Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

A (Partially) Off-Trail Adventure

The summer storms have started, which means I get to take pictures of interesting clouds.


It's a little dull sitting at home, though, so I decided to head out on another close-to-home backpacking trip. I'd had the idea for a while. A few years ago, on a previous hike in the area, I'd discovered a path that wasn't on my map. It went a ways into the woods. It seemed to peter out the further I went, but the country was so open, with little underbrush or deadfall, it seemed it might be very possible to bushwhack straight east to the next trail, thus allowing the completion of a loop where only a U existed on the map, the two trailheads marked by the serifs of the U being divided by several miles of highway.

Having bought a smartphone earlier this year, I finally had access to reliable GPS -- unlike that on the work phone I'd brought with me on a trip last year. As soon as I needed it, that phone stopped being able to find any GPS satellites, despite my being on a flat plateau without a single ridge or tree blocking any of the sky.

I typically don't like to hike off-trail, both for safety reasons -- if something were to happen, certainly no one would stumble on me anytime soon -- and for physical reasons. Uneven terrain is very hard on my foot that has a neuroma, and hiking off-trail also takes much more energy than hiking on a trail. It tends to be exhausting.

But this seemed like a not-so-bad option. I had GPS, I should have cell service for most of it, and the terrain seemed fairly easy going. So I set off. After I'd driven about ten minutes from the house, I realized I'd forgotten my ballcap. Shoot. I'd already delayed in leaving, though, and was going to get to the trailhead later than I wanted, so even though I know I hate hiking without a hat, I decided I'd survive.

The flowers along the trail were blooming, and I took a photo of this penstemon.


It's only once I get down low to take a macro shot -- or, sometimes, once I'm editing the photo at home -- that I realize the flowers that look so beautiful from above are actually crawling with bugs. Here is one little fellow who seems dwarfed by the flower he's scaling:


What must it be like to be a bug exploring a flower that's as big as a small house to you?

Once I traveled up my trail to the wilderness boundary, about where I had made my easterly excursion a few years before, I cut east into the woods.

I immediately found myself struggling down a steep-sided gully to cross a stream, then up the other side, grasping at prickly pine branches to try to keep my top-heavy body + pack from falling backwards. And then another gully. This wasn't what I remembered from the last time. It was completely exhausting work trying to get up and down the steep slopes littered with loose pine needles, but finally I came to flatter ground and somewhat open forest.


I walked east, detouring around thickets or simply pushing through them. Eventually I came across a sign marking the national forest boundary and kept within it, not wanting to tick off some suspicious landowner whom covid-19 might have left with nothing to do but sit at home looking out the windows, possibly with a shotgun. I did pass rather close by someone's house.

Even the lawn chair is bored to death

The country became more open and I came at last to a dirt road, which surprisingly turned out to be one of the most scenic parts of my trip.


Roads are sometimes necessary to connect sections of trail. Normally, road walks are the worst. Roads lack shade and, if dirt, can be very dusty, especially if car traffic is allowed on them. They lack the foot-saving cushioning of humus or pine needles. They also tend to have longer straight sections than trails. When you can see where you're going for a mile or more ahead, the dopamine-inducing quest of "what's around the next bend" disappears and a voyage of discovery can turn into a bit of a dull slog.

But this road was exceedingly pretty. It was gone to grass and I wondered if anyone at all had driven on it in the last two decades. I passed meadows filled with wildflowers, stands of aspen, and, incongruously, a gravesite fenced in by pine timbers.


I didn't hop the timbers to get a closer look at the grave, but the deceased appeared to be a civil war veteran who had died in 1909. It was nice to see that someone was still honoring his grave, but a little amusing to see that the price sticker had been left on the flag.

Here's another set of flowers that turned out to have its own attendant insect:


By the way, the flowers really are that blue. They're quite stunning in real life.



I was amused that this ditch warranted signage; apparently ditches are a big deal here. I wanted to do a little more bushwhacking because the road made a loop that I didn't feel like following all the way around, and I decided to simply follow this ditch. After a ways I had to leave it because it was turning south, but I crossed other seemingly unused ditches, and old roads through the forest with aspen growing up through them. It seemed like there used to be much more farming, ranching or mining in this area than there is now.

I had some confusion when I came out of the forest onto the road and turned right, as I should, only to have my GPS tell me I was walking southwest, not southeast. It took me ten minutes of going back and forth to figure out that there was a section of road that wasn't on my map, and that it, itself, was actually a cutoff of the loop I was trying to shortcut. That is, I could have just walked on this mysterious section of road, if I'd know it was there, instead of crashing through the woods.

As it was getting on towards dinner, the dirt road took me to another trail, which I expected to be faint as it didn't particularly go from anywhere or to anywhere, and I imagined few people used it. I was right. But it wasn't a bad trail; the first half, still trending east, was fairly easy walking, with a few partial views through the trees. By the time I got to the bend in the trail where it turned south and began climbing straight up the mountain, it was near dark. I was exhausted from the bushwhacking and realized how much energy it would take to get to my intended camping spot, still a mile or so uphill from here, and I didn't want to do it. I needed to find water and a place to camp.

The water was easy enough as I knew there was a stream up ahead, but finding a flat spot proved near impossible. The ground was steeply sloped here, which made me wish for a moment that I was a hammock camper instead of a tent user. But considering the low traffic this trail clearly received, I decided to just pitch my tent right on the trail, which was the only thing remotely approaching flat. (It was still pretty slanted.) It's the only time in nearly 25 years of backpacking that I've set up my tent right on a trail.

You can see just how faint the trail is in this picture. Or maybe you can't see any trail at all.

It's always hard for me to sleep on my first night in the backcountry. I also wasn't particularly comfortable that night as the ground made a bend downward right where my hips were, but that's not really something new... it can be very difficult to find a truly flat site in the backcountry, and when you do it's often somewhere that fills with water when it rains. The thing is that a poor night of sleep on a backpacking trip doesn't affect a person nearly as much as a poor night of sleep in everyday life, because when you're backpacking, you're (hopefully) free of stress, and the only decisions you have to make involve when to eat and where to camp.

So I lay awake for much of the night, looking at the nearly full moon and listening to an owl and some odd birds. I had left the fly off because it was initially clear, but then I felt a few raindrops. This happens a lot in Colorado. Individual clouds sometimes carry a bit of rain, and will sprinkle you for a minute or two and then move on. In the dry air here, the raindrops will evaporate from a sleeping bag within minutes once the rain stops. So far I've never had to get up in the middle of the night and put the fly on.

Well, that cloud passed, but the sky continued to become more overcast. And then I heard thunder. I decided I'd better haul myself out of bed and put the fly on after all. And just as I was putting the last stakes in, it began pouring. So, two streaks broken that night.

