I’m of the mindset that the simpler the gear, the better it is for long hikes. This was learned after my first attempt at the Appalachian trail. I got about ten miles into the hike before I realized that everyone I’d passed was carrying a lot less in their packs than I was. I’ve since trimmed down what I carry, and gotten rid of stuff that was definitely unnecessary. You’ll find plenty of blogs out there that give you a huge list of gear, and I’m sure at some point I’ll write up a whole list of what I bring on long hikes. However today we’re just going to cover a few additions that I’ve made a must have in my pack when I camp or hike.
A good ax or hatchet: So full disclosure, I’m a bigger fan of the felling ax than I am of the hatchet. However if you’re solo hiking or aren’t comfortable lugging an ax through towns (I am, which is a whole other story) find a good hatchet to take with you. It’ll be less weight in your pack, and is admittedly much more versatile. I’ve had knives break in the middle of a hike, and a well cared for hatchet makes a good substitute in most cases.
A good wool blanket to pair with your sleeping bag: These seem like an obvious pairing, but you’d be amazed at how many people I’ve met who just bring a bag. If you’ve got a bag rated at twenty degrees or lower you’ll be warm, but the added utility of the blanket will let you have something for those slightly chilly nights in front of your camp fire.
A tarp, my god bring a tarp: I’ve passed so many hikers drying out their sleeping bags and gear after water seeps into their tent overnight. Bring a tarp, and put it under your tent even if it’s been bone dry all day. The tarp can also double as a quick shelter if you’re caught in the rain, rather than trying to set up your tent.
A hobby: Bring something you’re good at, or would like to get better at. I usually carry around a couple whittling knives and a chisel. A lot of people bring an instrument. Not only does this give you something to do while you’re sitting around the campfire, but it’s also a great way to make friends on a trail. If you’ve got a harmonica, and the guy who just showed up at the shelter has a guitar why WOULDN’T you have a campfire music session? I also always have a pipe or two with me, and a few ounces of tobacco. The extra pipe has made me plenty of friends and led to some great conversations.
A Dog: This is obviously not for everyone. Don’t bring a dog that won’t be able to hike 10+ miles a day with you, or one that doesn’t eventually warm to people. My dog isn’t exactly a people person right off the bat, but once he warms to them he’s almost annoying with his affection. For one thing, it’s nice to have a companion with you every day. A dog is that, but without the risk of discovering he’s a chatter box a few miles into the hike and being stuck with him for the next hundred. There’s also the added safety of a dog. A lot of animals are scared off by a barking pup, and mines also kept some pretty shady people in Tennessee from talking to me (again, story for another time)
If you’ve got anything that isn’t a necessity but always comes on the trail with you, or think I’m carrying the wrong things post a comment and let me know!