Over the years, we hikers all accumulate a closet of gear that we know we can depend on. The obvious items are pretty much standard, but what about those cool bits of gear added to our arsenals from outside the normally sanctioned realm of “backpacking gear”?
Here’s a list of my own most tried and true unusual and out-of-the-box gear goodies.
Bike Cargo Bungee — Tired of opening and closing your pack over and over again to get to your most used gear? This lovely rectangular bungee net with four hooks will strap to almost any pack and give you a super convenient “pocket” to attach your most used goodies. I use it for everything from my windbreaker to snowshoes. Plus, you can hook it to just about any pack — from your lightweight Osprey daypack to your massive 80 L Gregory Backpack. You can find something similar for around $10 at a bike shop or online.
Bike Arm Warmers — How do you heat up or cool down quickly while on trail? Stopping to change layers every five minutes can be really annoying. I picked this tip up from a wilderness ranger.
Use bike arm warmers. Starting out on a cool morning I wear a short sleeve hiking shirt and slide the warmers up my arms. After I heat up I shove them down into a bunch down near my wrists. Come around a corner into a cold wind? Up they go again in two seconds flat.
Mimicking the function of a lightweight jacket without the trouble and the bulk, they eliminate the need for most extended clothing breaks.
You should still bring a jacket! The lightly fleece-lined ones are surprisingly warm and a real blessing on any hike where the temperature can vary quickly. (I swear by Pearl Izumi’s.)
Duct tape — Want to head off that hot spot before it becomes a nasty blister? Duct tape beats moleskin hands down.
If the spot gets a little more serious, you need to make a solid splint or to reinforce a sling or bandaging job. Duct tape will help.
Be careful not to cut off circulation.
Zombie attack or general apocalypse? Duct tape to the rescue! You can conveniently store your duct tape by wrapping it around your hiking poles or a Nalgene water bottle.
In-line filter — Are you like me, too impatient with pump filters?
That’s why I love my inline filter — the Aqua Mira Frontier Pro runs around $20 and filters 50 gallons of water. If you know for sure that water will be available on the trail for you to fill up on it’s a great tool.
Fill your water bladder from a convenient spring or creek, attach the filter to the end of the drink tube and you’re on your way. Just bite, sip and go. The suction from your sipping provides the power for filtering the water.
Fanny pack — Want a great “bare minimum” option for your shorter walks or runs?
I’m a new convert to the fanny pack crowd. Just the name “fanny pack” is enough to shy most people away from it. It conjures up images of the 1980s fitness craze including bad hair (top of the head pony tail anybody?) and tight neon spandex.
But I got one for my birthday this year and now we’re literally attached at the hip. The newer models are decidedly cooler and provide convenient access to food, water, cell phone and safety items. Wear it towards your back on trail runs and walks with minimal gear. Swing it around and wear it towards the front for food and camera storage on longer hikes along with your full-size pack.
Here’s my final word of gear advice! Not everything you buy has to be from REI to be great gear for the backcountry. Experiment around with what works for you and don’t be afraid to be inventive. Repurpose gear from other sports and even areas of life.
You might just be surprised how well a little creativity works towards a great personal hiking experience.