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1 Heavy essential item you can' leave at home?
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aaron eshelman
(djaaronreed) - MLife

Locale: Central Rockies
1 Heavy essential item you can' leave at home? on 08/07/2006 09:25:36 MDT Print View

What is the one essential item, no matter how heavy, you can't leave at home? Mine... it's the Thermarest 20 inch Trekker Chair 2 about 11 to 12 ounces. Almost an extra pound, but now that I have the luxury, I won't leave home without it!

We all probably have one. So what is yours?

Dan Cunningham

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
air mattress on 08/07/2006 09:51:08 MDT Print View

The heaviest essential I would never leave at home is my Double Rainbow. :)

Other than that, my BA Insulated Air Core mummy mat. I can't do closed foam.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Essentials I'd Never Leave at Home on 08/07/2006 11:20:34 MDT Print View

Something to write with, and on, for journaling.

When ultralight, I just use the edge of my maps and a golf pencil. For luxury, I take a mechanical pencil, Nalgene Pen, and a Rite-in-the-Rain pad. If I know I'll write more than what can fit in a mini-pad, I'll take the slightly larger 48 page version.

The next step up, for serious writing, when I actually go into the wilds to write, is an Alphasmart Dana keyboard.

I still take trips without a camera, and still regret it when I don't take it. Slow learner, I guess. But a camera of some sort is finding its way into my kit with increasing frequency. Anything from a Pentax Optio WPi for snapshots to a Ricoh GR Digital for high quality but I still want to go light to an Olympus E-500 DSLR with a 14-54mm lens if I'm doing magazine photography. Sometimes I'll bring both the Ricoh with its 21mm lens (which is lighter than a high quality wide angle lens for the E-500) and the DSLR so I have the ability to do nice landscape shots as well.

When my pack weight is light and mileage is moderate, the Torsolite always replaces a foam pad, a 7 oz penalty for me.

This spring, I took a small wood stove on every trek. The aesthetics of woodfire cooking with a stove that leaves no fire scar was well worth the 5 oz weight of the stove.

Jonathan Chiappa
(chiappaj) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: 1 Heavy essential item you can' leave at home? on 08/07/2006 12:03:08 MDT Print View

I'm a flashaholic (obsessed with flashlights) so in addition to my normal hiking lights (River Rock LED headlamp, and a Photon around my neck) I often carry a "throw light", something that can really light up the woods. It's often a Streamlight Strion. There is no practical purpose, just my amusement.

Related to Ryan's camera comment, I also carry a canon SD300.

- Jon

(RavenUL) - F
Re: Re: 1 Heavy essential item you can' leave at home? on 08/07/2006 13:30:06 MDT Print View

A good knife.

The world can go completly pear shaped and with a good knife, you can get along just just fine. I consider a knife to be the most essential of the "10 essentials"

I carry a Mora or Marttiini. 3 or 4 oz for the models I carry.

Jason Smith
(JasonS) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
1 Heavy essential item you can' leave at home? on 08/07/2006 13:55:03 MDT Print View

A towel is about the most massively useful thing an hiker can have. Partly it has great practical
value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the Presidentials; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of the Lost Coast, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the deserts of the SouthWest; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river ; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of a Ravenous Beast on Trail (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hiker) discovers that a hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, wet suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hike the length and breadth of the trail, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Special thanks to Douglas Adams :-)

Edited by JasonS on 08/07/2006 13:56:14 MDT.

Dan Healy

Locale: Queensland
night clothes and a pillow! on 08/07/2006 16:56:02 MDT Print View

Night clothes and the 2 of the new dual compartment pillows! I always have a pair of Icebreaker long johns (190g, 6.7oz) and a Zone long sleeved top (168g, 5.9oz) so that I can change out of wet/sweaty/dirty day clothes. It is a real psychological thing to know I will soon be oh-so-comfortable in my fresh night gear and nibbling on entrée while deciding which yummy(!) freeze dried it is to be. And with windshirt and WB’s I can often do without further insulation.
Also it keeps my precious down bag a little cleaner! Don’t know how folks hop into an 850 down bag after a few days hiking and expect it too last.