At some point I was finally able to sleep, and I slept in and it was sunny and hot when I woke. I was sweating by the time I was done with my oatmeal, and I set out up the steep trail, which stayed beside a pretty, musically trickling stream the whole time. Mostly there wasn't much to look at besides the stream, but I did see a couple curiosities:

Tangled tree roots

A tail of something -- perhaps a ground squirrel -- sitting all by its lonesome

Up, up, up I went, at times struggling to follow the faint path, until I reached a junction with another trail, which took me up further. Like yesterday, it was a hot day, and I was sweating like a dog. At one point I put one of my dirty fingers in my mouth without thinking, then kind of rubbed my tongue on my arm, hoping any bacteria would come off on my arm, and realized how extremely salty my skin was. It was astoundingly salty.

My fingers were "dirty" to begin with not because of dirt, but because I had filtered a little water to backflush the filter with, since it'd been getting slow. I had begun this process by disconnecting the filter from my hydration bladder then realized, duh, I need clean water to backflush with, and hooked up the filter again and began filtering. Then I realized that water was leaking from somewhere. It was leaking from the connection above the filter -- where the "dirty" water goes in -- and was trickling down the tube and getting all over my hands and some had possibly gone into my pot with the clean water. Ugh.

The actual risk that there was something like giardia in the water was small, but considering the extreme consequences giardia can have, I never drink impure water. I could have tossed it, wiped out my pot and filtered some more, but I was reluctant to toss any water because it would still be a while before I got to another stream. So I boiled it.

So there I was, sitting on a fallen tree at noon, boiling a pot of water, when another couple walked by. Thankfully, they didn't ask why I was making tea in 90-degree heat. After boiling, I had to wait 15 minutes for the water to cool off so I could load my plastic syringe with it and force backward it into the filter. The good news is that the filter unclogged nicely and I was able to sip unimpeded as I continued hiking.

Finally I crested a ridge and came down into an open, high-altitude valley. Thank God. From here on, the hiking would be much easier. The valley was just beautiful, with lots of little flowers and wide-open views. Mostly of rainclouds approaching.


I look less like I'm smiling here and more like I'm grimacing into the sun. I hate having to walk, hike, or drive with the sun directly in my eyes. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. And then, when it inevitably started to rain, I had to deal with the rain on my glasses. Oh, hat! Why didn't I go back for you?


The path was faint here too, and it seemed I had the valley all to myself. A clear stream wound its way along the valley floor, surrounded by willow bushes. I walked and walked for almost four hours. Toward dinner time, I passed a burn area, which was fascinating. Some of the trees were burnt to a crisp, like the gleaming black shell of a tree below, while others were untouched, with many in an in-between state.


By 5:30 I was very hungry and tired and wanted to stop, but I struggled to find a campsite again. There weren't any flat spaces. As I continued, the trail reached its highest elevation and was about to descend into the trees once more, and finally some flat places appeared. I found a lovely spot on granite gravel with a view of distant peaks.


Since I was starving I decided to eat dinner before setting up the tent; however, after a half hour the temperature had dropped steeply and a howling wind had come up. It no longer seemed like a good idea to sleep on bare rock out in the open. I found a tiny patch of flat ground blanketed in pine needles between some trees and bushes, and set the tent up there. The plant life cut the wind speed by half, and the ground insulation would help keep me warm.


Once again it took me a while to fall asleep, and I was just barely warm enough to get a good night's sleep, so I let myself sleep in in the morning. Here is the view I had while packing up my tent.


I had to do a little downhill hiking before the trail would turn upward again, toward the ridge of the mountain range and, I hoped, the best views. Soon I was climbing again, and then the trees were getting smaller and fewer. Some lovely alpine sunflowers greeted me for the first time on the trip.


And then there were my highly anticipated views. Here, I am looking out across South Park to the distant Sawatch Range.


It was very nice up on the ridge and I would have liked to spend a couple hours up there exploring and taking photos. Unfortunately, about ten minutes after I got there, the thunder started. Oh, well. It was my fault; I had chosen to sleep in. I descended quickly on the trail that would make up the last portion of the loop, while watching the storm come in from the west.


It was a pretty big one. Often our summer storms here in Colorado are just patchy, on-and-off rain, with maybe a 20-minute spell of harder rain or hail. But that day, it rained for about five hours. I'd been wondering where I'd find water on the way down this trail, but I needn't have been concerned. It was everywhere. In many places, it was the trail. The rain created abundant little waterfalls, including here beside these bluebells.


It was cold. I went down, down, down, my shoes and socks becoming soaked, glasses spattered with raindrops, gloves damp over my hands balled in my pockets. I still had a fun time, finding little things to investigate or photos to take.

And then I came to a place where some logs had been set up to allow crossing of the stream on my right. I crossed and found that path, the faint path I had discovered a few years before that had first made me think I could bushwhack through this area to turn the U of trails into a loop. Why hadn't I used this trail when I started, a couple days before, instead of having to scramble down and up a couple of steep gullies? I'd simply... forgotten about it, or minimized it, my brain focusing on the concept of bushwhacking.

Now I followed it, further than I had in the past. It was a nice trail, if little-used, and it did disappear at one point but I found it again. In some areas, fallen trees had been cut to allow free passage, which confused me. If this wasn't an official trail, who was doing the trail work? It was pleasant hiking and I followed it so far, I could tell that over the next ridge it would hit that pretty dirt road that had been part of my first day's hike.

Well, I'll be. I had done two hours of exhausting bushwhacking on the first day, for nothing. Taking the mystery trail brought me to the same place in twenty minutes -- which just goes to show you how inefficient off-trail hiking can be.

But you know which was more fun? The bushwhacking, by far. If there's one thing to be said about off-trail hiking, it's that it keeps your mind engaged. Trying to find the best way to get where you want to go is like a little game. And sometimes, you find cool stuff you never would have seen if you'd stuck to a trail. (I have, in the past, found such treasures as full elk or bison skulls with the horns attached; this trip, the finds were somewhat underwhelmingly limited to the national forest boundary sign and the forsaken lawn chair.)

I had so much fun on this trip, in fact, that it made me eager to try creating more routes where there were none before. I like the idea of making discoveries and maybe posting some trip guides that might siphon some traffic away from the overcrowded, popular loops near Denver and onto some of these under-appreciated trails. On the other hand, I also very much enjoyed feeling like the place was my own little secret -- I saw only two couples my entire time out there -- and it's nice to have a few of those places. So I may post a guide to this area and I may not.

When I got back to my car, I didn't drive straight home. Instead, I went to find where those pretty dirt roads met the highway. There, I found a confusing sign, and as I was puzzling over it a forest service truck pulled up. There were two FS employees in it and they asked if they could help me with anything. I was on my guard -- as usual around government employees, I immediately felt as though I must be doing something wrong and was about to get a dressing-down -- but they were extremely friendly and chatty and talked at length about the area.

