel on a hike. Even scrawny, bow legged hikers find a way to  get a chapped ass. Some people apply preemptively in the morning, others at the first sign of distress. I put a bikini of chafe stick on before I did the 44 mile 4 state challenge and it kept me from having any problems. 2 of my friends did not and had severe chafing and scabbing in delicate places. Gold Bond Friction Stick is my lube of choice.

3. Needle and Thread

A broken load lifter breaks your spirit too

A broken load lifter breaks your spirit too

Nothing forces the harsh reality of your gear’s mortality like a thru hike. Is stuff even suppose to last more than 2000 miles of hiking? Most of it will not and that’s where this baby comes in. Being confident with a needle and thread (or knowing someone nearby that is) keeps you hiking more consistently and not worrying about your things. Backpacks, jackets, clothes, all will tare and need some love. Being able to perform gear first aid in the field will pay off in times and comfort.
PS: Dental floss is crazy strong and works well. Get non scented to stay bear safe.

4. Poop Shovel

2186 miles w/shovel

2186 miles w/shovel

When you have a frequent job, its worth having the tool to do it right. Many hikers use their trekking pole or a rock but nothing with get you to the desired 5 to 8 inches faster then a poop shovel. During a time in your life where you literally do not have seconds to spare, a good tool is the difference between lowering your impact with a cat hole or surface dumping and degrading someone’s outdoor experience and water supply (sounds like an overstatement until you step on a turd in the woods). Plastic or even metal shovels may bend if you force them to lift a boulder, so use grace.

5. Scent Free Hand Sanitizer

Most people will bring hand sanitizer on the trail and they should. Soap is heavy but cleanliness is important. The most common medical ailment in the woods is stomach distress (mostly caused by poo particles). Its important to get scent free hand sanitizer so you don’t have to hang it in a bear bag every night. You should hang all of your stuff that’s scented but should be able to get up, grab your shovel, sani, and TP at a moments notice.

6. Tips for your Trekking Poles
2015-02-17 20.26.40

A lot of folks say you don’t get the traction with rubber tips but that just isn’t true. Plunging your pole tip an inch into the earth a billion times in a summer is worse for the trail and its starting to show. Tips keep you from scratching rocks, penetrating soil, and causing erosion. You can grip on rock, more stably, and with greater surface area. Your shoes soles aren’t metal are they? The Black Diamond Tips are my favorite.

7. Electrolyte Powder aka Sugar Drink

One of the battles everyone fights while long distance hiking (others being with your body, mind, wallet, stash, and hygiene) is with hydration. Delicious sugary beverages encourage you to drink more and can replace electrolytes you’re constantly depleting. I actually believe using Gatorade or other electrolye replacement drink means you can get away with drinking less***. You get more back and drink more regularly (because sugar is delicious). If you chemically treat your water, I HIGHLY recommend getting something to help cover the smell so you wont subconsciously drink less because chlorine is gross.

***I have a degree in Recreation, not medicine. Take with a grain of salt.

What are you waiting for? Get up and go!!!

What are you waiting for? Get up and go!!!

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Comments 5

  • TicTac : Feb 5th

    I’ll take exception with number 3. If you only wear WrightSocks, your liner is knit right into the sock. Wrightsock is the only brand of sock that actually has two layers, with the inner layer (loose to obviate friction) is a conventional polypropylene liner. I don’t know if ANYONE has ever gotten a blister when wearing them.

    And number 7 is a “ya sure, ya betcha” sure thing. I for one hate the white scars left on rocks the entire length of the Trail. With rubber tips, you get better traction on rocks, your poles don’t sink as far into soft ground or mud, and you have the smug satisfaction that YOU aren’t leaving any of those ugly white scars!

  • Mark Stanavage : Feb 7th

    Add safety pins. They turn a jacket into a sling for a broken arn, have fixed boots with them, attached blaze orange to my backpack during hunting season, and fixed many a wardrobe malfunction!

  • Draggin' Tail : Feb 7th

    Well, I’ll respectfully disagree with trekking pole rubber tips…. At least for an A.T. Thruhike. 1) please let me know of anyone who has thru hiked the A.T. and never lost one in short order to the suction of rain soaked trail mud (and besides, they don’t grip as intended on a well worn compacted dirt surface), 2) it is a misnomer to think trail erosion is being exacerbated by tip punctures. A case can be made for the benefit of aeration and seed catching/sprouting to balance the disruption of…….oh yeah, severely defined compacted soil between each of the 180,000 white blazes. You know, in the 1960’s we also tried to outlaw the influx of vibram soles saying that trail erosion would end up being as wide as a freeway. Il take the safe purchase of my tungsten tip any day. On the sidewalk of the A.T. It makes an infitesimal difference, and on the lonely solo trail the next rain storm will obliterate my punctures with nary a trace.

    • Stephen Eren : Feb 10th

      I concede that losing trekking pole tips happens but you can almost always find a floating one in a hiker box. The right tips will absolutely last. If you get ones with a metal core they will take you to Maine.
      Metal tips pulverize an extra 6 inches on each side of the trail (a lot of surface area from Georgia to Maine) and loosen dirt that facilitates erosion (happens after the rain obliterates your punctures). That erosion muddys the streams, degrades the aquatic ecosystem, and continues to roll down the hill. The scratches on the rocks from Pennsylvania to Baxter State Park are reason enough to consider them.
      The 1960s were basically the stone age for Recreational Ecology. The ATC spends thousands of dollars and volunteer hours remaking the AT to better, modern designs (based on modern science). Switch backs, rolling dips, and protecting sensitive species have brought in a better more sustainable AT. Outdoor management has come a long way.
      Trekking poles are extremely valuable and the amount of people that use them doesn’t cause a large problem. The question is how can we hike in a way that cares for our public lands and trails? Why not try to anticipate and prevent problems? Its a crucial time before the Appalachian Trail gets Bill Brysoned again.

  • Dawn : Feb 14th

    I disagree with a few of these.

    Town shirt of fabric that you can’t use while hiking is to me a waste of 8 ounces or so. Every ounce on the back makes for a less enjoyable experience as long as you’re not going “stupid light” per Andrew Skurka. I agree to source one in hiker boxes for the night if you feel it’s necessary. Otherwise, in the evenings you should be using your baselayer for a non-sweaty shirt.

    Chafing I can’t speak to so much. I’ve only gotten it a few times years ago on thighs. I found that if I wore shorts that came longer (no short shorts) I never had that problem again. One less thing in the pack.

    If you have good quality socks (Darn Tough, smartwool, etc)- likely with a bit of cushion, AND well-fitting shoes, you absolutely should not need liner socks. Actually, it’s MORE likely you will get blisters that way.

    Get a half decent poop scooper and use it as a tent stake. The plastic ones don’t work as well and break often. I like the “Deuce of Spades” because, well, come on! It’s the name! In all honesty a quality product.

    Electrolyte drinks don’t help you drink less. They simply replenish electrolytes, actual hydration still has to come from good ol’ H2O. The body uses the sodium in particluar to help hold onto the water molecules and get it to where it’s needed. A flavor CAN help motivate one to drink, but often much less sugar/salt/crud is needed. Luckily one can get away with it more on a strenuous thing like the AT, but still affects your inflammation markers in the long run.

    Diet takes care of a surprising amount of replenishing electrolytes. You can also try making your own oral rehydration solution powder if you really feel it’s needed- healthier and cheaper, and you can customize flavors more! Also drinking smaller amounts more often is a way to beat the rehydration reluctance.
    *Source- I am a physician of Chinese medicine


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