Just discovered the joys of the BPL dual compartment pillows on a recent trip to Norway. I am a bigger bloke so I use 2 stacked on top of each other! Yes, I know… it adds over 60g (2oz) to my pack but the sleep! my ¾ pad is now nearly too luxurious and I am looking at a torso length!

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Essentials I'd Never Leave at Home on 08/07/2006 17:03:16 MDT Print View

Hi Ryan,

I am a professional writer and illustrator and often need to have something along to write with for hiking. Usually I take a B4 sized sketchbook, or sometimes an A4 sized. When I really need to have something publish-ready I take along either my (ancient) Psion 5MX (I still consider it the best handheld ever made for writing, though the RAM is too small and the batteries die much too quickly) or, if weight is not much of a problem and the trip is not too long away from a recharging source, perhaps, but rarely, my Alphasmart Dana.

I'm curious why you chose the Dana for backpacking. The rechargeable battery makes it heavy and it eats power quite a bit (about 25 hours?). Why not the Neo, which, with AA batteries and a battery life of about 700 hours, is much lighter and you don't have to worry about it dying on you while away from civilization for a week or more? The body design is identical to the Dana, except for a smaller screen. The Dana does have the advantage of a full Palm-powererd system with real computer functionality and two slots for interchangeable SD cards, of course...

When I have the money one of my next purchases will be the Neo. I find I just don't need all the extras of the Dana, especially when I'm hiking.

Still, I've been waiting for more than ten years for someone to come out with a small, very light weight, reasonably priced (as the Dana and Neo are) , interchangeable memory card slotted, great keyboard fitted writing machine to travel with. So far nothing really answers all my needs. I imagine something with a rollup keyboard, a rollup screen, and a solar battery charger. I was hoping Psion would survive the computer wars of the late 90's, but I guess great ideas tend to flounder amidst the bigger bumper cars of commerce.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
last trip on 08/08/2006 00:30:48 MDT Print View

Last trip it was 750ml of non-alcoholic wine...this spring I carried a Judy Blow Up Doll to compete in the first annual carry something really dumb to race on snow with contest above Winthrop.Wa.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
hatchet on 08/08/2006 15:23:40 MDT Print View

Depending on where I am and in what season, I always think long and hard before I leave my 1-lb Gerber Backpack Axe (=actually just a little tiny hatchet) at home. For me it's insurance against the Canadian climate the accompanying possibility of finding yourself in a survival situation. Building a big fire fast, getting enough firewood to last from sunset to sunrise, or building a lean-to to get yourself out of trouble is an order of magnitude more difficult using even a good fixed-blade knife. (Granted all the bushcraft I've ever done has been with a Mora... but none of it has been when I was in deep doo doo or had a short time before I or someone I loved was dead from being wetted out.)

My girlfriend's parents had snow last weekend, and they're not far north of the US border! The next time you are in the bush (especially in the shoulder seasons) take a look at the knife you carry and imagine yourself soaked in icewater just before sunset.

/my 2c CAD

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Essentials I'd Never Leave at Home on 08/08/2006 15:52:01 MDT Print View

Miguel, you're right. The Neo is a far better backpacking choice. I use Li AA batteries in it while backpacking with the Dana. I originally bought it for coffeeshoppin' so I didn't foresee it being useful for backpacking.

Ah, the Psion 5MX. Classic!

(RavenUL) - F
Re: hatchet on 08/08/2006 15:58:46 MDT Print View


You ever used a baton on the back of that mora? Also, were you using a classic wood handled mora, or a more modern design like the Swedish Army Knife (Craftsman 700 series)?

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Re: hatchet on 08/08/2006 16:36:49 MDT Print View

Mine has a red wooden handle and I've had it since the eighties... when I first read Northern Bushcraft I did indeed split wood with it by pounding it with a stick and also with a rock. In my then-young zeal I variously wired it to a stick for a fishing spear, pounded it into a tree for a foothold, skinned and quartered a moose with it, struck flint with it, (never got a fire going that way mind you,) cut doors in snow caves, held meat over fires, etc. etc. Field-sharpenable, tough and cheap, it's always been a friend to me.

