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SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to weight obsession, brides-to-be and Jenny Craig aficionados have nothing on backpackers. That’s because, after a few hours on the trail, with the sun beating down and your destination nowhere in sight, you really start to feel that pack. And since that pack happens to carry your bed and all of your meals, lightening up on the trail usually isn’t an option.
Before you set out, make sure that each item in your backpack is useful, necessary and, most importantly, lightweight. And never leave out any of these essentials.
Whether you’re backpacking or knitting sweaters on the couch, you’re not going to survive without fresh water. But carrying around gallons of water or a bulky filtration system can really put a damper on a good hike. Not to mention that those iodine tablets, while effective, don’t exactly make hydration a refreshing process.
That’s why the SteriPEN is a backpacker’s best friend. This lightweight (We’re talking 3.8 ounces!) purifier uses ultraviolet light to destroy bacteria, viruses and protozoa in water in a matter of seconds.
First aid kit
One thing that makes backpacking truly awesome is that you never know what might happen on the trail. That said, you never know what might happen on the trail. That’s why a good first aid kit is an absolute must-have in any backpack. From blisters to broken bones, you’re going to need a few supplies. Opt for a small, lightweight case that includes moleskin, antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, medical tape, fabric bandages and a few tablets of over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and antihistamines.
Backpacker’s camp stove
If you think that cooking is a luxury when you’re out in the wild unknown, think again. While you can’t pack up the kitchen sink, you can pack the kitchen stove—sort of.
A small, compact camp stove specifically made for backpacking will give you a little home-style comfort without overweighting your pack. Single-canister propane stoves can weigh as little as 2 ounces and can still boil water in a matter of minutes. And there’s nothing like a good bowl of dehydrated potato soup after a long day on the trail.
On the trail or at home, there’s nothing quite as useful as a good headlamp. Not only are headlamps generally lighter than flashlights, they’re also more convenient since you typically like having the use of both your hands. Headlamps are great for lighting a trail after the sun goes down (while leaving your hands free for hiking poles) or helping you make dinner in the evening hours. Not to mention that they’re clutch for assisting you during late-night trips to the bathroom.
You might be the Ferdinand Magellan of the backpacking world, but if not, a good GPS is an essential piece of your outdoor gear. While it’s easy to find a lightweight GPS that will slip nicely into your pack, a GPS watch is a great option because you’ll always have it when you need it. Not to mention its multipurpose use gives you a little more bang for the burden.
A journalism graduate from Brigham Young University, Kristen has experience writing in a variety of fields, including art and culture, health and fitness and financial and real estate services. Kristen has written for USA Today, SFGate and the Knot.