I mentioned the mystery trail and the cut logs I'd seen along it, and the man's face lit up. He had done that trail work himself and was clearly pleased that someone had appreciated it. Yes, that was an official trail, he said, and seemed surprised it wasn't on my map. They had plans for it -- for the whole area -- but it could take years to put them into place, especially given the obstacles that covid-19 was creating. We talked for quite a while and I got to ask all the questions I wanted. Now I feel as though I have a bunch of delicious secrets.

After our chat, I made my way home and set about cleaning up. My shoes were a mess. They had already been getting a bit elderly in terms of trail runners, but the bushwhacking had clearly brought them to the end of their life; the soles were worn through and the inner fabric was torn up. The new insoles I had gotten for the trip, however, were even worse. I had picked these up at the grocery store because my old ones were starting to get torn, but they were clearly not made for anything other than walking around offices and sidewalks. It looked like a dog had been at them. They did no better than if they'd been two pieces of bread I'd shoved in my shoes.



Wrecked footwear or no, I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful time on my little trip, and it's got me excited to do more backpacking this summer. I'll have to see what else I can come up with!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Backpacking Little Scraggy

With the COVID-19 crisis, I have been trying to stick to my own county. I typically don't do overnight adventures in my county because there aren't that many places to backpack, and the camping requires more planning since it's close to Denver and tends to be either booked far in advance or, for the dispersed sites, taken by Thursday night. But in the interests of getting out, I have been exploring more of the county.

I decided to do an overnight in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area. This area is mostly used by campers and mountain bikers, though the Coloardo Trail does run through it and that trail, at least, sees a certain number of backpackers. I would do an overnight on the 12-mile Little Scraggy Loop, which is a fairly new loop. I chose not to bring a stove, taking only food that didn't require cooking.

View of Little Scraggy Mountain

I arrived at the trailhead around 3:30 on Saturday. I didn't want to get there too early since I didn't want to have to constantly step off the trail for mountain bikers. And, thankfully, it was not too busy. Since there didn't appear to be any year-long water sources on the trail, I carried all the water I would need for 24 hours.

The first thing I noticed when I started hiking was the gunfire. It seemed there was a firing range somewhere along the road I'd come in on; as I hiked it got louder and louder, and then started to fade into the distance. I clung to the assumption that they wouldn't have built the trail here if there were any danger of being hit by stray bullets from the (presumed) range.

Since the trail was built for mountain bikes, it was nicely graded, without any really steep sections. The downside is that on inclines it zigzagged crazily back and forth, making an absurd number of switchbacks, which kept the grade low. This doubled the distance I had to walk in these sections; a trail built explicitly for hikers would have made half the switchbacks at a steeper grade. I felt somewhat ridiculous going back and forth and back and forth when I could have just made a few steps downhill.

The trail cut through fairly plain ponderosa pine forest with few views, but there were many granite boulders with intriguing shapes. These ones looked a bit like giant vertebrae on pedestals.


At 6:30 I started looking for a campsite. I walked off-trail to a high point that had a good view, and considered camping there; unfortunately, with neither land nor trees in the way, the gunfire and auto noise from the road -- as well as some mooing and unexplained giddy screaming by what seemed to be an entire family -- was much louder here. I ended up simply eating dinner and then retreating to a lower-elevation hollow to set up camp. (Dinner was a bratwurst I had cooked the night before and frozen, plus a mustard packet and some potato chips.)

View from the dinner spot

My eyes were closing of their own accord by 7. This was a bit of a surprise, since I've often been staying up till midnight lately. I set up the tent, minus the fly, since it wasn't supposed to rain. Then I crawled into bed and looked up at the blue sky.


And then I couldn't sleep. I usually have a hard time sleeping the first night of a backpacking trip; the woods seem newly spooky and filled with strange sounds. And surely a bear will come and eat me any minute. I read my book for a while; I am reading All Fishermen Are Liars by Linda Greenlaw and it's pretty gripping. Finally, sometime around midnight, I rolled on my back and looked up at the sky. The clouds had parted and I could see a swath of beautiful stars. I stuck my camera out of the tent door and took a picture of them.

Stars, with cloud, trees, rock, and tent pole

After midnight I finally I fell asleep. It felt very cold (part of this was my fault for not putting the tent fly on) and I kept waking, too cold to sleep. I woke for the last time around 6. I wanted to get a move on so I could finish the loop without dealing with midday mountain bikers on the trail.

Fresh hoofprints on the trail

I got some better views as I hiked on. Here is an unknown mountain, with what I presume is the snow-draped bulk of Pike's Peak in the distance.


I didn't encounter much wildlife, just a deer, some interesting birds, and the gobble of a turkey off in the woods. By 10 o'clock, the trail was becoming busy with mountain bikers and some hikers too. Since I was now on the far side of the mountain, the hike was blissfully free of gunfire. After turning onto the Colorado Trail, I did find a flowing stream, and up the hill from it, a cool campsite with a cave that held a massive fire ring.


Not long after that, I passed a beautiful beetle on the trail.


I wanted to take more pictures of this bug, but a mountain biker came barreling down the trail and I had to step back. As I watched, he ran right over the bug, crushing it.

I was somewhat distraught at this, but now, looking at the photograph, I can see it was already dead, which is a relief.

In any case, I "found" another one later when it landed on my boob. I tried to take a photo, but it fell off. I saw it again later, climbing on a plant.

Which way to go?

I bent the plant to try to take a better photo, and the beetle crawled onto my hand.


I have since looked this up, and have found that it has the wonderful name of "pleasing fungus beetle."

I was nearing the end of my loop, but I didn't want it to be over so I set up my hammock by a little stream in a grove of aspen and read my book for a while, shoving food into my face. The aspen here were just starting to get their leaves.


Golden banner in bloom

A dead tree's bark flakes off, revealing tracks left by pests

I hit the trail again at about noon. Now it was much busier, and I had to step off the trail every couple minutes for mountain bikers to pass.


The air was cool, but the sun was hot and as the clouds passed I moved between being overheated and being chilly.

Many peaks in the distance still bore snow


I finished around one o'clock, to the sound of gunfire. Would I recommend this as a backpacking trip? Probably not. However, it's better than not backpacking at all, and if you're looking for activities close to Denver, the gently rolling trail and pleasing pine woods (and fungus beetles) make this a low-key candidate for a brief adventure.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

What's in My Pack?

I got a request for a post about what I bring with me on backpacking trips. Since I'm not exactly having any adventures right now, it seemed as good a topic for a post as any.


