Only The Essentials...What to bring? As I stared at my large backpack, I thought of all the things that could go in there. Then I thought about how much all of it weighs. It’s a matter of perspective of what exactly are the essentials, but all packs end up heavier than you want them to be. For Fitz and me, essentials included food, cookware, shelter, and clothes. And then we added climbing gear to the mix.

Our packs were heavy, but there are items that I would bring every time, no matter the weight. We can bicker about how essential they are. Yet my list is a mix of function, comfort, and practical preparation that I really appreciated over six weeks on the trail. I’d be hard pressed to step onto the trial without them.

Duct Tape and Super Glue – You probably have some wrapped around a bottle, or a small roll stuffed in the bottom of your pack. Add super glue for bomber patch up jobs. We used it on sleeping pads, hydration bladders, shoes, sleeping bags…

Nuun – Or another electrolyte tablet. I’m not particular to one. Nuun just happened into our lives right before the trip. The fizzy drink helped with rehydratation and motivated me to drink more at the end of a long day hiking or climbing. The tablets came in handy on Day 2 when another hiker arrived at Hamilton Lakes with heat stroke. Drink, share, thrive.

Flip-Flops – We almost gave these up at our first resupply. Fitz was adamant that they were too much weight and could be shed. True. But every night when I took off my approach shoes and changed into my “camp” socks and flip-flops, my feet blissfully thanked me. I think blisters healed faster too, but I have no data to back this up. I’ll collect data next time.

Alpinist 2 System by MSR- A friend loaned this to us. It was a significant upgrade from our camp pot/bowl/mug scrap pile. Bowls and mugs fit into the one pot for compact packing. Add 2 sporks, a knife, and salt and you’re ready for any meal.

Hot Drink – Mmmm, coffee. I usually avoid single serving items, but I’ll make an exception for Starbucks’ VIA®. Great tasting coffee and no hauling damp used grounds around for days. I think they’re missing a market by targeting office settings. Now, if they’d just package it in small jars… And as the sun set earlier and earlier, and the temps dropped, a mug of hot chocolate warmed our bellies and our hands as we nuzzled deeper into our sleeping bags. Every night if felt like a well-deserved treat. When Sierra thunderstorms transmuted to constant drizzle reminiscent of Pacific Northwest, confining us to the tent, we splurged and had two cups at night. Simple decadence!

Though they won’t fit in your pack, I’d coerce Friends into joining you for segments on a long trip. Preferably the strong ones or those that don’t have an aversion to carrying heavy loads. Ask them to bring those trail treats you couldn’t pack in. Reconnecting with a familiar face raises my energy and makes time on the trail fly by.

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