I have hosted enough beginner friendly trips or seen my share of oversized backpacks to know that people don't know what to bring into the backcountry. Like I mentioned in my Gear List post you should know after your first few outings what you have not used and can leave behind. But sometimes (nerves involved) you can get carried away and end up bringing more then you need. I have a terrible habit of over packing for cold weather trips. For some reason two buffs, a baseball cap, a skull cap, a baclava, and a heavier merino wool hat always seem to find their way in my pack. I am yet to be on a trip where those items were used altogether. Honestly I can't think of a time I needed all those items and didn't have them (probably because I packed them, like a newb). Below is my list of what I have observed from those trips and some reasons why you may decide you need them.
- Camp Chairs- These are cute. I mean really adorable. We are out here to connect with nature and we have the gumption to bring an artificial device to keep us above the ground. If you already have a heavy pack this should be a no brainer to leave it home. Ok I admit I have owned one, and it was nice to sit in but I didn't need to lug in the extra weight when I could easily improvise my sleeping pad or pack and serve the same purpose. So go ahead Princess Peach, leave the chair for car camping.
- Multiple Water Containers- Ok hear me out. Having your water in a single container that could fail is not ideal or safe. But if you have a hydration bladder in your pack (and all the members of your party) you probably do not need a hard shelled water bottle on each side of your hip. Hydration bladders do not fail easily and unless solo, you can share with a friend. Additional containers are heavy, serve a duplicate purpose and tend to be left somewhere on the trail too often. If you need to use an electrolyte solution in your bladder you can easily clean it out when you get home. It amazes me when people find it useful to have a hydration bladder, and Nalgenes. On occasion I do carry a ultralight collapsible Platypus bottle if I won't be unloading my pack completely at night. But this is the only exception. Definitely no more then two containers for water.
- Books- I use to bring books. (Sara would joke here and say, 'Back when you could read' or something smart ass like that.) but rarely read them when carried. If I thought I would have free time to read, something changed and the time disappeared. I carried a book for nothing. So then I realized I don't need to carry a book, I have a damn smartphone that could hold a book. Yeah it is not the easiest thing to read on, but I have never been laid up for long enough that it bothered me to read off the tiny screen. So yeah, just leave them at home or put a book on your phone.
- A Deck of Cards- With the exception of Cards Against Humanity a deck of cards is almost always useless. On a recent trip where we thought we were going to be bored for a few hours we thought we needed cards. None of us brought them (because our packs were heavy enough that it didn't cross our minds). We ended up keeping ourselves entertained by......wait for it...... exploring our surroundings. Late into the night we joked, talked about trips and just bullshitted till we were exhausted. No need for cards.
- Solar Chargers- Your going to hate me for this one, but leave them home. Yeah they are awesome and make you feel like your 30 hours in the wilderness is actually a multi-month expedition. In reality they are heavy, expensive and a waste of space. You won't need to recharge your phone everyday or power anything that a simple battery stick couldn't do. Unless you are planning a expedition that needs to recharge your media equipment, leave it at home.
- A Backcountry Speaker- Don't laugh, I have seen it. I love music. I love the backcountry. I don't need to hear any music louder then the phone will play it and neither does the wilderness. It is even worse to be in an area with other campers that have a speaker. Your stuck listening to their friend's shitty Indie band as you try to have a conversation with your friends. Again save it for the car camping experience.
- An Axe or Saw- There have been........no occasions where I wished someone on my trip had a saw or axe. Unless you plan on making your new home in the hills, you should leave the axe with the rest of your lumberjack outfit. Same with the saw. If you have any common sense you shouldn't be removing tree limbs with a saw. If you plan on getting your limb caught between rocks, by all means pack it in.
- Camp Lanterns- Again there is a place for this, like car camping. If you already have a headlamp why would you need a lantern? Yeah it can be nice, but why carry it unless you plan using it for multiple uses. Plus there are ways to improvise your headlamp and a plastic bottle to create a camp lamp for no extra weight. (And no this is not an excuse for that extra water bottle, put it back).
- Camp Towels- I don't understand the infatuation with these. Everyone brings one, and I rarely see anyone use it and not look like they are attempting to find a good use for it. If you are planning on doing some swimming it is most likely warm weather and you will dry off faster then it would mater. If you are on a trip where you don't plan on getting wet, why bring it. Just leave it and save yourself from the opportunity to look stupid.
- Camp Soap- Again unless you plan on bathing over the course of your three day trip why do you need soap? You don't need soap to clean your dishes (water works fine). Soap is just unnecessary to carry for most your trips. It is also just another item that leaves traces that we were there. Guess what? Not everything is sterile outdoors and you don't need to be either.
When in doubt, leave it out. Pack light, hike happy.