This is, more or less, what I bring with me. (A few things didn't make it into the pictures because I forgot about them until later, but I'll still be mentioning them below.) I'll list each item briefly for the mildly curious. After that, I will go over every item in more detail so you can read about why I use that item or what I like/don't like about it. You can search for the extra detail by using the item's name or number.

This gear set is optimized for use in the Colorado Rockies, by a woman who gets cold easily. All these items, with water and a weekend's food added - save the items I wear - weigh about 22 pounds together.

If you look up these items you will find that some of them are extremely expensive. Top-quality items are not necessary to have fun, but I backpack enough that high-end gear is worth it to me. A higher price tag buys you lighter weight, better waterproofing, and (often) greater durability, meaning you will be less tired and wet and may have fewer field failures. But attitude, not gear, is the main determiner of how much fun you will have backpacking.

Almost nothing I use was purchased at retail price. Outdoor gear sales are frequent, and at used item sales such as the REI garage sales you can get barely-used items at half off or more.



PACK


01. Pack - Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 liter pack


02. Back pad: tucked in the back of the pack is a Gossamer Gear Thinlight pad.

Fully-loaded pack hanging on tree



IN PACK


Top left:

03. Food bag: Ursack Major

04. Odor control: Loksak Opsack

05. Hydration: Platypus Big Zip LP 3 Liter hydration bladder, stock bite valve replaced with Camelbak bite valve

06. Water treatment: Sawyer Squeeze hollow fiber filter connected to bladder hose with Sawyer In-Line Adapter

Middle left:

07. Pack liner: trash compactor bag

08. Base layer: orange synthetic shirt from thrift store

09. Insulation: fleece pants from Dick's Sporting Goods

10. Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

Bottom left:

11. Mid layer: blue long-sleeved synthetic shirt from thrift store. I will bring this OR #58 dependent on temps. This one is for cooler weather.

12. Extra socks: Darn Tough merino/synthetic blend hiking socks

13. Reading material: book. I only bring a book sometimes.

Right:

14. Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering Apache MF 15 degree down bag

15. Jacket: Arc'Teryx Thorium AR down hoody

Not shown, because I forgot it:

16. Fuel: I use either the 110g or 250g canisters, any brand



OUTSIDE OF PACK


The Mariposa has a whopping 7 external pockets, allowing easy access to a lot of items. One of these is a tent pocket along the side, which lets you to store your wet tent without getting anything else wet.

Top row:

17a. Tent (body, fly, and poles): Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1

Second row:

18. Tent footprint: DIY polycryo sheet made from Duck patio door shrink film kit

17b. Tent (stakes): Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1

19. Filter accessory: Sawyer Squeeze syringe for backflushing Sawyer Squeeze filter

20. Filter accessory: quart ziploc with one corner cut off for drawing water from shallow sources

21. Sundries bag: see below for contents

22. First aid kit: see below for contents

23. Extra bag: supermarket bag

24. Bandana: cotton bandana

25. Carabiner: Gossamer Gear Mini Biner

26. Camp/water crossing shoes: Dawgs something... not sure they make this model in adult sizes anymore

Third row:

27. Pot: OliCamp Space Saver Mug

28. Stove: Snow Peak GigaPower canister stove

29. Ball: racquetball for rolling out muscles

30. Headlamp: Princeton Tec Fred

31. Head net: possibly Coghlan's?

32. Gloves: possibly Fox River? fingerless wool gloves

33. Warm hat: Repreve synthetic cap (no longer made)

34. Bug spray: Sawyer 20% picaridin insect repellant, 3oz. size, in quart ziploc in case of leakage

35. Hammock: netting hammock from Walmart (no longer sold)

36. Spoon: Toaks titanium long handled spoon

37. Trowel: sand stake from REI

Bottom row:

38. Quart ziploc: holds hygiene items. Inside, items 38-40...

39. Anti-chafing: BodyGlide pocket size

40. Cleaning: Wet Ones sensitive skin fragrance & alcohol free wipes placed in ziploc

41. Floss: one strand of floss

42. Toothbrush: no, I do not cut the handle off (I typically do not bring toothpaste on weekend trips, either, but still brush).

43. Sunglasses: sunglass film roll that you get when they dilate you at the eye doctor

44. Trash bag: sandwich size ziploc for putting snack wrappers and litter into while I hike

45. Sunscreen: travel size tube

46. Lip balm: with sunscreen

47. Sanitizer: travel size sanitizer bottle

48. Rain pants: Marmot Precip pants

49. Rain jacket: Patagonia M10 (no longer made)

Not shown, because I forgot them for photo:

50. Map of area: I prefer National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps

51. Phone: Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact phone

52. Camera: Sony RX100 miii

53. Battery: extra camera battery

54. Toilet paper: just enough for the trip, in a ziploc



WORN


Top row:

55. Sun hat: Prana cap

56. Watch: Armitron digital watch with alarm from Walmart

57. Socks: Darn Tough merino/synthetic blend socks

58. Boots: Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM (Men's)

Bottom Row:

59. Shorts: track shorts from thrift store

60. Mid layer: REI Sahara shirt. I wear this OR #11 dependent on temps. This one is for warmer weather.

Not shown, because why would I show you my underwear:

61. Underwear: cotton briefs

62. Bra: regular bra


FIRST AID KIT


Top row:

63. Antibacterial: small antibacterial packets

64. Blister patches: ENGO blister patches

65. Bandaids: large bandaids

66. Tape: Leukotape strips

Second row:

67. Bandage: self-sticking stretchy bandage roll, with...

68. Gloves: nitrile gloves tucked inside

69. Sewing kit: that's what it is.

70. Bandaids: medium bandaids

71. Blister pads: 2nd Skin blister pads

Third row:

72. Foam: callus cushions

73. Antiseptic: iodine prep pads

74. Gaze: gauze pads



SUNDRIES BAG


Top row:

75. Paper: scrap paper for writing

76. Pen: it's a pen!

77. Reading material: article ripped out of a magazine (I often bring this instead of a book)

78. Bags: more ziplocs, because bags are oh so handy

79. Bags: bread bags. Can go over dry socks and back into boots to keep dry socks dry, or over hands to keep gloves dry when using trekking poles

80. Patches: patches for sleeping pad repair

Second row:

81. Lighter: Bic lighter

82. Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army Nail Clip knife with nail clipper, scissors, tweezers, toothpick, nail file/cleaner, and small blade

83. Tape: medical tape

84. Medicine: small container for earplugs which carries not earplugs but my medication and NSAIDs

85. Candle: birthday candle for help getting a fire started in emergency

86. Hair tie: it's a hair tie. Useful for hair, or attaching things to things

87. Filter: coffee filters for use as pre-filter if water has high sediment content

88. Paper clip: for who knows what

89. Safety pins: you never know

90. Game: 1.5" playing cards

91. Earplugs: Mack's slim fit soft foam earplugs -- in clear tube, along with...

92. Back-up light: small LED light -- also in clear tube

Bottom row:

93. Medicine: antacid and anti-diarrheal medications, with dosing instructions

94. Pads: two panty liners, held with rubber band around..

95. Mirror: S.O.L. rescue flash mirror, small

96. Tape: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape gear repair tape

97. Compass: Brunton TruArc 3

98. Matches: UCO Gear compact safety matches

Not shown, because I forgot to put them in:

99. Keys: house and car keys only

100. Driver's license and credit card

Optional item (not shown):

101. Umbrella: Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow



DETAIL

Now, here's a little more detail about these items. Why do I carry them, or why do I use that kind/brand/etc.?

