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The Little things
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Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
The Little things on 10/20/2008 18:59:58 MDT Print View

I'm looking for ideas to lighten up the collection of small things in my pack which still somehow add up to 16 ounces or so:

Extra line, 30’ 170 lb. test Z-line; Soap, Dr. Bronner’s, in .35 oz container from BPL; Toothbrush, Clever, filled w Colgate Total; Floss; Ace bandage, self-adhering; Camp towel, Lightload; Bandages, various, inc. moleskin, in 4.4 x 70 Aloksak; Ibuprofen, vitamins, Gingko Biloba in 4 oz bottle; Lip balm; Spoon, long handled BackPacking Light titanium; Matches, regular box; Storm Proof matches in 4.5 x 7 Aloksak; Klear Water, 2 .35 oz bottles; Triple Antibiotic Ointment in nozzle top Nalgene round 1 oz bottle, tape wrapped around bottle; Knife, SpyderCo LBJ; Fire starter; 1 quart heavy duty ziploc bag; Head lamp, Petzl Zipka Plus, inc. 1.3 oz batteries; Sunscreen, Neutrogena 70+ in Nalgene round nozzle container; Stuff sack for above, NF mesh.

Bottle sizes are capacities, not weights of bottles.

This is for a typical 8 day trip, much of it off-trail, in the Sierras.

I realize I may have too many things related to fire. And it seems as if it's been a while since a better, lighter headlamp has appeared, but perhaps I've missed it.

Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

Edited by swimjay on 10/20/2008 19:04:33 MDT.

A. B.
re: on 10/20/2008 19:22:14 MDT Print View

I think a good exercise that will help us and yourself is to list what each item is for. For example, what is the extra 30' of rope for? Why stormproof and regular matches? Firestarter?

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
"The Little things" on 10/20/2008 19:30:31 MDT Print View

On our last hike, we pestered some PCT thru-hikers when they were re-supplying at White Pass and I noted more than one used some sort of home vacuum sealed bag for things like olive oil and this made me wonder how good that would be for items like emergency matches and meds. Also I like those single use foil-ish packs of things like antibiotic ointment. Another thru-hiker used "Sweet Breath" dropper bottles for soap--not sure if they're lighter or cheaper but they look to be smaller.

I have the smaller, lighter Petzel E-light headlamp but I cannot recommend it as I'm convinced my Freedom micro coin light is brighter.

In my own kit, I'm always shocked at the cumulative weight of baggies, ziplocks, op sacks etc.

I plan on turning to leukotape or duct tape if I should need an ace bandage. At the risk of seeming gross, I precut strands of dental floss and tuck it in the zipped shoulder pocket of my windshirt.

If you cross-drill your BPL long handled spoon, let me know how long it takes to break.

Edited by lollygag on 10/20/2008 19:34:53 MDT.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
BPL spoon on 10/20/2008 19:51:41 MDT Print View

Thanks for your quick thoughts.

Great idea on cross-drilling the spoon, but I was just glad to have the thing stop shredding my lips when I ate with it. I don't think the elves had learned yet about de-burring the day they made mine.

Something that occurs to me--I always bring the Dr. Bronner's, but never use it; I also have alcohol gel in a hygiene stuff sac I never use either.

The line is for emergencies and for tying out a Gatewood cape when needed. Its total weight is .54 oz.

The toothbrush is heavy, at 1.1 oz inc toothpaste, but that at least I use.

Edited by swimjay on 10/20/2008 19:52:24 MDT.

A. B.
other gear on 10/20/2008 20:02:55 MDT Print View

So the 'extra' line is not extra? Is the gatewood your shelter?


Locale: South West US
Re: The Little things on 10/20/2008 20:08:38 MDT Print View

Hi James,

Looking over your list and it seems like you have it filed down fairly well. Some suggestions that may help.

