What makes a happy pack? In my opinion, a happy pack is one that someone else carries. Just kidding…A happy pack is one that’s light enough to comfortably haul around all day, but filled with the essentials that both keep you happy and healthy (physically and mentally) on the trail.

Whats in your pack? Just the basics or tucked with treats?

In my experience, I have found there are a few things that I simply cannot do without. These are items that keep help keep my spirits up when the weather is foul or the days are hard.  I’ll admit they don’t necessary fit into “lightweight” trekking requirements for some. Where I may add a few ounces with some extra luxuries, I certainly make up for it cutting pounds elsewhere. (Check out my post on easy ways for lightening up your pack).

Here are the 8 things I simply will not be hiking without:

* (obviously this is in addition to the basics I need to survive.. you know.. like shelter, water, fire, food etc).

Remember, if you do choose to freshen up at a water source, avoid using soap (even biodegradable). Keep it natural. Water alone will do the trick.

1.Wet Wipes- I know I know.. what is this? Glamping ? I usually only pack a ration of one or two per day.  A little wipe down at the end of the day is guaranteed to make you feel a bit more human after a long day on the trail. You may not necessarily be in a spot where there is water for a wash up at camp, or you may just not have the energy to strip down and scrub off. This is where a wet wipe can come in handy.  Personal hygiene?- check. Happiness?- check.  An easy winner in my books. Don’t forget you have to pack them out..and they are bear bag em.

2. Hair Comb- A cheap, light-weight travel comb works wonders and weighs almost nothing. Ladies (or men) who have hair that ends up like a bird’s nest by the end of the day, will appreciate this as much as I do. There is nothing worse than a dirty and greasy nest of hair (as opposed to just dirty and greasy). Just don’t be alarmed at 1) how much hair you feel like you lose 2) how dirty your comb will look after a few days on the trail. Its normal.

3 jolly hill
Classified as a 3-Jolly Hill

3. Candy- Jolly Ranchers are my vice.  A smart lady I once hiked with, would hand people jolly rangers when they were about to climb hard section of trail. Clever I thought: a reward which makes the climb more manageable. When you are enjoying a mouth-watering watermelon jolly half way uphill, you may forget for a moment, how much your legs are burning or your feet are throbbing.  I have since taken this methodology and applied it to myself. I always have a few of my favorite jolly ranchers tucked in my hip belt pocket.


4. Duct Tape- It fixes everything. It’s also the best thing to use for blisters. I quickly learned on my last big hike, that nothing works on blisters like duct tape. You need something to stay put and reduce the friction. Don’t bother with band aids. Go straight to this… and ibuprofen (thanks to my trail partner Greg for this sage advice- it got me through about 80 miles more than I thought possible).

In places with unpredictable weather, a good waterproof layer makes a world of difference.

5. Rain clothes- Invest in a good rain coat if your hikes regularly take you to cold and wet places.  I love my Northface Summit Series Raincoat.  It’s ultralight, super breathable and functional (I love the armpit vents).  A bad raincoat will have you drenched in sweat and cold if it’s non-breathable. If the forecast calls for poor weather, I will often throw my rain pants in for good measure. I hate being wet and cold. Some hikers swear by a hiking umbrella. I may be interested in trying.

6. Camp shoes- A cheap pair of light flip flips will suffice. I only ever once left camp shoes at home in an attempt to make my pack lighter. Biggest mistake ever. Your blistered feet will thank you

Camp Shoes. Let those feet breathe ! 

7. Bandana – I don’t hike without one.  I like this item because its multifunctional. On my last trip, my bandana served as a hat, headband, wash cloth, cooling towel (dip in cold steam, place on head), and a scarf in a freak snow storm. Plus they come in cool patterns. Buff is my favorite but any will serve the same purpose.

Buff also has UV and Bug protection Buffs. Neat ! 

8. Chocolate or other tasty treats – Notice that soap, clean clothes and deodorant don’t make my list but chocolate does?  No matter how clean you try to be, getting dirty and smelly on the trail is inevitable (or you aren’t working hard enough) but chocolate will always make you feel great. A reward for a hard days work which is ALWAYS in my pack.

Kit Kat appears high on my list of “survival” items.

What are some things you simply cannot hike without ? Are you lightweight backpackers cringing at my choice of luxury items? Share yours thoughts !

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