PACK

01. Pack - Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 liter pack

I like this pack. I settled on it after trying a few different lightweight packs. It's 2 pounds and carries up to about 25 pounds comfortably, and 30+ without terrible discomfort. I like the large amount of space in the exterior pockets, letting me reach a lot of things without having to dig into my pack. I don't like doing off-trail hiking in forest or brush, so I don't have to worry about items/pockets getting snagged much. This is a good pack for my needs.

02. Back pad: tucked in the back of the pack is a Gossamer Gear Thinlight pad.

The Mariposa comes with an egg-crate-type pad in the pack, which can be removed and used as a sit pad. I replaced this pad with their Thinlight pad, which when unfolded can be stacked with my air mattress pad for extra warmth. I can also spread it out on the ground for doing my physical therapy exercises.

IN PACK

03. Food bag: Ursack Major

The kevlar-like fabric of this bag cannot be torn by bears, so in theory it keeps scavenging bears from getting a food reward from raiding human campsites. Since bears apparently can't untie knots, you simply tie it to a tree, which is about a thousand times easier than hanging a traditional bear bag. Based on what I've read, I'm somewhat skeptical that the Ursack is anywhere near as good as a bear canister in terms of either protecting your food or protecting bears (that is, bears can still get a taste from punctured food packaging, and may be encouraged to seek out more human campsites to raid, resulting in their eventual extermination). However, it's much lighter than a bear canister and considering that problem bears have been extremely rare in Colorado (outside of Rocky Mountain NP), I am going with this for now.

I bring about a pound and a half of food per day.

04. Odor control: Loksak Opsack

These heavy-duty zip plastic bags are meant to go inside the Ursack and stop food odors, lessening the chance of a bear discovering your Ursack. Some on the internet have pointed out that a bear's sense of smell is that they can detect such that such and such tiny number of scent molecules in the air from such and such a distance, but I tend to think that less scent is better overall and so I use them. The trash goes in here too, and at night any other scented items do as well.

05. Hydration: Platypus Big Zip LP 3 Liter hydration bladder, stock bite valve replaced with Camelbak bite valve

I love this bladder. Easy to fill, easy to close, doesn't have the horrible taste that Camelbak bladders have. I didn't like the Platypus bite valve so I put a Camelbak flow switch and bite valve on it. Usually I do not put the bladder in the bladder sleeve in the pack, because it's a pain to get it in there when the pack is packed. I just sit it on top of everything next to my food.

One of the complaints against water bladders (prompting some to use bottles instead) is that they tend to leak, either through failed parts or user error. Since I pack my sleeping bag, clothes and book in the trash compactor bag, they're safe from water or fuel spills and I don't have to worry about leaks.

06. Water treatment: Sawyer Squeeze hollow fiber filter connected to bladder hose with Sawyer In-Line Adapter

I love the Sawyer Squeeze too, specifically having it inline on the hose. I fill the bladder with dirty water and suck, and it pulls through the filter. Some people don't like this because it reduces the flow rate from the hose, but it doesn't bother me. I love getting clean water without any pumping, squeezing or waiting. When I'm with a partner I use it as a gravity filter to make clean water for them too, hanging the bladder and letting water flow through the filter.

07. Pack liner: trash compactor bag

I don't use my sleeping bag stuff sack, both to save weight and because the stuffed sack is rounded, which isn't a good use of space. Instead, I put the trash compactor bag in the pack and stuff the sleeping bag right into the bottom of it. Then I put my clothes, pad, and book in and roll the top of the bag over. These things are now more or less waterproofed -- at least, better than they would be by a stuff sack or a pack rain cover.

Plastic bags are always a good thing to have along, and an especially large one is especially good. It could be used to carry a large amount of water to douse a fire, or shaped into a poncho, or used as a bellows to inflate your sleeping pad if your lungs are struggling in the alpine air, or put over the end of your sleeping bag to protect it from condensation, or many other things.

08. Base layer: orange synthetic shirt from thrift store

Love this shirt. Synthetic is more comfortable than cotton when wet and it dries much faster. Some brands/blends are better than others at combating odor.

09. Insulation: fleece pants from Dick's Sporting Goods

Many people do not need a layer like this, or use a thinner one such as long underwear. But I get cold easily once I stop moving. These pants can be pulled over my shorts. I wear them around camp in the mornings and evenings (under my rain pants) and to bed.

10. Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

This is the best pad. Very comfy and light and packs up very small. Some people don't like the crackling noise produced by the mylar layers, but it doesn't bother me at all, and -- more importantly -- has not bothered any of my partners. These pads are more durable than they look. However, I got a NeoAir XTherm, their winter pad, at an REI garage sale and am thinking of switching to that as it is only 1 ounce lighter but much warmer.

I don't use a pillow; I just bunch up my rain gear and put my head on it.

11. Mid layer: blue long-sleeved synthetic shirt from thrift store. I will bring this OR #58 dependent on temps. This one is for cooler weather.

I prefer this knit shirt when temps are cooler as it's warmer and easier to layer over.

12. Extra socks: Darn Tough merino/synthetic blend hiking socks

I only bring two pairs of socks. Darn Tough socks are amazing and you should try them if you haven't already. They are incredibly soft but last forever. If you manage to wear a hole in them, the company will replace them for free.

13. Reading material: book. I only bring a book sometimes.

I save small paperback books that come into my possession since these are the kind I would take backpacking, if I take anything at all.

14. Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering Apache MF 15 degree down bag

This is a top-of-the-line bag. (If you are a going to spend a bunch of money on something, a sleeping bag is a good candidate as, unlike most other equipment, one can last your whole life.) However, I'm not crazy about it. I still get cold too often, and the velcro closures at the hood are scratchy. Also, it's petty, but I don't like the color. Pondering swapping it out for a Feathered Friends bag.

In the Colorado mountains, it frequently gets below freezing even in the summer. I once had it get down to 21 degrees on Fourth of July weekend. Many people can make do with a 35 degree bag or so, but I am not one of them.

15. Jacket: Arc'Teryx Thorium AR down hoody

This is perhaps my favorite piece of gear, if not my favorite clothing item that I own. It just fits me perfectly and is so light it's like wearing nothing at all. It's also very windproof.

