Hikers are obsessed with their weight. No, I’m not talking about body image (although I did find myself asking if my zip off pants make my butt look big). I’m talking about the pack that you piggyback for miles on end. Slimming down your pack to the bare necessities is a huge step in embarking on any hike, and it’s probably not a surprise to hear that every single little ounce counts. I once read a forum where a man joked that he was debating between two credit cards, wanting to choose the lightest one. I’m not sure he was actually joking. Another classic tale involves a hiker so set on minimizing that he exchanges two nickels for a dime.
With this topic in mind, I decided that a good ice breaker for meeting people on the trail would be to ask them about the ‘luxury item’ they chose to bring. Meaning, what did they pack that they knew they could technically live without, but that they didn’t want to. It’s amazing that people skimp on weight in regards to tents, first aid kits, or stoves, but don’t mind packing these following items:
To my surprise, a lot of hikers I spoke with packed booze. Whether it was airplane bottles of Fireball, a Dasani bottle full of Malibu, a flask of whiskey, or a 6-pack of beer, good play I say. Others brought bottles of seasoning, Coca Cola, 12 ounces of chocolate (can’t lie, that one was me), a skillet, and heavy fruit. Instant coffee is also a very common luxury item, though I add this one to the list unwillingly. To me, coffee is as essential to my survival as my sleeping bag, but I suppose some would argue me that it’s necessary.
Books and journals are probably the most common luxuries packed as far as entertainment. The ones that really impressed me were the hardcover novels or leather bound diaries. Some hikers brought bibles, fancy pens, kindles, and art supplies. Another popular item was a deck of cards, though I also spoke with a person that packed a chessboard, and another with a cribbage board. Harmonicas you see a lot, and the occasional ukulele. I saw one kid with a skateboard. And lastly for entertainment, music devices. One hiker packed his cellphone, as well as an older iPod and iPhone that each had its own music library on it.
Women often pack luxury items such as razors and deodorant. There was one fellow I spoke with that packed dry shampoo. I’ve seen mouthwash, hair brushes, coconut oil, soap, and even an eyebrow pencil, all of which you don’t actually need, but that some people want to carry. For comfort, a lot of hikers will bring extra clothes to keep warm, which can get pretty heavy when it all adds up. Also, pillows, towels, and 2-person tents. The tent, of course, is only a luxury if you’re a solo hiker. A couple of hikers I spoke with opt for the 2-person tent for just themselves, in order to ‘spread my shit out’ as one man put it.
This is the fun category. I spoke with hikers that packed marijuana, tobacco, vapes, pipes and other tools. One man brought a back scratcher because he didn’t have his wife to do it. GPS systems were popular, as were solar chargers. Another luxury item I saw a lot were plastic figurines or key chains that held sentimental value, such as a hula-dancer named Darla or a Forest Ranger Lego. And to finish off the list, my favorite luxury item that I came across. Two female hikers I spoke with carried what is called a She-wee. This is a device that a woman can use to avoid the process of squatting to pee. I can’t explain it much further, and just ask that you google this invention. Hey, they swore by them.
So far, that’s the detailed list of the luxury items I’ve come across. It continues to grow with every unique person I meet. Keep in mind that everyone has a different definition of luxury. Some may argue that a notebook isn’t a luxury if they’re writing for a blog, or that chocolate isn’t a luxury because it’s a good source of calories, etc… overall, every single person packs something that they could survive without, but that they simply don’t want to. I think our luxury items can tell a lot about us, don’t you think?