Gear hacks: A highly talked-about subject amongst long distance hikers. If you are new to hiking or just want some more hacks to add to your repertoire, read on!
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Buffs and bandanas are a great add to any backpacking setup. They are lightweight, quick drying, and have tons of uses. I (Cheer) loved using my buff while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail because it was so versatile! I used it for sun protection (you can wear multiple ways,) to keep my hair away from my face, and also to keep from inhaling a ton of dust in drier areas. You can use it to dry off gear in a pinch, to clean up your cooking pot, or even as a swim top for the ladies out there. The possibilities are truly endless.
So many hikers have patches of Tenacious Tape on, well, everything. It acts like a fabric when applied and is very flexible. I patched my tent and puffy jacket with it when holes started to show up. Worked like a charm!
TYVEK GROUND SHEET
As opposed to buying an expensive footprint that is usually sold separately from most tents, I opted for a Tyvek ground sheet. This option was cheaper and the Tyvek itself lasts (I’m still using it to this day). Tyvek is the material builders use underneath house construction, so it is extremely durable and very lightweight. Sometimes I’d crumple it up in my pack and it did fine…the material actually gets better with age and softens. It seems like the backpacking market is catching on because the marketing has specified “for backpacking” or “ultralight” recently, whereas I didn’t see marketing to backpackers when I was shopping around in 2018. Here is another option. If you choose to go this route, simply cut to the size of your tent and insert the grommets. Make sure to cut the ground sheet as close as possible to your tent dimensions to avoid water capture in the rain. You don’t want to be sleeping in a puddle!
TORSO LENGTH FOAM PAD
I picked up a Therm-a-Rest Foam Pad (small size) in a hiker box before the Sierra section of the PCT and have been carrying it ever since. It’s a great length for a sit pad during the day. It’s also great to use over or under a sleeping pad – for more warmth (hello, snow camping) and to protect the sleeping pad from punctures.
SLEEPING BAG LINER
My Sea To Summit Sleeping Bag Liner was a great piece of gear to keep things a little more fresh and clean. Liners act as a barrier between you and your sleeping bag, and also provide more warmth. My sleeping bag stayed a lot nicer because I had the liner as a buffer. I’d wash it with my clothing every time I was in town. It also doubled as a laundry bag for easy carrying…sometimes it was a far walk to the laundromat!
VARGO TITANIUM BOT-700
Much to my surprise, there aren’t a lot of versatile cooking pots out there that cater to both cold soaking and stove cooking. I cold-soaked in the desert section of the PCT and used the Vargo Titanium Bot-700, which has a lid that screws on (aka water tight). It’s important to have a watertight cold-soaking receptacle because, otherwise, you’ll have liquid all over your gear while hiking! To save on propane for cooking, you can cold-soak your food ahead of time and cook when you get into camp with less of a wait. The BOT-700 is a great way to go if you’d like to cold-soak all or some of the time you’ll be hiking. It’s a little pricey but is extremely lightweight, durable, and versatile.
SPORT CAP WATER BOTTLE
I’d always make sure to carry one water bottle with a sport cap so I could back-flush my Sawyer Squeeze water filter. While in town, I’d simply fill the sport cap water bottle with clean water and backflush into a sink or into the trash (no other back-flush equipment required). While hiking, it was way easier to drink from a sport cap in my opinion too – you just flip open the top and take a swig without breaking stride, as opposed to screwing the cap open and holding it while drinking and hiking. A screw cap is also at risk of being dropped, which I did many times…annoying! Go with the sport cap.
“THE DEUCE” TROWEL
This trowel is a thru-hiker favorite for a reason. The shape and material make it extremely light and effective for digging cat holes in a record amount of time – sometimes very important when nature calls quickly. Need I say more?
TREKKING POLE DUCT TAPE
Definitely didn’t need a ton of duct tape on trail, but it was great when I was desperate to mend my gear. Sometimes duct tape is more appropriate than tenacious tape (mentioned above) in my opinion – but if you’d rather keep things simple, maybe just go with one or the other. I taped some duct tape around my trekking poles to save on space and to have it at-the-ready. If you go that route, you can technically categorize it as “worn-weight”…again, in my opinion. Worn weight is a highly debated subject in the thru-hiker community.
~ End hack recommendations…for now. If you’re in the market for some great backpacking gear, make sure to check out our THRU-GEAR page (coming soon!!)~
There are SO many gear hacks in this world, and these are just some of them. Do you have any great hacks? Let us know in the comments below!
-Cheer, PCT Class of 2019
You can follow Cheer’s adventures on YouTube and her Instagram account.
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