16. Fuel: I use either the 110g or 250g canisters, any brand

When you're only heating up a little water for instant oatmeal in the morning and for mashed potatoes in the evening, my typical meal staples, fuel goes a long way. (Water does not need to boil to make instant oats or mashed potatoes from flakes.)

OUTSIDE OF PACK

17a. Tent (body, fly, and poles): Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1

This tent is okay. I would like more head room. I will probably keep using it until it falls apart, but if I could go back I might go for a single-wall tent. Whenever there's condensation, it's pretty much impossible to remove the fly from the Fly Creek in the morning without shaking water down into the tent. And if I'm going to have water all over the interior of my tent anyway, I'd rather have the weight savings that come with a single-wall tent.

18. Tent footprint: DIY polycryo sheet made from Duck patio door shrink film kit

This thing works very well and I highly recommend making your own footprint rather than blowing big money on the one from the tent manufacturer. Get some heavy duty window shrink wrap and cut it to fit under your tent without sticking out, then attach bungee loops with duct tape so the sheet can attach to the tent poles or stakes. It's fairly durable and holes can simply be patched with tape, saving you several ounces and $40-80+ over a fabric footprint.

17b. Tent (stakes): Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1

More of the tent. Except for the stake sack, I don't use the tent stuff sacks. They're not necessary. I stuff the separate parts into the large tent pocket on the side of the Mariposa.

19. Filter accessory: Sawyer Squeeze syringe for backflushing Sawyer Squeeze filter

This somewhat bulky item is essential for maintaining a good flow rate on the filter.

20. Filter accessory: quart ziploc with one corner cut off for drawing water from shallow sources

This is very useful for getting water from sources shallow enough that dipping the bladder in would cause sediment to be stirred up. Just dip the ziplock in, then hold it over the bladder and let the water run out of the corner into it.

21. Sundries bag: see below for contents

I just use a quart ziploc to keep this stuff in and replace it when it gets holes.

22. First aid kit: see below for contents

A sandwich ziploc for this one. I have put together my own first aid kit based on the items I need most as well as a few emergency items that I have never needed.

23. Extra bag: supermarket bag

Another handy plastic bag for whatever use. Often as a trash bag because I forgot to bring a gallon ziplock for my food waste.

24. Bandana: cotton bandana

Another multi-use item. Great for soaking in cold streams then tying around your neck on hot days, or suspending your pack from a tree limb.

25. Carabiner: Gossamer Gear Mini Biner

I have never used this. It came with my pack, I think. Still, one can imagine many uses for a carabiner.

26. Camp/water crossing shoes: Dawgs something... not sure they make this model in adult sizes anymore

These are amazing camp shoes. Much lighter than Crocs, and stay on your feet better. Dawgs may not make this particular model anymore, but there are many such foam shoes out there. I prefer these to flip-flops due to the fact that they stay on better in a river, and also because I could hike in them if I was having an issue with my boots.

27. Pot: OliCamp Space Saver Mug

This is a very light, cheap pot/mug, but it doesn't come with a lid.

I actually bought a slightly lighter, much more expensive titanium pot with a lid that's also wider and thus should hypothetically heat water faster. But still haven't used it. I can't get over the $65 price tag. Granted, I used my Moosejaw reward bucks or whatever they call them to buy it, but it just seems so ridiculous that I might return it.

28. Stove: Snow Peak GigaPower canister stove

This is a good little stove. Very reliable (except for the piezo igniter; piezo igniters always fail, just get the version without it) and stable with the four pot supports. If I could go back I might get a Soto Windmaster, but we're talking very small differences here.

29. Ball: racquetball for rolling out muscles

I get tight hip muscles so this is useful.

30. Headlamp: Princeton Tec Fred

Great headlamp. I like that it starts with red light (which preserves your night vision) when you turn it on. Very bright bright setting and good battery life.

31. Head net: possibly Coghlan's?

Indispensable item in high-mosquito areas. You will go insane without one. You will also go insane with one, from the constant whining around your ears, but at least you won't be getting bitten (much. They still bite you through the net sometimes.).

32. Gloves: possibly Fox River? fingerless wool gloves

I don't think this is a popular choice but I like fingerless gloves. I would probably prefer waterproof synthetic ones if I could find them, but the wool works okay. I have nerve damage that affects my hands and I don't like having to remove gloves for high-dexterity tasks, so I prefer the fingerless.

33. Warm hat: Repreve synthetic cap (no longer made)

Very warm hat. I sometimes unfold it down over my eyes for sleeping.

34. Bug spray: Sawyer 20% picaridin insect repellent, 3oz. size, in quart ziploc in case of leakage

Picaridin has many advantages over Deet. It's just as effective but safer, odorless, non-greasy, and actively repels bugs (as opposed to just confusing their senses). It also doesn't melt nylon and acrylic. I leave this home I'm going someplace that shouldn't have many bugs.

They make an even smaller size of this repellent, but in some areas I find myself using a whole heck of a lot.

35. Hammock: netting hammock from Walmart (no longer sold)

This hammock rocks. It's very light. I wish they still sold them. This is definitely a luxury item and not at all necessary, but I try to have a little time on most trips where I can just relax, even if it's only 20 minutes on one day and then it starts hailing.

36. Spoon: Toaks titanium long handled spoon

Great spoon for getting into deep bags of food. I hate sporks. Don't get a spork.

37. Trowel: sand stake from REI

This is very light and maybe not the greatest trowel. I try to find soft places to dig, such as at the base of pine trees, which helps. I suppose I could also use it as an actual sand stake if I needed to. I have never needed to.

38. Quart ziploc: holds hygiene items

The items in here (with my sunscreen and lip balm added) will all go in the food bag at night to be secured from bears, who are intrigued by all unfamiliar scents.

39. Anti-chafing: BodyGlide pocket size

I don't usually have to deal with chafing, thankfully, but when I do some kind of aid is essential. BodyGlide seems to work pretty well. In a pinch it can also be put on hot spots on your feet to help prevent blisters from forming.

40. Cleaning: Wet Ones sensitive skin fragrance & alcohol free wipes, placed in ziploc

These are great. I wash important areas (face, hands, armpits, groin) and where the pack rests (shoulders, hips/butt) with one every night, and my face with another in the morning. They make you feel much better and have cut down a great deal on my pack-related skin breakouts. To save weight, I bring just enough for the trip. If you want the extra special treatment you can place them over your pot when boiling water for meals, to warm them before use.

41. Floss: one strand of floss

All that's needed for a few nights.

42. Toothbrush: no, I do not cut the handle off

It's something of a joke that backpackers will cut the handle off their toothbrush to save some fraction of an ounce of weight. I've tried cutting the handle off my toothbrush to make it easier to store, but found it really annoying to hold, so I went back to a complete toothbrush.

