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The 10 Non-Essentials: A Lightweight Backpacking Gift Guide

The biggest benefit of having an ultralight backpacking gear list is that you can add a few luxury items back in without having to worry so much about the extra weight. So, after you’ve cut your toothbrush in half and cut off all of your clothing tags to reduce your gear weight, think about the extra items you can bring along to make your trip more enjoyable.

GSI Stainless Steel Hip Flask
GSI Stainless Steel Hip Flask ($29.95) – 7.7 ounces

1. Hip Flask

There’s nothing quite like sipping a little whiskey or bourbon after a hard day’s hiking or passing a flask around the campfire to new friends and old. Weighing 7.7 ounces, the stainless steel GSI Outdoors Glacier Hip Flask ($29.95) with a tethered cap, slips discretely into your back pocket.

Kindle 6 inch Glare Free Book Reader
Kindle 6 inch Glare Free Book Reader ($79.99) – 6.7 ounces

2. A Book Reader

Many backpackers love to lie in their sleeping bags and catch up on a little reading with a good book. But many also bring a Kindle along because having 1000 books is so much better than just one! Weighing just 6.7 ounces, a 6″ Kindle Book Reader ($79.99) is easy to pack, holds a 10 hour charge, and weighs less than many paperbacks!

Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit ($64.95) - 6 ounces
Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit ($64.95) – 6 ounces

3. Camp Chair Kit

If you already carry an inflatable sleeping pad, why not upgrade your in-camp comfort with an ultralight chair kit that only weighs 6 ounces more? The Big Agnes Cyclone SL chair kit ($64.95) is compatible with all 20″ wide inflatable sleeping pads (including Therm-a-Rest NeoAir pads) and works with pads that are 60″, 66″, 72″, or 78″ in length.

30 inch wide Klymit Static V Luxe Sleeping Pad ($99.95) 26 ounces
30 inch wide Klymit Static V Luxe Sleeping Pad ($99.95) –  26.5 ounces

4. Extra-wide 30″ Sleeping Pad

There’s nothing like a 30″ wide sleeping bag to add a little luxury to a backpacking trip. If you’re sick of having your arms slip off the sides of your pad at night, you know what I mean. Kymit’s 26.5 ounce Static V Luze Sleeping Pad  ($99.95) is a full 30 inches wide for extra rolling room that crams down to a tiny pack size with minimum weight.

NEMO Fillo Backpacking Pillow ($39.95) 10 ounces
NEMO Fillo Backpacking Pillow ($39.95) – 10.8 ounces

5. Cushy Pillow

Put an end to restless nights of backpacking and camping and upgrade your sleep system with a cushy pillow. Covered with velvety soft microfiber, the NEMO Fillo Backpacking Pillow ($39.95) combines a baffled 3 in. air bladder with 1 in. of luxury foam on top, allowing you to dial in the perfect amount of comfort. Weighing 10.8 ounces, this pillow is worth its weight in gold!

GSI Java Drip Coffee Maker
GSI Java Drip Collapsible Coffee Maker ($12.95) – 4.3 ounces

6. Fresh Coffee

Fresh coffee is all that separates humans from wild beasts. Grind yourself a fresh batch each morning with the 9.3 ounce GSI Javamill ($29.95), a compact nesting hand crank coffee grind with a foldable handle and nesting design that helps to conserve pack space. Pair it with the 4.3 ounce collapsible, fold-flat Java Drip Coffee Maker ($12.95) to make yourself a fresh brew.

UCO Mini Ultralight Tealight Lantern ($14.45)
UCO Mini Ultralight Tealight Lantern ($14.45) – 3.5 ounces w/candle

7. Candle Lantern

There’s nothing like the glow of candlelight when you need to hang out in your tent during stormy weather or in winter when the sun goes down early. Plus candle lanterns can add a little warmth in your tent and keep condensation or frost from forming on the walls in cold weather. Weighing just 3.5 ounces, w/ one candle, the UCO Mini Tealight Lantern ($14.45) has a 4 hour burn time.

Zeiss Terra ED 8x25 Binoculars ($350) - 10 ounces
Zeiss Terra ED 8×25 Binoculars ($299) – 10.9 ounces

8. Binoculars

If you head out to the wilderness to view wildlife, get yourself or your friend a pair of binoculars to see more of it, even if it’s far away. The rugged new Terra ED Pocket 8×25 ($299) from Zeiss delivers stunning optical performance that betrays its small, compact design. With 8x magnification, precise focusing and just 10.9 ounces, the Terra ED Pocket stows away easily in your pack without adding undue weight or bulk.

