Worth the Weight: My Backpacking Luxuries

For your first time backpacking, bringing ‘just the essentials’ can feel like a ton (especially if you’re not using the most-lightweight stuff money can buy), and every single ounce counts. So why would I advocate bringing luxury items? Because you’ve earned it! Backpacking, especially for milestones like the first time, should be celebrated–and here’s how I did it. 

Beer now, dishes later.

The most important thing to bring for a hop-heavy gal like me was beer. To others, it might be a flask or even wine. While alcohol does dehydrate you and can pack a punch at altitude, putting your feet up and relaxing with a beer is *so* worth it when you’ve schlepped your gear to camp–just don’t overdo it and drink plenty of water. I highly recommend a crowler–a 32-ounce can–over heavy bottles or a growler as they are more lightweight when both full and empty, compact down easily when empty. Many breweries offer their beer in crowlers, but bottleshops and taprooms are great about offering crowlers as well. I love Toggle’s Bottle Shop in Everett for my crowler needs. To share the crowler evenly, I used a collapsible pint glass. I might bring my Bend Ale Trail Silpint next time though–more weight, but an even pint instead of a 12 ounce cup would be nice.

My next luxury was a deck of cards. As I mentioned in my post on forget-me-nots for camping, cards are great for passing that time at camp between dinner and bed. I skip bringing any protective tins to cut down on weight (but maybe use a ziplock bag to keep them dry).

I have a major sweet tooth, and so one of my luxuries has to be dessert for after dinner. Hey, you’re burning serious calories when hiking! Plus, it’s nice to have something that doesn’t require waiting for water to re-hydrate it. There’s tons of options for dessert of varying healthiness when hiking or backpacking, but my favorite might just be Honey Stinger waffles–especially the Salted Caramel flavor. These organic treats are small and lightweight, but absolutely delicious. Many, including the salted caramel one, are gluten-free too! You can buy them individually at REI or in packs from their website or Amazon. Dark chocolate is another luxury beloved by hikers and backpackers. Any boost of sugar can help when your reserves are depleted!

Compressed, this pillow crams easily into a pack.

My last backpacking luxury was a camp pillow. While tons of backpackers settle for balled-up clothing or clothing shoved into a stuff sack (which does mean warm clothes in the morning!), this was one thing I was willing to be a bit of a princess over–is the few ounces extra weight I save without one really going to be worth lost sleep? Camp pillows can be inflatable or compressible, I personally went for a 9-ounce compressible pillow. I like a firm pillow and just felt an inflatable pillow wouldn’t be as comfortable. It shoved in perfectly in my pack in the gaps left by my sleeping bag, so it didn’t even feel like it took up any space. While it’s no comparison to my cooling-gel-and-memory-foam pillow at home, it’s miles more comfortable than a balled-up sweatshirt. Just remember to uncompress it and fluff it as soon as camp is set up so it’s fully firm by nighttime!

The most experienced backpackers bring even heavier, larger luxury items like binoculars and super-compact chairs, but I think I need to get the hang of not using every square inch of my pack before I take anything seriously large or heavy with me. Backpackers, what luxury items are worth every ounce to you?

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