I don't bring toothpaste on short trips. Toothpaste provides some benefit, but most of the benefit we get from brushing comes from the brushing itself.

43. Sunglasses: sunglass film roll that you get when they dilate you at the eye doctor

Very small and light, and basically free. I wear glasses and stick these behind them, and it works well for me. But I don't use them that much. Most of the time I'm backpacking, I'm in the shade of the forest.

44. Trash bag: sandwich size ziploc for putting snack wrappers and litter into while I hike

This is essential for me because I'm very lazy and if my only option were having to stop and open my pack to get the "real" trash bag out of the food bag, I probably would never pick up litter, and would stuff snack wrappers into my hip belt pockets and get my pack all food-scented. So I keep this bag in my hip belt pocket and add small trash items to it throughout the day, emptying it at night into the larger one.

45. Sunscreen: travel size tube

As mentioned above, usually I am in the shade for most of a trip, so not much sunscreen is needed.

46. Lip balm: with sunscreen

This is necessary as my lower lip seems to burn easily.

47. Sanitizer: travel size sanitizer bottle

Necessary to avoid getting sick/making others sick. Soap and water is also an option; take a mouthful of water, put some soap on hands, then dribble water onto your hands while scrubbing. Do this away from water sources.

48. Rain pants: Marmot Precip pants

These are fine. They're a little baggy on me; the women's version has big hips, and I do not.

49. Rain jacket: Patagonia M10 (no longer made)

I love this jacket, mainly because it fits great. Very light and, so far, very waterproof.

50. Map of area: I prefer National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps

Nothing replaces a paper map. The ability to see a large area at once cannot be duplicated by a GPS or smartphone. I like these maps in particular because the color scheme makes it easy to pick out what I'm looking for.

51. Phone: Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact phone

I just got this phone and chose it in part for backpacking. It's small, waterproof, and has a long battery life (mine goes 4 days on a charge).

52. Camera: Sony RX100 miii

I also just got this camera, as a replacement for my old Canon s95. The Sony is supposedly the best pocket camera you can get and is used by many backpackers. I very much appreciate the viewfinder, which my previous camera didn't have -- it makes it so much easier to compose shots in the bright outdoors.

53. Battery: extra camera battery

Would hate to miss a good shot.

54. Toilet paper: just enough for the trip, in a ziploc

Note: best practice for backpacking is now to pack out your toilet paper, not bury it.

WORN

55. Sun hat: Prana cap

I prefer using a partial-mesh ballcap to a wide-brimmed hat because I can put a hood or knit cap over it for more insulation, and can still put a draping bandana under if it I need more sun protection.

56. Watch: Armitron digital watch with alarm from Walmart

I use this watch when backpacking instead of my everyday (cloth band, analog) watch because it gets less gross when covered in sunscreen, sweat and bugspray. The alarm is also useful.

57. Socks: Darn Tough merino/synthetic blend socks

Other pair of Darn Tough socks

58. Boots: Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM (Men's)

I like these boots but boy are they hot. This is the "waterproof" version (it's not particularly waterproof); I tried the mesh version too but it wasn't much cooler and didn't seem to dry out any faster. I'd prefer to use trail runners, but due to foot problems, I wear extra insoles, which effectively increases the stack height of shoes, making them unstable. The ankle cuff on these boots solves that problem. However, they are like little sweat boxes and I'm afraid I'll eventually have blister problems because of it.

In case you're wondering, I have the men's version because the extra insoles decrease the room available for my foot, requiring a bigger shoe. And they don't make a women's one that big.

59. Shorts: track shorts from thrift store

I love hiking in track shorts. There is nothing so comfortable and well-ventilated.

60. Mid layer: REI Sahara shirt. I wear this OR #11 dependent on temps. This one is for warmer weather.

I like this shirt, the buttons allow it to be worn in more ways than a pullover and it's a little bit cooler in the heat. Typically I'll wear this in the summer and the other shirt in the winter and shoulder seasons.

Not shown, because why would I show you my underwear:

61. Underwear: cotton briefs

There are many quick-drying synthetic underwear options out there now, but I haven't found them to be as comfortable -- and when you're walking a lot of miles in a day, you really don't want to be uncomfortable down there.

62. Bra: regular bra

I don't like sports bras.

That's it for clothes. The idea with backpacking clothing is that everything you bring should be able to be worn at the same time, in layers. There shouldn't be duplicates. The exception to this rule is if having a duplicate brings you exceptional joy -- for instance, if it really improves your mood to be able to change into a non-smelly shirt halfway through.

FIRST AID KIT

63. Antibacterial: small antibacterial packets

You can buy packages of these small single-serve antibacterial gels on eBay or wherever.

64. Blister patches: ENGO blister patches

These are a unique form of blister control in that they attach to your shoe, not your foot. They have an adhesive on one side and are slippery on the other, allowing your sock to move against your shoe without resistance. They're larger than this; this is what's left after I most recently cut some off for use.

When cutting pieces of something you're going to stick to something else, round the corners off or they will tend to get pulled up.

65. Bandaids: large bandaids

I mostly use bandaids for a quick fix on areas where my foot is getting rubbed, but obviously they're also good for cuts.

66. Tape: Leukotape strips

This is an item I would definitely not want to be without. It is the only thing I have found that will stick to my feet long-term. Leukotape is a fabric tape with a slight give to it, making it easier to wrap around curved areas. It will stay on my feet for a couple days of hiking before needing to be replaced. When I know that a particular shoe causes problems for a particular part of my foot, I will wrap that area before even starting the hike, to prevent blisters.

Leukotape comes in a long roll where the tape is stuck to itself, no backing. You can cut off shorter pieces for a trip and stick them to a backing that came with some other kind of adhesive item (such as nametags or mailing labels).

67. Bandage: self-sticking stretchy bandage roll

For holding gauze on in the case of a major cut

68. Gloves: nitrile gloves

In case I need to help someone else who has been injured

69. Sewing kit

I definitely recommend having a sewing kit for clothing and gear repairs on the trail.

70. Bandaids: medium bandaids

It's helpful to have different sizes.

71. Blister pads: 2nd Skin blister pads

I have yet to try these so I'm not sure how well they work. Supposedly good for if a blister has already developed. I would also like to pick up some 2nd Skin burn pads. I once read that burns are the #1 backpacking injury. I'm not sure I believe this and am curious to know what their criteria for "injury" was (though I have certainly given myself a few small burns by trying to handle my stove before it had completely cooled off), but in any case it seems like a good idea to have something on hand.

72. Foam: callus cushions

To provide a buffer around small injuries, blisters, or spots that are rubbing

73. Antiseptic: iodine prep pads

Supposedly better for your wound than alcohol pads

74. Gaze: gauze pads

In case of large cuts. I think I've only had to use my gauze once ever and it was on a day hike.