The reason I pack the axe is for the case of surprise dunking or surprise weather... I've never had a need of it but I've been in parties who have come close. If someone goes into a river or you get pinned down by wet snow you could have maybe 15 minutes to gather a mountain of wood. In Alberta where I grew up there is a lot of dry material and a lot of it is accessible. Here on the coast, though, you have to work for it: I find that a lot of what's down is rotten and a lot of the mature forests can be basically barren and waterlogged anywhere below the canopy.

I bought the axe after doing a tough stream crossing with my small, not-so-agile sister. I looked down at my knife and looked around to get ready to build a fire if she went in... and the rest was history.

EDIT: PS Ryan, have you considered a compact keyboard with a compact PDA? I write in the bush with a Think Outside keyboard ( and one of a couple of PDAs. The combo is light, the keyboard is as good as a desktop kb, and you can pick a PDA based on battery life + screen + OS features. In fact you can buy a Think Outside for the iPaq you took to Alaska. Brian

Edited by bjamesd on 08/08/2006 16:51:16 MDT.

(RavenUL) - F
Re: Re: Re: hatchet on 08/08/2006 21:32:51 MDT Print View

No worries Brian, I was just curious if you were aware of the brutalities a mora can be subjected to. Sounds like you and your knife have survived "The Mors Test" quite well. Hats off to you.

I have no objection at all to carrying an axe. Ericksson makes a very nice one that I have had my eye on for a while.

John Chan
1 heavy essential item you can't leave @ home? on 08/09/2006 09:07:30 MDT Print View

Me... and getting heavier by the decades.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
PDA Keyboard on 08/09/2006 11:07:26 MDT Print View


I picked up one of these for my iPAQ. I like it. The problem is not in the weight of the combo, but the length of the battery life for the iPAQ.

The other thing is that I'm usually typing while reclining on a rock or (gasp, don't tell the press) sitting under my shelter on a camp chair I made for my TorsoLite pad. The folding keyboard doesn't really stay rigid (solved with a strip of balsa wood), the PDA falls off (solved with rubber bands), and screen angle is a problem (which I can usually solve by bending the PDA support). So it seems (feels) like a more finicky than necessary system. But yes, it works.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
PDA Keyboard on 08/09/2006 11:31:52 MDT Print View

I once found a roll-up keyboerd on a web site. It was waterproof and rolled up small enough to go into a 12oz empty soda can.

On my short list of things I want is a PDA/Cell Phone combo and a remote keyboard of some type.

Peter King
(pking) - MLife

Locale: N. Nevada
Question for Ryan on 08/11/2006 09:23:27 MDT Print View

Ryan, please tell us more about the chair you made for the TorsoLite. Is it similar to the sleeve/strap design that Thermarest sells, or a different design? How much does it weigh? Thanks for any details you can give us.

Chris Conway
(LNTpunk) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Heavy essential item you can't leave home on 08/11/2006 20:41:05 MDT Print View

My Sweetwater filter is heavy compared to the much lighter alternatives but I can't see my water filtration rig getting much lighter.

It's definitely essential for me because I love the peace of mind of knowing I can filter down to 0.2 micron and also because I don't like the chemical tastes of the alternatives.

My modified filter weighs in at 11.45oz for all the parts.(shortened filter cartridge, shortened hoses, slimmed down h2O bottle adapter, 2 siltstoppers (1 at each end), pump, and filter brush)

It's worth every ounce for some good tasting water.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Packing computers on 08/14/2006 13:35:49 MDT Print View

"When I really need to have something publish-ready I take along either my (ancient) Psion 5MX... or, if weight is not much of a problem and the trip is not too long away from a recharging source, perhaps, but rarely, my Alphasmart Dana."

I used to follow the market on these things a little closer and the Palm OS Alphasmart products are new to me. That zooms up to the top of my want list! From what I could see on their web site, the Dana will run on AA batteries-- do they die quickly or are they pracical to use?

I take a Palm IIIxce for reading old classics and basic note taking, but hand writing is a little slow. I have one of the StowAway keyboards that I think makes a very practical field word proccessor, with the caveat that I have a flat spot to set the thing down-- the folding keyboard needs support. I've ben looking for one of the GoType! one-piece keyboards, although it is heavier and takes a little more room then the Stowaway. The Palm IIIxce has enough memory and QuickWord works fine for word processing on the go. It's hard to beat the old monochrome Palms for battery life and weight. And it set me back a whole $5 :)