To Spork or Not to Spork: Hiking (Non)essentials

img837_edited-1Today’s prompt is conveniently Hike.

I’ve been on Pinterest a lot, lately, pinning stuff related to hiking, backpacking and lightweight camping, and Wow! There’s been some improvements these past twenty-five years! The best hack I’ve seen is using a walking stick as a tent pole. Especially since my tent has just one pole, this is perfect. Assuming you use walking sticks, of course.

There is also more stuff out there that looks cute, but that you probably don’t need. Since I’ve been taking repossession of my hiking identity, let me put some random  items and Pinterest hacks out here that you don’t need if you want to get into serious lightweight hiking.

If you’re like me, there are two reasons you’re attracted to lightweight hiking. One: you can get to places you can only get to by foot, and two: you like the sport   of seeing how few things you actually need to still enjoy yourself immensely.

If you agree, then the most important thing to remember is this: every gram and every inch counts.

Look at everything you are about to pack and ask yourself how many purposes each item serves. Apart from your toothbrush and your stove, pretty much everything should be useful for multiple things. Do you really need a fork? Or a spork? Are you going to eat anything that can’t be eaten with a spoon or cut up with a Swiss army knife? And will you really enjoy eating soup with a spork?

Do you really need a plate? Are you going to eat anything from a plate that can’t be either eaten from any flat surface or from a bowl? There are bowls on the market that double as mugs. That’s what I’ve always used–one mug bowl for both eating and drinking. Sandwiches can be made on a pan lid, on your waterproof map bag or on your book.

You probably don’t need a chair, however compact.  You just lugged a backpack with a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag up a mountain. Again, think multi-purpose. Get out your foam sleeping mat, fold part of it double to sit on, and lean the rest up against your backpack, and hey presto, you have a somewhat soft surface for sitting and a backrest. Or lean against a rock. You wanted to be in nature, after all. If you have an inflatable sleeping mat instead of foam, use your sleeping bag or your extra clothes for padding.

Speaking of clothes, your sweater, covered in your tank top or T-shirt (whichever one you’re not sleeping in) serves as your pillow, too. So no inflatable pillow needed.

Prepare your meals in detail. You don’t need ten different spices in ten different Tic Tac containers, cute though that looks. You’re going to pack your individual meals in plastic baggies, anyway, to keep trash to the absolute minimum. Adding the spices should be part of the packaging. Then have one little Tic Tac container or film canister with a mix of your favorite spices and seasonings for those (unexpected) opportunities to eat fresh, like when you actually manage to catch a fish, or you don’t catch it, and you took the number of servings on the pancake mix box to be true instead of trying it out beforehand, and it isn’t, so now you’re starving and desperately trying to make a palatable dandelion salad. It happens.

You don’t need a niftier version of everything, just because it exists. Save your money for nifty stuff that actually adds value to your experience. For instance, you don’t need your lighter to be waterproof if it’s in your cooking pencil case or in your pan in your backpack that you’ve lined with a garbage bag. For kayaking, definitely get a waterproof lighter. For hiking, just line your backpack.

Think small. As small as is functional. Metal filing clips are a Pinterest favorite hack item. But do you really need one-inch metal filing clips to hang your clothes from a tent line or a backpack? Pack a few safety pins. Ten safety pins take up less space than one filing clip.

Also, very few things  need to be packed in a solid container. Ask yourself with everything you pack: am I going to gradually have less of this, and do I then walk around with a lot of air taking up space that I could have used for souvenirs? Can I pack this into something that becomes smaller as I use it up? For instance, toothpaste tubes roll up as you use up the toothpaste. Peanut butter jars stay the same size even if you’re almost out of peanut butter. So get tubes for your peanut butter and jelly. Or even better, get peanut butter powder and just add water.

You may think I’m exaggerating. That these things don’t make that much of a difference. If so, get your plate, your mug, your fork, your spork, your spice containers, your peanut butter jar, your seat, your metal filing clips and your inflatable pillow. How much weight is that? How much space? And these are just some examples. The lighter your physical and mental load, the more you will enjoy yourself.

Feel free to add your own thoughts and tips in the comments!


2 responses to “To Spork or Not to Spork: Hiking (Non)essentials

  1. great post, like something helpful I would read in a backpacker magazine!


  2. Great post on economizing backpack weight. I don’t spork. Long-handled, titanium spoons don’t beak and they reach ALL the way to the bottom of peanut butter jars 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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