You'll notice a theme with these items. 95% of the time I dig into my first aid kit, I'm reaching for something to keep an incipient blister from forming.

My kit is missing a couple items present in most first aid kits. One is moleskin, because I haven't found any that will stay stuck to me. The other is medicines, which I keep in my sundries bag instead.

SUNDRIES BAG

75. Paper: scrap paper for writing

In case I want to write a few thoughts or leave a note.

76. Pen: it's a pen!

A space pen might be more appropriate, but this one is easier to hold when my hands are cold.

77. Reading material: article ripped out of a magazine

This is what I typically bring for reading material. Usually the time between stopping for the night and going to bed is filled with chores, and once I start reading in bed I immediately start to fall asleep, so it would be pointless to bring more than that.

78. Bags: more ziplocs, because bags are oh so handy

These can be used as extra trash containers or to keep a camera dry, or hold on to neat fossils, rocks or other items you find on the trail, or parts that fall off of your equipment (!).

79. Bags: bread bags.

Can go over dry socks and back into boots to keep dry socks dry, or over hands to keep gloves dry. Wash them first (but only after eating the bread).

80. Patches: patches for sleeping pad repair

These are patches specifically for the NeoAir XLite sleeping pad. Not sure if they will be any better than regular gear repair tape. So far I've never had to repair a pad in the field.

81. Lighter: Bic lighter

For lighting my stove. I chose orange to make it harder to lose.

82. Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army Nail Clip knife with nail clipper, scissors, tweezers, toothpick, nail file/cleaner, and small blade

I love this knife. You don't need a large blade for backpacking; it's unnecessary weight, as 99% of what you will be using the knife for is just cutting cheese and summer sausage (and you can use your teeth if it comes down to it!). I can't even remember the last time I used the blade on my knife. Scissors are more useful, specifically for cutting tape, pads, patches and thread. The nail clippers and file are also very handy for trimming problem toenails that may cause you pain. Tweezers are another item I wouldn't want to be without.

83. Tape: medical tape

Nice for holding bandaids more securely onto fingers, and other odd tasks

84. Medicine: small container for earplugs which carries not earplugs but my medication and NSAIDs

I will bring just enough of my personal medications and NSAIDs (I prefer naproxen to ibuprofen) for the length of the trip. May also include Benadryl for sleep aid/allergic reactions.

85. Candle: birthday candle for help getting a fire started in emergency

Just some extra assistance in case I need to start an emergency fire. I almost never make fires for fun while backpacking, both due to time/sleepiness issues, wet wood issues, and because I am often in sensitive areas that won't support a lot of wood gathering.

86. Hair tie: it's a hair tie. Useful for hair, or attaching things to things

There is nothing worse than having long hair and losing your hair tie. But hair ties are essentially a beefy rubber band, useful for other tasks such as attaching things to the pack, or allowing me to clip something via mini carabiner to a small tree limb.

87. Filter: coffee filters for use as pre-filter if water has high sediment content

I have yet to use these but the idea is that I would hold them at the opening to my hydration bladder when pouring in water via the filler ziploc, in cases where the water was either cloudy or had a lot of junk floating in it. So far I haven't come across this issue.

88. Paper clip: for who knows what

A useful just-in-case item that essentially weighs nothing.

89. Safety pins: you never know

Same

90. Game: 1.5" playing cards

I might bring these if I'm backpacking with another person. While they are tiny, I haven't found them difficult to play with at all.

91. Earplugs: Mack's slim fit soft foam earplugs

I use earplugs because there are a lot of noises in the forest, and each one sets off my alert system since I am already nervous about bears, and I tend to wake up. Earplugs allow a good night's sleep. Will I miss it if a bear actually does enter camp? Possibly. I did sleep through a mouse chewing into my tent and through my hydration bladder last summer. (Both of these things are very rare and may never happen to you!)

92. Back-up light: small LED light

This is a very tiny, near-weightless handheld light with a single LED. I bring this instead of extra headlamp batteries because there's always the chance of the headlamp itself breaking. It's bright enough to read and do chores by, and -- importantly -- allows you to set it in the "on" position without having to squeeze the button the entire time like most tiny LED lights.

93. Medicine: antacid and anti-diarrheal medications, with dosing instructions

I have definitely used the anti-diarrheal medicine and was very grateful for it. Make sure to have dosing instructions for medications you don't use frequently.

94. Pads: two panty liners, held with rubber band

These are multi-purpose items. They keep my mirror from being scratched, they're good if my period comes off-schedule, and they can be used for padding or liquid absorption if needed. I have a male friend who always puts a full-sized pad at the bottom of his trash bag to absorb liquid from food waste. Obviously the rubber band is a multi-use item as well.

95. Mirror: S.O.L. rescue flash mirror, small

For emergencies but also to allow me to examine facial injuries, see if something's in my eye, etc. See if my make-up is smudged (this is a joke).

96. Tape: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape gear repair tape

I use this instead of duct tape for gear repairs as it looks nicer, is easier to cut to shape, and can be cleaned off more easily if you want to remove it and do a "real" repair later. From my experience it works very well.

97. Compass: Brunton TruArc 3

This is just a light, reasonably priced compass that will work for navigation with a map. If you don't know how to use a compass with a map, you may as well get a mini compass instead just to see where north is.

The number of times I've used the extra features on such a compass (declination setting, ability to align with map) while hiking are backpacking has been very small. Three or four times perhaps? Normally you just want to see which way is generally north so you can tell if this segment that goes east-west on the map is the part of the trail you think you're on, that sort of thing. However, being able to properly use a map and compass is fun, and will allow you to identify distant peaks or find your way with certainty without having to rely on your (potentially dead or dying) phone.

98. Matches: UCO Gear compact safety matches

Back-up fire source.

99. Keys: house and car keys only

For weight savings, I remove the rest of the keys from my ring when I go.

100. Driver's license and credit card

Just in case. An emergency scenario in which I need to exit at a different trailhead and call for a shuttle (or grab a beer?) is not that implausible.

101. Umbrella: Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow

I only bring this for hot, low-tree-cover trips, attaching it via bungee to the strap of my pack. I don't really like it. It's very annoying when you have to go past trees, and when you've got it attached to the pack it's never going to be in the exact right position to block the majority of your body. When you hold it, your arms get tired. But it does cool you off 10-15 degrees and is obviously useful for blocking rain as well, or wind if you want to sit down for a break.

I actually use this umbrella more for summer walks at home than I do for hiking or backpacking. However, many people absolutely love their hiking umbrellas, and even use one and a wind jacket/pants in place of rain gear.

So, there you are. Apparently I bring around 100 items with me, depending how you count.