-4oz bottle for medicine seems rather big. repackage in something smaller?
-camp towel could be replaced with a bandana if you're already carrying one
-moleskin could be replaced with spyroflex. lighter and works better.
-smart clothing choice will allow you to take less sun screen. dermatone can be used as sunscreen and lip balm.
-use bronners for toothpaste and get a lighter toothbrush.



Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
"The Little things" on 10/20/2008 20:13:34 MDT Print View

James, Todd and I were out for 8 days in September and we didn't bring any soap (based on all the times we did and didn't use it). I freshened up face and hands and "cleaned" pots with spent green tea bags. Very nice when still warm. With no soap I do strongly recommend hand sanitizer use for after #2 and it also makes okay emergency fire starter.

Edited by lollygag on 10/20/2008 20:14:19 MDT.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
firestarter on 10/20/2008 20:38:21 MDT Print View

Brilliant idea about using the alcohol gel for firestarter. The firestarter kit is another one of those emergency notions which I've never used (10 essentials, 7 deadly sins, all these numerical shibboleths), but of course, with alcohol and a match one should definitely have a good chance of getting a fire going, if needed in an emergency. (Which has never happened to me, but on the other hand, I've read Jack London.)

Part of the exercise, of course, is just getting rid of unnecessary bits and pieces, which need to be managed, and which take up mental as well as physical space.

Yes, Gatewood Cape is shelter. I recently spent 18 hours in it during an unexpected snowstorm. Got to know it well, as my face was never more than 4 inches from it, but luckily it's a light blue, so in recurring Homer Simpson moments I kept thinking, "Hey look, the storm must be just about over, the sky's turning blue."

Edited by swimjay on 10/20/2008 20:42:05 MDT.

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
lightening up "The Little things" on 10/21/2008 13:06:28 MDT Print View

Speaking of 3 in 1 antibacterial ointment, I see the BPL Gear Shop is now carrying these small portion packages.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Lightening up the little things on 10/21/2008 14:39:37 MDT Print View

I skip the toothpaste altogether and just use a teeny brush. If you really want something on the brush, try bringing a teaspoon of baking soda in a little plastic bag to dip into.

Like Linsey, I cut floss into usable lengths and put them in a plastic sandwich bag (non-zip type). I use my bandana for everything, including a towel. I bring half a box of emergency matches and put a few trick birthday candles and a bic lighter in the rest of the space in the box. I carry only a 2-foot length of a self-adhesive ace bandage (actually had to use it once) and only a few bandaids. My sunscreen is in a one-ounce sample tube that I've learned to refill by carefully squeezing out the air and holding it under a bigger container of sunscreen. I carry one sample packet of 3-in-1 ointment, and I carry a few Second Skin patches in a plastic bag.

Even though I've gotten the quantity and weight of the little things way down, I still glare at the remaining bulk and weight of my "junk" bag. But I really do use what's in there and realize it would not be prudent for me to cut back anymore.

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re:Lightening up the little things on 10/21/2008 17:12:10 MDT Print View

>Great idea on cross-drilling the spoon, but I was just glad to have the thing stop shredding my lips when I ate with it. I don't think the elves had learned yet about de-burring the day they made mine.

S2S spoon

I recently decided to lighten my new Sea to Summit Alpha Light short handled spoon (picture above) The advertised weight was 7.5 grams but when I weighed it on some accurate scientific scales it came in at 7.8 grams so I clamped it into my milling machine vice and started drilling and machining, its finish weight is now 7.3 grams.

A quick review: I have used this Anodised Aluminium spoon for three trips now and I like it, I have not noticed any metallic taste and it does not leave marks on the bottom of the Ti pot that I eat out of.


Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: The Little things on 10/21/2008 21:25:12 MDT Print View

Here are a few ideas I've had good luck with in reducing the little stuff.

"Soap, Dr. Bronner’s, in .35 oz container from BPL; "

Try one of the sweetbreath containers, and only fill it about 1/3 full. You only need a drop or two. Or leave it behind and keep the hand sanitizer.