Hohner Marine Band Harmonica
Hohner Marine Band Harmonica ($43.00) – 3.2 ounces

9. Musical Instrument

Making music in the wilderness is a great way to pass some quality alone time, make friends, and keep the bears away from camp. One of the world’s most recognizable harmonicas, made famous by players from Little Walter to John Lennon, Paul Butterfield to Bruce Springsteen, and known for its full tone and wood comb, the Hohner Marine Band Harmonica ($43.00) weighs just 3.2 ounces and may be the most portable and beloved musical instrument ever played by explorers and adventurers. 

Fast Charginng RAVPower 20100mAh External Battery Pack Power Bank ($69.00) - 13.4 ounces
Fast Charging RAVPower 20100mAh External Battery Pack Power Bank ($69.00) – 13.4 ounces

10. Fast Charging Battery Pack

Power. Recharge your book reader, tablet, phone, mp3 player, and LED camp lights with the latest generation of fast charging battery packs. The RAVPower 20100 mAh External Battery Pack ($69.00) weighs just 13.4 ounces and has plenty of juice for you and your friends to top off your gadgets. Featuring Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 technology, the RAVPower charges devices 75% faster and can charges an iPhone 6S & 6 almost 7 times, a Galaxy S6 almost 5 times or an iPad Air more than once.

15 comments

  1. Hey, why not live it up, right? :)

  2. You just blew my mind with the Big Agnes Cyclone Chair. Does it work well? Sounds like an excellent luxury item. Great list as always!

  3. I get in enough trouble without a flask of burbon. ;0). That and the mouth harp they would throw me out of camp.

  4. I think of all those, the tea light lantern intrigues me the most. Light, a bit of heat and an emergency backup fire starter. My GF brings her kindle and i noticed that a 14 hour day in a sleeping bag, there is only so much you can do. She reads. I annoy her for my amusement. She may kill me in my sleep

  5. Good point, Earl. A little heat this time of year is a good thing. :) I might have to get the 30″ sleeping pad – I hate rolling off the edge of a pad.

    Thanks for the wish list, Philip. :)

  6. A reader would indeed be handy on cloudy nights. On clear nights, I prefer a sky atlas (SkySafari phone app in red mode, +/- planisphere, fold-out Messier object map), red mode light, and binos. Being a city dweller with maybe 5 stars visible from my neighborhood, I love to gawk at the stars when camping.

  7. The missus has been clamoring for a wider sleeping pad, so I was intrigued by the Klymit pad. But, it’s over 6′ long, upwards of a pound and a half, and that R value (1.4) is nothing to write home about. Can anyone recommend any alternatives that deliver width at a shorter length (66″ would be plenty for her) and better R value?

    • I think Klymit makes an insulated version of this pad too. You should also check out Exped – awesome mats.

    • Klymit will shorten it for you. Won’t help the R-value, but will shave some weight so she can add a thinlight pad.

    • I have a 28″ wide Exped — I forget exactly the R-value, but it’s high. Not light, though, but I really like it. Very easy to inflate and deflate, too. I toss & turn a lot, so I need something wide, and this works well for me — quiet, as well. The only down side to the wide mat is it limits my attempts to fit into a lighter, two-person tent with my wife (I think the Hyperlight will work for overnights, but it is tight and a bit awkward with the pole in the middle of the single entrance — it will work great for just me when my wife goes to California without me).

    • I third the Exped!

      I have the extra wide regular length SynMat UL 7. It weighs in around 19oz and packs down to about the size of a liter nalgene. I sleep on my side and move around a lot at night, so the extra wight is worth a proper night’s sleep.

      As for space in the tent, it is kind of big. My boyfriend has a Neo Air and together they take up the width of our Zpacks Duplex. Though maybe that’s a good thing, as there’s no room to roll off at night.

      I love the way it inflates and deflates, but found inflating it to be a chore, so got the schnozzle pump bag. The bag is much quicker and keeps me from getting light headed. It also does double duty as my pack liner.

  8. Nice Zeiss binoculars. I want to upgrade from my old Olympus set.

  9. Zeiss binoculars are great as I bought mine in the early 80’s. Mine are 8 by 20’s and they weigh 6 oz. I use them for viewing animal’s and birds. Also, they are great for scoping a lake to locate large fish for fishing. It’s probably best to leave your harmonica at home because most people are trying to get away from noise and civilization! My harmonica stays home. Thanks

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