Mike's Backpacking Reference

Other Gear

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The "kit"

The kit is a pouch with essential gear.  It contains up part of the "10 Essentials" that we all should have when hiking.    Having this gear in a single pouch makes it easy to find, inventory, and move between a day pack and backpack.   

First Aid

First aid supplies are necessary for your health and safety.   Every hiker should carry a small kit with the basics.   Foot care should be included with your supplies, for me this includes Mole Skin and athletic tape.  If you have a special issues like medication or allergies then include these with your first aid supplies.  This is supplemented by other gear you should carry such as bandanas (large bandages) and paracord (splints, slings), and tweezers (Swiss army knife).  Larger groups can carry a larger kit.  If everybody in a group carries a small kit hikers have some redundancy.   I keep my first aid supplies in my "kit".

Hiking Poles

As a young hiker I never used walking poles.  As my knees aged I found them helpful for for stream crossings and downhill.   I still commonly carry my poles on the accent.   I always use two poles when backpacking.   They are helpful for crossing snow and I carry small snow baskets if I expect to encounter snow.  A pole can be  used for control when making a glissade decent on snow or ice. I prefer the three piece adjustable poles.  The three piece poles are easer to attach to my pack and I adjust my poles longer for downhill and shorter for climbs. 


If I expect to cross steep snow I will consider crampons.   12 point crampons are great for mountaineering, but heavy and bulky.  Instep crampons work great for most backpacking.   When crossing a steep snow field with a pack they give you that extra traction to feel safe. 


Sewing Kit

I always have a small sewing kit.  You can commonly get these at a hotel.   They contains a few buttons, thread and needles.  I will supplement this with a heaver needle and some heavier thread. 

Ripstop Tape

This tape is ripstop nylon with a sticky back.   It is sold in small rolls.   It is useful in repairs to stuff sacks and parkas. 

Duct Tape

A small roll is useful for larger repairs.   Some folks will wrap a couple of layers on a water bottle.  You can wrap it on a plastic medicine bottle and then use the bottle for other small items.

Athletic Tape

This white fabric tape is useful for first aid as well as some repairs.  The cloth nature of the tape makes it strong.  


This 1/8" nylon cord is a must.  I carry a few short lengths in my kit and a 25' piece.  Very useful for a number of repairs as well as other rigging.   I have used it to haul my pack up or lower it in places where I could not climb with a pack on.  

Common Field Repair Tasks


For many years I have carried a Swiss army knife (3.5 oz.).   My model has the following tools:

  1. Key ring
  2. Phillips screwdriver*
  3. Multipurpose hook
  4. Can opener
  5. Screwdriver 3 mm
  6. Bottle opener
  7. Screwdriver 6 mm*
  8. Wire stripper
  9. Scissors*
  10. Toothpick
  11. Reamer, punch and sewing awl*
  12. Wood saw*
  13. Tweezers*
  14. Blade, large*
  15. Blade, small*

* Most useful.

I have found this tools is a good compromise of weight and utility.  It contains the tools I commonly need.  Besides everyday tasks I have used it to repair my gear.  Multi-tools are another option. 


A light is needed to work around camp at night and occasionally hike at night.   Hiking at night may not be planed, but stuff happens and you should be prepared.   LED lights are now cheap and very battery efficient.   A headlamp is the simplest solution.   One with a spot light and wide angle option is desirable.   A small AA or AAA penlight (like a mini-mag) works too.   The headlamp has the advantage of being hand-free. 

Spare Batteries

You may have a number of battery powered devices such as a light, camera, or water filter.   In an ideal world these would all run on the same battery!   Usually not the case.   Be sure to carry an extra set for all essential gear. 


Sunglasses are a must especially in the high country.   Prescription glasses and their importance depends on your dependence.   If you cannot hike without them you need a second pair for safety.    I have gotten to the age where I need glasses to read a map.   For distance they help so I have bi-focals (progressive).   I have found it difficult to walk steep trails with the bi-focals as they mess up my vision downward.   I found that using single vision or plain sunglasses work better, but bring my regular glass to camp and reading.


I have always carried something to read.  It just seems right to end the day with a book.   I'm sure Colin Fletcher would not approve of the wasteful weight...

Cell Phones

Cell phone are useful for:

  • Communication with the outside world.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  coverage in the back country or trailhead is not reliable.  May people take phones assuming they can call out if they need assistance.   This is commonly not true as service is usually not available. 
  • Taking photos (see Photography)
  • Navigation (See Navigation)
  • As a book reader

For a two or three day trip you might not need to recharge.   The big user of power is the screen.  To conserve power:

  • Keep the screen off or at low brightness settings.
  • Turn off at night.
  • Put in airplane mode.  The phone will seek towers and use more power to do this.    No need to have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi running.

Protecting the Phone

You may wish to purchase a neoprene sleeve to protect your phone screen.  Water proof cases can be used as well.  Many packs now have a pocket in the waist belt, but be sure your phone fits in the pocket...


Cell phones can be charged using external batteries.   Here capacity is important.   If you phone has a 2500mAh battery you will need that capacity plus some overhead in an external battery just to charge the phone one time.    Do some testing to determine how long your phone charge will last under field conditions.   This will be different than your daily use.  Then test the external battery to see how many charges you might get. 

Solar panels are another option.  Here the size of the panel and hours in the sun are determining factors.    Panels can be rigged to the top of your pack and/or setup in the afternoon when hiking is done for the day.


Adding up the phone  plus charging accessories can be compared to what it might replace like a book, map, and camera.