"Toothbrush, Clever, filled w Colgate Total; "

Definitely lose this and get a lighter toothbrush. I had one of these, relagated it to camping, but found the handle kept popping off and getting toothpaste everywhere. Check independent drug stores. I've find some teensy travel toothbrushes there. Use baking soda in a teensy zipper seal bag or dehydrate some toothpaste 'dots'. Someone gave me that idea and it worked great!

"Floss; "

Definitely pre-cut a few strands and keep in a teensy zipper seal bag - I keep them 2 or 3 places in my pack since I have gaps between my molars and am miserable without floss.

"Ace bandage, self-adhering; "

I have one of those, but I looked at it and figured it was way more than I would ever need, so I cut it in half. I tuck 2 pre-threaded sewing needles inside the first roll of the bandage.

"Bandages, various, inc. moleskin, in 4.4 x 70 Aloksak; "

The Aloksak's are a little heavy. I keep my first aid kit in a sandwich zip-lock which then goes inside a Freezer Zip Lock with the rest of my 'survival gear'.

"Ibuprofen, vitamins, Gingko Biloba in 4 oz bottle; "

Are the Gingko and vitamins necessary for an 8 day trip? You probably won't develop a vitamin deficiency in that short of time. Consider leaving them home, or maybe alternating every other day.

"Lip balm;"

If you can find the ones that are about 1/2 the size of a regular lip balm, those are sweet for weight and space savings. They are kind of hard to find though. I have an old one, and just refill it by scraping some off a full size tube and stuffing it down in the smaller one. I do sort of the same thing with body glide - I have a full size lip balm tube that I screwed back down & stuffed it full of body glide from a trial size one. Saved a lot of weight and space on that.

"Storm Proof matches in 4.5 x 7 Aloksak"

Probably don't need an Aloksak for storm proof matches. Just a teensy ziplock. I took a box of regular matches and a box of storm proof ones, cut the cover in half on each one, taped one of each type back together & filled the box with several of each type of match, and a couple of birthday candles for a fire starting kit. I threw the box in a tiny zipper lock bag with a couple of the BPL tinder tabs, then that goes in the freezer Zip-lock survival bag. With the double protection, I am pretty sure it will stay dry. If it doesn't, the Storm matches should work anyway and I can dry the candles on my clothing or bandana.

"Triple Antibiotic Ointment in nozzle top Nalgene round 1 oz bottle"

Single use packet (or two) is plenty

"tape wrapped around bottle"

I just flat-fold a short length of tape around itself.

"1 quart heavy duty ziploc bag"

That's what all my survival stuff goes in. I already have a pot, water bladder, gatoraide style bottle anyway. If I need a Ziplock I can dump the other stuff in my ditty bag that holds all the odds and ends.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Little things getting littler on 10/21/2008 22:11:46 MDT Print View

These are all great, great ideas.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
The Little things on 10/22/2008 01:36:18 MDT Print View

Instead of ace bandage, I take a roll of veterinary wrap, which is self-adhering foam, much lighter than ace bandage, and can be found at any store that sells livestock supplies. I really got it for my dog's first aid, but after trying it on my ankle, I found it's a good ace bandage substitute. It would probably need a little duct tape reinforcement but that would be on the outside of the vet wrap, where it won't take your skin off when removed.

The only thing I take for doggie first aid that I normally don't use is enteric (coated) aspirin as a pain-killer. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are poisonous to dogs.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
The Little Things on 10/22/2008 19:28:34 MDT Print View


Edited by Creachen on 10/22/2008 19:30:30 MDT.

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
little things on 10/22/2008 20:35:42 MDT Print View

Here's all the stuff I just do not bring:

Soap, Dr. Bronner’s, in .35 oz container from BPL
Toothbrush - rarely bring it.
Floss - rarely bring it.
Ace bandage;
Camp towel;
Ibuprofen - keep to a minimum.
Gingko Biloba
4 oz bottle;
Lip balm;
Matches, regular box;
Storm Proof matches
4.5 x 7 Aloksak;
Klear Water, 2 .35 oz bottles;
Triple Antibiotic Ointment in nozzle top Nalgene round 1 oz bottle, tape wrapped around bottle; - for 8 days, you may want a little. Toothpaste is a strong antibiotic.
Fire starter;
Stuff sack for above, NF mesh.

