We don’t really carry many things that we don’t like, but we thought it would be a good idea to point our a few things that really seem to be great. These combine our four key criteria: they were cheap, light, multi-functional, and durable.
P’s 3 ½ inch Buck knife, with one pointy blade for cleaning fish, and a broader blade that we’ve used for everything from coring apples and cutting salami to shaving Romano cheese and spreading peanut butter. A beautiful knife made to last. 2.5 ounces. M gave this to him many, many years ago...and it's wonderful.
Our cutting board—sliced out of a larger thin plastic cutting board we bought at a local supermarket. It’s flexible, fits in our bearbox, and keeps us from mashing the edge of the knife on rocks, logs, and slicing into our thighs. And it’s just big enough to hold two pieces of bread, so that we can assemble sandwiches on it. It weighs almost nothing (0.5 ounces) You can see it sitting on the rock in the photo at right, like a bump on a log
Our chairs—two pieces of an old closed-cell foam pad that P cut down to about 6X12 inches. We slide them into the bungies on the back of our packs, and use them both on the trail and in camp to make rocks and logs much softer on our old behinds. P uses them as a base for his pillow at night, and M uses them to insulate our cooking pot once we take it off the stove to keep things warm. 2 ounces each.
Our tiny micro-lights, which put out a ton of light, weigh nothing, and come with both an elastic band for your head and a clip for the tent, shirt collar, etc. Truly light, bright, and clever. 2 ounces each. Yep--one is in the photo above as well.
Dawn detergent in a tiny bottle. This is the stuff they use to remove oil from birds after an oil spill. It is very concentrated, so a little dab will do ya. And it's relatively safe. We take about 2 ounces--which lasts us about two summers. It's the green bottle with the white round cap above.
Our Crocs—lightweight shoes that also fit in those bungie cords on the back of our packs. We slip them on to cross streams, keeping our boot and socks dry. And we slip into them in camp, keeping our feet happy. And P has been known to use them to wade while he is fishing. 11 ounces. Worth it. Even when they are edged with snow, as in the photo at left.
Our bandanas--M has always been a huge believer, and she has now convinced P as well. We use these as hankies, but also for everything from filtering really muddy water to drying our feet after a ford. Need a hotpad? A bandage? A nice cold compress on a hot day? Try your bandana. On the log in the photo below.
Our Little Black Bag daypacks. These little nylon packs seem silly---only two sheets of nylon and a drawstring that closes it up and can serve as shoulder straps. But we've used them as stuff sacks, pillows, water carriers, moisture barriers, and we've left a water bottle in it to make a sun shower....yes, we've even them as daypacks! And the list goes on and on. All for under three ounces? You can't beat it!
A tiny hotel sewing kit that we've used to repair two tents, a backpack, and just about anything else we take on the trail. Forget pliers, saws, hammers, etc. When you are backpacking, if it gets broken, it can probably be repaired best with needle and thread. We regularly liberate these kits from hotels, whenever we need a new one.
Our MSR “Pocket Rocket” stove. M is a chef, and she likes her BTUs. This tiny stove does a great job of heating water…and that’s really all we need when we use backpacking food. And it is really efficient—we use about a canister of gas a week on the trail. Sure, we are miserly with the amount of water we heat, and we don’t cook things that need to simmer…but still. Light, hot, and very cool. 3 ounces or so? And we should also mention the little folding legs that attach to the gas canister and form a tripod that make it ever more stable. Very cool. Stove and tripod are clearly visible in the photo at right. So is the bandana ready for use as a hotpad.
Our plastic Platypus one-liter bottles that collapse and fold into nothing. And they have a lightweight wine bottle version as well that has been used many times to take a nice bottle of wine on a short trip. On longer trips, we don’t take wine—it’s too heavy. But we also use those tiny mini-sized liquor bottles to carry a bit of olive oil safely in the bear canister.
And we have two different Aluminum cook pots. One we bought thirty years ago at a thrift shop for a dollar, and it's been our pot of choice for more trips than we can count. But last year we found another pot that someone had left at our campsite. They clearly prefered to leave it behind, rather than wash it. And we love it. It's a little bit smaller and has a little better lid. And you can't beat the price, either! That's the newer one at left.
That's a cook pot cozy above, around our pot. P made it from a scrap of old sleeping pad foam, and it keeps our freeze dried food nice and hot while it re-hydrates!
When it comes to clothes, you'd be amazed at what you can find at the local thrift shops. The best find was a red Marmot Precip rainjacket for $4, but P regularly finds nice used fleeces. And his famous shirt (USN khaki dress shirt, never needs ironing, never looks dirty) was $2 at Salvation Army. And now he's found a long-sleeved version of the same shirt for colder trips. Same price. That's P in the photo at right in his full cold-weather dress; $2 shirt inside $2 fleece inside $4 Precip rain jacket.
And he's smiling!