Backpacking for Beginners: Other Pertinent Gear

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There’s a bunch of other stuff we love to take backpacking, aside from our sleeping and cooking gear, and clothing. This is where weight really starts making a difference because food, shelter, and clothing are necessities, whereas all this stuff could be considered luxuries.

For starters we both carry bear spray when we’re hiking in bear country. When we first started dating Greg thought we should only carry one can to save weight but I think that only lasted one trip. We can save weight in other ways, personal safety isn’t something I’m willing to shave ounces on. Therefore I’m in charge of the first aid kit. Greg always makes sure we have toothbrushes and toothpaste, and his eyedrops, and I pack all our meds. Our first aid kit and mini pharmacy consist of:

  •  safety pins
  • fingernail clippers
  • tweezers
  • scissors
  • band aids
  • blister pads/mole skin
  • duct tape
  • wash rag tablets
  • Benadryl
  • ibuprofen
  • Tylenol
  • Claritin D
  • Tums
  • Aquaphor or Vaseline
  • Salonpas pain relief patches (Mama’s got a bad shoulder)
  • sunscreen
  • deodorant

At some backcountry sites there are pit toilets, but mostly we do our business in holes in the ground. I pack a toilet bag with toilet paper, regular wet wipes, antibacterial wet wipes, and antibacterial hand gel. We don’t pack in a shovel to bury our waste with, instead we save weight and just use a stick or a rock to dig a hole. If we really need a body cleanse we use wet wipes or we take a quick dip in a lake with our biodegradable dish soap. If I’m really desperate I’m boil some water and take slovenly woman’s bath over a pot. Full disclosure: I asked my 14 yo nephew for a nicer term for the “w” word and slovenly woman is what I got. Awesome.

That safety pin really saved my zipper.
Don’t forget your sunglasses! Or your kerchief!

Generally we both take a notebook and pen- essential for journaling, farkle scores, and future trip ideas. We always have a map and sometimes take a trail description if we’re not familiar with the area. I made some copies out of our Wind River Range hiking guide so we didn’t have to carry the whole book while we hiked. Don’t forget farkle!

We love our trekking poles. They’re like having an extra pair of really long arms and are indispensable for stability and control when hiking up and over mountains. We definitely prefer the clippers vs. the screwers. I use a pair of Black Diamond clippers, and Greg recently bought a pair from Costco. The screwers seem to get filled with dirt and quickly lose the ability to adjust. Trekking poles are also very convenient for hanging things up to dry, away from the sap of trees.

Do I look stable or what?
Drying out our undies.
Drying out our rainfly. The rainfly is like me- she needs her morning dose of sunshine before she can get her day started.

Headlamps should be #1 on this pertinent gear list. Hands-free illumination on the trail is a must. I use the Black Diamond Storm and Greg uses the Petzl Tikka. We both love ours and think it’s mighty important you love yours too. You never know when you’ll be hiking out in the dark.

Fires aren’t always allowed in the backcountry, so check rules and regulations before you pack in extra hatchet weight. Greg made a big bunch of firestarters using dryer lint, paper egg cartons, and paraffin wax. We had some real ragers on this trip and loved every minute of them.

It’s no fun sitting on the dirty ground all the time. We both had an old Therm-a-Rest Z Lite and Greg’s was slightly shorter than mine, so I cut off the last four sections of mine to match his, then cut those four sections in half so now we have two camp pads to sit on wherever we go, and we get to save our clothes from dirt and sap. The remaining larger pads are perfect for lying on the beach or doing yoga in the camper. These pads are maybe in the top 3 of our favorite gear to hike with.


We hike with quite a few electronics. We typically each carry a camera and I carry my smartphone so I can log our miles, and if we need to call out in an emergency. Nothing makes Lady Campfire crazier than a dead battery, so I started carrying this battery pack to charge my phone every night. We both have our headlamps and we carry a little Black Diamond lantern between us, and we have spare rechargeable batteries for all of that. Oh, and we both hike with our IDs should we fall off a mountain and need to be identified three years later.

We also both carry handkerchiefs. I use mine as a snot rag, Greg uses his as a sweatband and to wipe the tent every morning. You could also use one as a dishtowel, or a water filter; they’re very handy. For dishes we pack in a sponge plus a tiny camp towel, and use biodegradable soap.

I like when Gregory sneaks pretty pictures in.

Packing List:

  • backpack and rain cover
  • tent (don’t forget poles, rainfly, and footprint!)
  • sleeping bag
  • silk sack
  • sleeping pads
  • breakfast, lunch, and dinner per day, plus one extra day
  • “bear rope” to hang smelly stuff from trees
  • water filter
  • water bottle or bladder
  • clothes
    • 2 t-shirts or tanks
    • 2 pairs shorts, zip-off pants, or a skirt
    • One pair wool long underwear
    • One pair wool socks per 2 days, plus one extra for ‘camp socks’
    • One pair undies per 2 days, plus one extra for ‘camp undies’.
    • One sports brassiere
    • One light jacket or fleece
    • Down vest
    • Down jacket
    • Waterproof rain jacket and pants
    • Camp pants
    • Headband that covers my ears, or a stocking cap
    • Gloves
    • Ballcap
    • Camp shoes
    • Boots
  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and pen
  • Map and trail description
  • Trekking poles
  • Headlamp
  • Camera + batteries
  • Cell phone
  • Battery pack or solar phone charger
  • ID
  • Hatchet and firestarters
  • Lantern
  • Farkle
  • Handkerchief
  • Dish sponge, towel, soap
  • Stuff or compression sacks
  • Camp pads
  • First Aid kit

That list doesn’t seem very long. Why is my pack always so heavy? Oh yeah, I forgot:

Neither of us hike with our wedding ring, and I leave all my beloved earrings at home. Otherwise, I think this about sums up everything we take into the backcountry. Depending on the circumstances, I might take a lightweight hammock or a deck of cards.

Some of our favorite backpacking is snowshoeing into a cabin, when we’re free to pack in any old thing we can carry, including steaks and eggs and veggies and real slippers. Knowing there’s a warm cabin waiting for you at the end of the day makes any kind of hiking condition seem mild and irrelevant. But… there’s nothing like waking up in a cold tent on a gorgeous mountain morning, either. We just really love the goods in the woods.

See our other Beginner Backpacking posts:

Backpacking: Tent, Sleeping Bags, and Packs

Backpacking: Food & Water

Backpacking: Clothing

See our full Wind River Range – Lizard Head Loop trip report:

  1. Big Sandy to Cirque of the Towers
  2. Cirque of the Towers to Valentine Lake
  3. Valentine Lake to Big Sandy

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