Last few trips within my area, I have had zero stuff sacks and zero tent stakes too. Hm and no tent, tarp, or air mat, or bear canister. Or spare glasses or batteries. No camera, no wallet, no keys, no booze, sanitizer, tp, maps, compass, etc.

Pretty much this is all I've been needing:
2L platy and water filter, since my trips are usually short and I am too poor to buy aquamira.
prescription glasses
sun hat
sleeping bag
ridgerest 3/4pad
annoyingly-flimsy plastic ground sheet
Earlier in the year I also used a scrap of bug netting.

canister + stove
tinfoil lid
plastic spoon
1" candle stub, very romantic
headlamp, not romantic at all but we were night hiking.
little roll of duct tape around a pencil stub
Earplugs, too light to leave home
A couple ziplocs and safeway bags
A spare bootlace, since one of mine is about to die.

Haven't brought my knife last 2 trips because we got presliced salami. We had a chunk of cheese, just broke it up with plastic spoon.

Ain't that enough!? Soon it will be shovel, probe, and beacon season!

Edited by Paul_Tree on 10/22/2008 21:41:13 MDT.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: The little things on 10/22/2008 22:15:14 MDT Print View


If it is enough for you, it is enough I guess. We all have our comfort levels and favorite little luxuries. I don't bring canister stoves anymore. They are faster, but for short trips too heavy.

I'd also just replace the worn boot lace and not carry a spare, but things like that are why no two people have a list that is exactly alike.

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
stove, yeap on 10/24/2008 01:09:59 MDT Print View

stove and filter are kind of heavy. Two things I want to try are alcohol stove and aquamira or kleerwater. Iodine tabs grossed out my platy. I am waiting just a little longer to get more out of that lace, cheap me. :D

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: The little things on 11/10/2008 22:23:38 MST Print View

James, my rule of thumb is that if it's in my pack and I didn't use it (and it's not a 10 essential) then get rid of it. For instance Ginko Biloba. I just don't know what I'd use that for. Gear Suggestions:
* BPL's spectra air cord is way lighter than Triptease.
* REI carries a 1 gm toothbrush that fits over the end of your finger, or go to
* Ditch the ace bandage and use your bandana in case of sprained ankle. Also use it as a towel, to pre-filter water,and as a pot holder. Gear multi-tasking is key to UL & SUL.
* Petzl E-lite is 1 oz and I can recommend it for camp chores and reading but not for extended night hiking as the batteries don't last all that long (40 hrs).
Happy trails!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
The Little things on 11/12/2008 00:48:11 MST Print View

A few more items:

Triple antibiotic ointment--why are you repackaging? You are contaminating it by doing so. I get the 1/2 oz. plastic tubes, use about half at home and then put the other half in my first aid kit. Probably lighter. I tend to get small cuts and scrapes on my hands so use quite a bit of antibiotic ointment and bandaids. Otherwise, you might just take a couple of individual packets.

Toothpaste: I can't understand why people insist on toothpaste or (aargh) liquid soap. Baking soda is a lot lighter and recommended by every dentist I've ever had. It also doesn't leave white gunk on ground or bushes after you spit. It has other uses such as deodorant or a paste for insect bites and stings. For those with fixed bridges, Glide makes "threader floss" in individual packets. For backpacking I remove them from the individual paper packets and store as many as I need in a tiny ziplock bag.

You can save weight by using zipper lock snack bags, sandwich bags or the various sizes of small zipper lock plastic bags you can find in craft stores (usually in or near the bead section). It is not necessary to have everything in heavy plastic.

I don't take soap at all, just hand sanitizer.

I'm also curious about the ginko biloba--why is this necessary? It has been pretty well proven not to work for altitude sickness. Pills are a lot lighter than liquid extract.