All The Little Things You Might Have Forgot

When it comes to gear, long distance backpackers will talk for hours upon hours. We love all aspects of gear, and love seeing what others are carrying and why. It’s important for us, because we use it everyday.

So now that everyone has taken all the extra stuff out of their pack, lets put some things in that they’ll want for various reasons.

  • Extra zip-lock bags. You can never have enough of these (especially the larger ones) and they weigh nothing. Use them for food storage, waterproofing electronics and maps, putting books or clothes into – even a pillow or waterproof booties over your socks when you’ve got wet shoes. There are few things zip-lock doesn’t solve.
  • Make sure your headlamp has a red or green light on it. You don’t want to be “that guy/girl” in the shelter at night waking everyone up to go pee. Plus, red lights are a much lower power and draw less battery, making your headlamp last longer. It’s much easier to read with that red light at night without disturbing EVERYONE ELSE. If you don’t have a red light on your already purchased headlamp, some colored cellophane and a pair of binder clips can work. There are also very low cost red light only lights that are sold as clip ons, or aftermarket cheap lenses that snap one. But seriously – don’t be “that person” in the shelter.
  • Watches are a controversial thing out on the trail, but I find they come in handy. There will be a few times when you’ll want to get up early to see a sunrise, or you have to leave in order to get to a post office before closing. Sure you could turn your phone on to check – but why waste that batter power? Snag yourself a cheap waterproof watch. Get a kids one if you can – they are always more colorful and fun.
  • Pen or pencil. In fact bring two. There are some shelter logs where the pens are dead or have wandered off, and you’ll want to leave an entry. Shelter logs are one of the best things about the AT – you get to hear from people you’ve never met and you’ll learn to love them from their entries. The pen is also helpful if you want to leave a note along the trail for someone behind you – you’re going into town and are staying at XYZ hotel. So use an old guidebook page that you’ve already walked over, write a note on that, put it in a zip-lock (you ARE carrying extras right?) if it’s raining and head to town.
  • Needle and thread. Or needle and dental floss. I prefer the later, but it’s up to you. You’ll need to sew something back together guaranteed, whether it’s your pants that blew out in the knee, the shirt that got ripped from a low hanging branch, or an attempt to make your shoes go just a few more miles to town before they die a terrible terrible death. Needle and thread will help.
  • A good eating utensil. This is one of these things that for some reason people decide that they have to have “ultralight” which baffles me. This is a piece of equipment that you’ll use everyday, takes a lot of abuse and is pretty important. Get a metal one and don’t look back. The number of plastic/lexan ones I saw broken out on the trail was staggering. I think the $15 I spent in Delaware Water Gap getting a titanium spoon/fork was the best purchase ever.
  • Multiple USB outlet plug. There is nothing worse than jockeying for outlets because everyone has their stuff plugged in. If you’re part of the growing number of hikers with more than one thing to charge, get yourself a plug that has more than one socket to it. If you have two things to charge in town (phone and say, steripen) then get a dual plug wall charger. Get a small square one if possible, so you’ll be able to fit it in anywhere. Long cords also help – the weight is negligible.
  • Sunscreen for the first two weeks. You never would think you’d burn in early April, but you will. The leaves aren’t out on the trees yet, but you’re hiking enough that you’ll be in short sleeves. and you’re exposed. You. Will. Burn. So bring along a small sunscreen and use it. If you ignore this warning, be prepared to buy the smallest thing of aloe that have (usually 8-12 ozs). Which sounds like a better use of weight?
  • You don’t need a big knife or a multitool. Seriously, when are you going to use that screwdriver? All you need is one blade. I got by with a 2 inch blade that cost me $3. Plastic handle. Simple.
  • Bring an extra lighter or a small book of matches and keep them dry. When it rains and you spring a leak and your lighter gets wet, there is nothing worse than trying to dry that flint out. Or sometimes your lighter will walk away. It happens. Bring a backup.
  • I like athletic tape over duct tape when it comes to wounds/first aid. Peeling duct tape off your body is pretty terrible – athletic tape flexes better and I find it doesn’t rub badly when wet. A little athletic tape (the cloth kind) is cheap and light. Consider it for blisters.
  • Bug headnet. Mail it ahead to yourself for PA. You’ll want it there, and by the time you get to a place that sells them in PA, they’ll be sold out
  • Bring the camp shoes. You’re probably on the fence about them because you’ve heard so many different things… But the truth is you’ll want them the first day it rains. Why? Because your shoes/boot will be soaked and you want to put dry socks on. But then.. you’ve got to go to the bathroom at 3am. Shove your clean fresh dry socks into wet shoes? NO. Camp shoes! Worth the weight!
  • Extra candy. Seriously. You’ll want it. Chocolate. Hard candy. Bring the sugar! Put it in your morning coffee if you drink that, your complete breakfast powder or your protein shake. It’ll help with the flavor.

