Whenever we go hiking we make decisions about the equipment we carry. These gear choices can be broken into two broad categories; those pieces of gear that we need from a safety perspective (i.e. the necessities) and those that aren’t really necessary but we want to carry (i.e. luxury items). Hikers will often argue over what is a necessity so this area can be a grey one. As an example I rarely, if ever use my first aid kit, but it definitely falls into the necessity list although the items that make up my kit can vary depending on the hike.
Carrying luxury items on a hike is also done for one of two reasons. The first is carrying things through fear or through lack of experience and knowledge, and then finding out by the end of the trip they never left your pack. The other reason is as a deliberate way of improving the quality and enjoyment of your hike so the items in this category could be endless. The following ‘luxury’ items are just some I have seen people carrying over the past few years and is by no means exhaustive.
What luxury items do you choose to carry?
Alcohol is probably one of the most common luxury items I see carried on the trail. If you plan on carrying alcohol lose the bottle and carry what you think you will drink and make sure its good quality alcohol. Life is way too short to carry (and drink) poor quality booze. You also get more bang for your buck as far as carrying weight goes with spirits and liqueurs.
If you are taking alcohol on the trail leave the glass bottle behind and only bring what you need/want. The Platy Preserve is a great weight saving option and allows you to get any excess air out of the container to help keep the quality of the alcohol in good condition for a few days.
Pillows are probably one of the common luxury items and if you aren’t an on-trail drinker, probably the most common. From my perspective when I’m doing a long distance hike I use my spare clothing pack and I find that suites me just fine. However when I’m doing a hike of only a couple of days and don’t have a fully loaded pack or I’m going car camping, I’ll bring a decent hiking pillow with me.
There is nothing stopping you from bringing your pillow from home but there’s always the risk of getting it dirty so this is where a dedicated hiking pillow comes in handy.
Aeros Pillow Down Deluxe, our go-to hiking pillow when we use one
I spend much of my hikes looking for that perfect log or rock to sit on and sometimes there just isn’t one. Hiking chairs are becoming more and more common on the trail partially due to companies like Helinox producing extremely lightweight chairs that take up minimal space in the pack. If you want to keep your bottom out of the dirt and wet then a hiking chair be the luxury item for you.
As a blogger I will carry my iPad Mini on all my long distance hikes because I record and in most cases edit podcasts episodes on-trail. Many people will carry e-readers/Kindles rather than a book which is sometimes a lighter option than a paper based book. And the bonus is that there’s usually a light source.
You only ‘need’ one set of clothing but most hikers will usually carry at least multiple underwear and socks if not multiples of other pieces of clothing.
When I do a long distance hike it doesn’t matter what I carry, I stink regardless, so I carry as few duplicates as possible. I have also seen hikers carry five sets of pants, five tops, five sets of underwear. How much clothing you carry on a hike is really up to you but remember it all takes up space and it all adds to your pack weight.
For those of you who are old school carrying a paperback book on a hike is an option but just remember that reading a book will require adequate lights so you will either need to read during the day or carry extra batteries for night reading. One advantage of a paper based book is that you can tear the book apart and discard the sections that you have read but we all know that doing that is sacrilege!
Wild Book a hiking classic
On a week long hike I will average around 800 photos and in almost most cases I will use either my phone or my compact camera. A high quality compact camera provides decent images but even so they don’t match the images I can get with my Nikon SLR and dedicated macro, wide angle and zoom lenses.
My compact camera lives in a dedicated pocket in my pant legs and its really easy and quick to get out in a hurry. DSLRs aren’t a good choice in bad weather or will require you to get it in and out of a protective cover if it is raining which is what I had to do on our Bhutan trip. My Nikon DLSR and full lens kit weighs in at just over 2kg and while this will produce some spectacular photos you pay for it in weight.
Nikon 5600 DLSR
A few years ago we went hiking with our niece and her two young sons. The boys decided they wanted to bring a football with them. Its lucky that we spread the rest of their gear amongst the three adults! It was also lucky that we were camping in an area that provided the ability to kick a football so the boys had a great time. Frisbies and tennis balls are similar items that fit into this category.
Australian Rules Football
I’ll own up here to being a coffee snob. I would rather give up drinking coffee on a hike than drink bad coffee. We looked at all options for drinking Coffee on the Trail and to get the quality of coffee we preferred, we decided it weighed too much so we opt for giving up coffee while hiking.
Wacaco Nanopresso. This unit weights over 400 grams but produces some spectacular coffee
One of the newer luxury items I’m seeing on the trail these days are portable speakers to get some music on a hike. I’m a bit of a purist here and prefer not to have music on a hike in any form and while I carry earbuds, this is just so I can record my podcasts. Remember if you do carry a speaker when hiking/camping make sure you don’t impact the enjoyment of others.
Soundcore Motion Q Portable Bluetooth Speaker
There really is no limit to what luxury items you carry with you on a hike, even a stove can be considered a luxury item, however its more common to see hikers with stoves than without. Perhaps the most extreme I have seen in the last five years is a Portable DVD player on the Bibbulmun Track. Admittedly this was on a single overnight section but that’s keen!
Over the past few years I have been attempting to lighten my pack weight as much as possible and have been replacing existing gear with lighter and more compact options, removing gear that I don’t use, and replacing it with gear that’s multi-purpose. While carrying the lightest pack possible will greatly improve your ability to hike faster and minimise the physical impact on your body, this comes at a cost and the trade off is ‘do you want to be comfortable on the trail or comfortable in camp?’
I think that for most hikers the answer lays somewhere in between and while I have seen people carrying packs of ridiculous weight (34kg) there is a limit to the luxury items that you want, and are able to carry.
Ultimately the decision of what you take on a hike is up to you and if you are willing to carry it, that’s your choice. As the saying goes hike your own hike!