Worth the Weight: My Backpacking Luxuries

For backpacking, bringing ‘just the essentials’ can feel like a ton (especially if it’s your first time or 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! Lugging your own gear over miles should be celebrated–and here’s how I like to do that.

Beer now, dishes later.

The most important thing to bring for a hop-heavy gal like me is 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 drink is *so* worth it when you’ve schlepped your gear to camp. I highly recommend a crowler–a 32-ounce can–over heavy bottles as they are more lightweight when both full and empty, and compact down easily. Many breweries (in Snohomish/North King counties I know of Cairn Brewing and Hemlock State) offer their beer in crowlers, but bottleshops and taprooms are your best bet for selection. I love Toggle’s Bottle Shop in Everett for my crowler needs. To share the crowler evenly, don’t forget a cup or mug. I recently switched to a titanium mug, even for beer, as it’s light and can be used for morning tea or coffee too.

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 next 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!

Camp beer, camp chair, camp shoes: Nearly 3 pounds of comfort!

Next up are camp clothes, specifically camp pants and shoes. I have a heavier pair of ExOfficio sweatpants that do take up a bit more room in my clothing bag, but are treated with permethrin to keep the bugs away when sitting around the fire or eating dinner. I sleep in my camp pants so I only need to bring one pair. But if you only listen to one thing here, it is CAMP SHOES. It is AMAZING to take your hiking boots off for some time and give your feet a break. I have a few options in varying weights, but I like a sandal like a Teva or Birkenstock that can be worn with socks (and can get a little wet when gathering water).

As I got more comfortable with backpacking (and started buying more compact gear), I stepped up and went for a backpacking chair. I used to use a Thermarest Z Seat for a butt pad, but at my friend Celeste’s recommendation, I sat in her chair on a trip and decided it was worth all 26 extra ounces to have a backrest. I got an REI Flexlite chair–not the Flexlite Air, as the ounces saved are not worth it from a comfort standpoint. REI has unfortunately remodeled the chair and reviews say the new Flexlite isn’t as good, which is a bummer, but if you can score one used, or want to shell out for a one-pound Helinox Chair Zero, again, it is a WORLD of comfort to have a backrest. The chair does sink down a lot into mossy or damp ground, so consider your terrain before packing.

I’m sure to multi-night people or ultra-light hikers, this post is ludicrous. But a little bit of comfort can go a LONG way while hiking. Luxury gear can vary a lot depending on what you like–to some it can be good binoculars for bird or whale watching, to others, food is the luxury–I’ve seen people with a cast-iron skillet and steaks backpacking! Backpackers, what luxury items are worth every ounce to you?

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3 Replies to “Worth the Weight: My Backpacking Luxuries”

  1. These are all excellent choices! Love this list. I also consider my Kindle to be a necessity!

  2. This is such a great list! I am so impressed with ExOfficio clothing as well. I have several ExOfficio shirts, including one “bug shirt” that I purchased for our trip to St. John years ago—that stuff really makes a difference!

    1. I swear by it! I have two Bugsaway hoodies that are nice and lightweight but they really do keep my arms and torso bite-free. I know you can apply permetrin to any clothes you own, but it’s just easier to buy it pre-done 🙂

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