Fun things. I can’t stress this one enough. You’re going out on an adventure  and you should enjoy yourself. By that I mean you want to have good memories, and you want to be a good memory to others.

What do I mean by that exactly?

The people you’ll remember far longer than others are the ones that stand out. Carry interesting and fun things – things that aren’t necessarily useful. I can still remember each and every person who carried silly things.

Things I’ve seen on the trail include:
Kites. Pinatas. Wiffle ball bats (with returning wiffle ball). Foam swords. Real swords. Crazy hats. Water guns. Flasks of alcohol. Whole bottles of alcohol. Musical instruments. Plastic figures and toys (dinosaurs, alligators, birds, bears). A platoon of Green Army Men. Bricks. 2 pound mushroom paper-weights. Etch-a-sketches. Crayons. Paints. Chalk.

I could go on and on with this list. But bring fun things. Bring something that makes you stand out in the crowd. Don’t afraid to be a little crazy. You’re out in the woods already!

And don’t forget your sense of adventure!

You're going to have a blast

You’re going to have a blast

About Doc Spice

I walked around 4,000 miles between 2012 and 2013 on the Appalachian Trail. A time of discovery, life, joy and pain. Now I'm a hometown adventurer, explorer of the alley around the corner, the national park up the road, the next long hike and the beautiful, intelligent woman I talk to a lot. I'm a little crazy. But I think that's ok.

Posted on 01/30/2014, in New Hiker Advice and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Thanks, I needed this. What do you recommend for camp shoes?? Crocs get mentioned a lot. Any thoughts on a sleeping bag liner??

    • Crocs work well, as do the knock offs that you find of them. Simple, basic is the best. I would personally stay away from open toed things, like sandals. I have a pair of foam slip-on Walmart knock-offs that are wonderfully light and comfortable. Pretty much whatever you find that you like that is light.

      Sleeping bag liners I think work well – just don’t count on them to give you the degree increase they say. I think they give about half of the listed number. I have a Thermo-Lite Reactor 20 degree liner that works wonderfully, and kept my bag clean. Meant I only had to wash the liner in town every once in awhile.

      The other big plus on liners is if you sweat at night (which I do once I heat up) it soaks it up a little more and doesn’t affect the down in your bag.

    • I agree with pretty much everything on your list. I really like crocs and used them on the AT this year, but I bought a pair of minimalist running shoes to try as camp shoes on the PCT. They are smaller, less bulky, and actually weigh less than the crocs. The pair I found is mesh and shouldn’t hold too much water either… I’m looking forward to field testing them soon. I loved my sleeping bag liner and found it came in very handy in the summer. I would put my sleeping pad in it (so it acted as a sleeping pad protector) and use it as a bottom sheet with my sleeping bag as a quilt for moderate temperature nights, or just use the liner without the sleeping bag if it was really hot out.

      • I use a quilt and never even Thought about putting my pad into my liner so it couldn’t move around! Genius! I’ll never have to worry about shifting at night anymore in a shelter.

        I still think my favorite pair of camp shoes that I saw were the Vivo Barefoot knockoffs my friend Smokey had. They sound similar to what you have. Wonderful shoes for camp and water crossing

  2. …when crossing a stream, I figured we would wear those boat shoes, then when U get across, put on your reg shoes, and use them for camping too. …what do people use to cross water?

    • Generally their crocs/camp shoes. I would advise against doing it barefoot as the water crossing you will come to (in Maine) all have slick bottoms.

      But then there are days where everything is so wet already that it didn’t matter, and we just waded across in our shoes because they were already soaked. But normally I changed into my camp shoes for water crossings, and then put my hiking shoes and socks back on, on the other bank

      • Hey man, great post and great replies!

        I agree 100% with your post. Also, even though I didnt have camp shoes, vivo knock-offs would have been my choice.

  3. I have a donated piece of tyvek that I intend to use for my tent footprint. Should I cut it exactly the size of the tent, a couple of inches bigger, cover the vestibule area or what??

  4. Haha, an etch-a-sketch just got added to my gear list… or maybe a mouse to play with cats. 🙂

  5. Dude…your word is bond. I rarely agree with evertying… and it was a long post…but righteous shpiel

  1. Pingback: Advice I Can't Yet Give | Appalachian Trials

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