Essentiality is in the eye of the backpacker. If I were running an outdoor gear company, that might be our tagline, now that I’m thinking of it. For example, I rely on Gaia’s GPS app when backpacking, and take a zillion photos, so for me, a phone charger is a must-have. My fave hiking partner would never dream of packing something so frivolous. But then, they also use Aquamira drops to clean their water, saving weight, but costing 20 minutes while they wait for the chemicals to work their magic, and never experiencing the joy of drinking right out of a flowing stream, using only a filtering straw. Also, they bring a heavy metal flask for their camp whiskey, me a weightless silicon jobber.

Different strokes.

With that in mind, a few of us at team AJ put together a list of our favorite and indispensable backcountry bits that we always toss in our packs. Not the most crucial bits of camp gear, but the little things that elevate the experience. All of these things are, technically-speaking, perfectly dispensable when packing for the backcountry, yet, for each of us, they’re non-negotiable.


Steve, contemplating a lack of bugs in Iceland.

Steve Casimiro

Zenbivy inflatable pillow— Sure you could use your balled-up clothes as a pillow, but only 2.5 ounces for this little wonder and your head gets the support it deserves.

Aukey charger — Need to charge multiple devices while in the field? This is your battery pack.

Benvo Mesh Head Net — Why suffer gnats? This baby is only $8 and will keep your face blissfully free of flying bugs.

Dark chocolate espresso beans — Mmmm.


Shawnté, happy she brought her earplugs.

Shawnte Salabert

Earplugs — I learned early on in my backpacking career that other people are very, very loud and that every twig snap in the forest sounds like an approaching T-Rex, so I pack earplugs on every single trip. I use Hearos.


Sit pad: Just a small square of closed-cell foam doesn’t sound like much (and it isn’t, really), but having that little bit of extra cush for my tush, especially on rough surfaces or when temps drop, feels ridiculously luxurious. I have a Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat sit pad, but I also have a cheapass blue foam one that I bought 100 years ago at one of those big box sports stores that no longer exists.


Justin heads back to trailhead after he realizing he forgot his flask.

Justin Housman

Vapur Incognito Flask — It weighs three ounces, it’s BPA-free, once the whiskey is gone it rolls up so small I will lose it until my next camping trip, finding it tucked into a pack pocket at the last glorious minute.

Mpowered Luci Inflatable Lantern — No idea how I went so long without one of these. Four ounces clipped to my pack that I don’t even notice, awesome reading light in the tent at night. Genius.

Packable Camp Towel — Just unparalleled luxury in the backcountry. Get whichever one you like, just bring one.

Face Cleaning Wipes — Laugh all you want, but bring a couple of these Burt’s Bees beauties in a plastic bag, and it can extend a trip for at least two days, just from cleaning yourself close to properly.

Phone charger — I don’t need multiple USB charging options, just a small, reliable charger for my phone. I use the Mophie Powerstation Plus Mini, incredible power from a unit that weighs only half an ounce.


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