A Backpacker?s Guide to Making Every Ounce Count: Tips and Tricks for Every Hike (2015)
Your luxury items are anything you want to take that does not meet the regular pack criteria of dual-purpose items, shelter, sleep, clothes, or food. You know, the things that you actually need to survive the trip. The luxury items serve one, and only one, purpose: to make your trip more comfortable.
Choose your luxury item(s) wisely. I recommend only one, but if you are willing to carry the extra weight, carry as many as you want—or none at all. For me, my luxury item is my small compact radio.
✵ Is it necessary? Absolutely not!
✵ Is it dual-purpose? Absolutely not!
✵ Is it heavy? Well, it’s not too bad.
However, another item that might be considered a luxury item is my coffee maker with drip-style coffee. I do like my coffee and a lot of sugar. Yes, I like my coffee sweet. On a three-day trip, I carry about eight ounces of coffee and sugar with me. I know … it’s a lot of weight, but I have to have my coffee in the mornings. I have to carry around coffee, sugar, and some sort of insulated cup. I don’t actually need it in the morning, and I can survive the backpacking trip without my coffee—it doesn’t have a dual purpose; it is simply dead weight.
Oh, but to wake up at the crack of dawn and listen to the world waking up is hard to put into words. I can listen to the sounds of crickets and other critters dancing through the woods to the songs of the early birds. I enjoy watching the morning fog being burned off by the rising sun, and listening to the cracking and popping of the fire while I am sipping on my coffee. It’s a great part of the trip for me. Having my morning coffee while backpacking is one of the things I simply enjoy. I am usually not a coffee drinker here in civilization, but during hunting season, traveling in the early mornings, and backpacking is when I enjoy it most.
My morning routine actually starts the night before.
At night, before we all turn in, I stack some small twigs and dry leaves into a pile near the fire-pit. I also gather other sticks no larger than a cigar in a separate pile. In the morning, I roll out of my hammock, and after my morning latrine trip, I stoke the fire with the small pile of twigs and leaves.
While it starts to smoke up, I crank up my stove and start to boil water. Next, I place more of the small twigs, already piled up waiting for me, into the fire-pit and stir the ashes up to locate some still-smoldering embers from the previous night’s fire. When they start to smolder and smoke, I blow the coals into a flame and add some of the larger twigs to the pile until I have a nice little fire going. Usually, by this time, my water is boiling, and I fix myself a nice cup of Joe.
Keep in mind that it is still dark out (usually), and by the time the fire is self-sustaining, I can enjoy my coffee around the little campfire, and I am able to enjoy the sunrise. While the fire is smoldering, one of my backpacking partners, Josh, usually wakes up and joins me.
Also, the fire is a wake-up call to the others in our group for when they finally roll out of their hammocks or crawl out of their tents complaining about an aching back. The other campers are very thankful Josh and I are early-risers and pyros. Yeah, I like to build the fires on our trips.
But back to the radio as my luxury item. Mike, another one of my backpacking partners, likes to take his compact radio along in case I don’t take mine. The entire group likes to listen to it in the afternoon. I do carry the extra weight, but since the entire group can enjoy the music, it is worth it in my mind.
You might want to take along a good book, or a deck of cards, or maybe even a flask of your preferred libation—for medicinal purposes only I’m sure.
I guess the point here is that since you have to carry the weight, and you want to enjoy the trip, take whatever you want. Nevertheless, remember that every ounce counts, and you will be the one carrying the extra weight.
Look at your pack’s contents one item at a time and ask if you need this item for any one of the following:
✵ Water purification
✵ Personal hygiene
You are basically asking if you actually need the item. If you really do not need the item to survive, you don’t need to take it.
Notice I harp on the word “need.” Growing up we always had everything we needed. Maybe not everything we wanted, but my dad made sure we had everything we needed.
Gram Weenieism follows this rule of thumb as well. As a Gram Weenie who weighs everything, you have to ask yourself if what you are taking is something that you really need.
There is a lot of cool gear out there to make your life more comfortable out on the trail, but as you go, the more trips you take, the more miles you have under your feet, the more experience you get while backpacking, you may find that you will cull many items from your pack.
The more guilty pleasures you can cull from your pack, the lighter it will be. Better yet, the more items you can replace with smaller, lighter, and dual-purpose items, the lighter your pack will be. So get rid of most, if not all, of those guilty pleasures and lighten your load some. I could take the instant coffee, which is lighter, and as the trip progresses, lose some of the weight each morning, but real coffee tastes better than instant.
Sure, I can and have eliminated the coffee maker, and I take way less coffee in the instant form instead of the drip kind. The weight of my coffee maker remains constant throughout the trip, so after I use the coffee maker on the final morning, that weight becomes dead weight. When it comes to my coffee, the weight is in the coffee and sugar. My coffee maker is a solid piece of plastic that holds a filter and weighs only an ounce and a half.
You may not need the guilty pleasure items as much as you think you do. So get rid of them. I would be willing to bet that you have certain items that you take on each trip. I also would bet that on many of the trips you take, with said items, you did not use the items at all. Cull them while it is still not too late.
Otherwise, just be able and willing to carry the weight on each day of the trip. One guy I know carries his little iPod preprogrammed to play for an hour at night and with the earbuds in his ears, he drifts off to sleep. After an hour, the iPod shuts off. He says it helps him sleep.
I take ear plugs to block background noise because some of the fellas I go with snore like chainsaws. I do too, but I have never heard myself snore. My little ear plugs only weigh an eighth of an ounce.
Every ounce counts.