Packing the Small (and important) Stuff

While preparing for an upcoming backpacking trip, it dawned on me that I dread packing the little stuff. Preparing the big items like sleeping bag, tarp, and clothing is fun and fast, but there’s something tedious about going through tiny items to be sure they’re in place.

Since this is a pesky task, I decided to make a post for future reference if I need to be reminded of what to pack. I spread the small stuff out for a photo to share before tossing into a ziplock bag. I’m sharing in hopes that others have ideas on how to save weight and still have what I need out on the trail.

Let’s start with the first aid kit. I’ve always found first aid items annoying because they’re never used. Then, on a recent trip, an expert backpacker suffered a burn from boiling water. We were both glad to have our first aid kits and some past training. Pouring a container of cold creek water sitting close by over the burn helped reduce damage that continues after initial contact with boiling water. His Ibuprofen and my gauze reduced pain as we walked out to a pickup point. My wife drove us to an emergency room for proper treatment. We hesitated to walk out but learned that burns can be more serious than they may appear at first. Don’t take them lightly. From now on, I’ll just be thankful for the unneeded first aid items I carry.

Small single-use antibiotic ointment packets are perfect for backpacking and easy to find. After my experience with the burn, I added single-use burn cream. I never carried QuikClot until after a “Stop the Bleed” training I attended. It’s a worst-case item, but weights little, and one person in a group should have it.

Repackaging saves bulk and weight. The items below are repackaged in small containers in the above illustration. On one of my early backpacking trips I noticed someone carrying a tube of toothpaste. I knew he wouldn’t use that tube in a month of backpacking trips, but seeing that taught me a good lesson that I’ve tried to apply across the board.

The next little ziplock holds my personal care stuff. I’ve tried tooth powder and a toothbrush, but eventually downsized to floss at night and a twig in the morning. I also like to carry one “go-between” brush in case something stubborn gets stuck between the teeth.

I add place one wet wipe for each day into an old container used only for backpacking. I consider these luxury items but it sure feels good to sleep clean.

The repair kit is important and will vary depend on the equipment you carry. The lens cleaners are for my glasses and camera. Tenacious Tape is essential to me for many applications. The patch kit is for my air pad I sometimes use for winter trips on top of my foam pad.

As always, I’m just sharing what I do. If you have ways of handling the “small stuff” that works well, please share! I love to swipe good packing tips from fellow backpackers.

Here’s my backpacking list that is probably going to be revised in the near future.

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