Back to Nature (Published on - June 29, 2005)
Backpacking lite
Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
Deer curiously eyes photographer while crossing paths.
By mid-morning we’d packed the Jeep tight with two sets of equipment.

One small corner of the truck bed was occupied by two medium sized, internal frame backpacks, two tightly rolled, sleeping pads and four anti-shock, hiking poles.

This equipment encompassed all we would need to survive a few days hiking far away from civilization.

The remaining three quarters of space was filled with base camp equipment: From an ample 9x9 tent, deluxe, inflatable bed, cozy quilt, luxurious feather pillows, elegant (gifted) picnic backpack: including wine glasses, a Coleman cook stove and even a small fan and what else – a toaster.

Most campsites have installed electrical boxes for the camper’s convenience, but primarily because building campfires aren’t permitted due to the danger of sparking wild fires at certain times of the year. Seasoned campers indulge in bringing along a couple of their favorite electrical appliances, not only creating a pleasurable experience base camping, but this may also be recommended in “no burn” areas.

With tarps strung, tent erected, dry fire wood in place and protected, table covered, stove in place, base camp is set. With a good night’s sleep we prepare to hike into the wilderness. Barring wildfires and flash flooding, we’ve reviewed our equipment and feel confident that we are reasonably prepared to deal with most situations. It has taken a couple of years to hone our backpacks down to the “essentials of life” and still remain comfortable for our backpacking experience.

Although we pack fairly light, we aren’t extreme hikers like my brother, Cliff, who tramps back in the wilderness for several weeks to months. For extreme light backpacking the equipment becomes even more minimal, but for our experience we can include a few extras for optimum comfort.

We would like to share our solutions for your convenience to give you an ideal starting point and guide to put together your own equipment. But remember personal research, testing and experience is invaluable for this kind of trekking, because each hiker presents their own special needs. What we suggest as equipment may not meet or be suitable for your personal needs. With that said, here’s what works for us.

Our treks are for a week or less so we can bear a slightly larger tent than say, a bivy or one-person shelter. We take the Eureka Tetragon 7. It weighs just over 6 pounds. For the two of us that weight is shared three pounds each. It takes less than 10 minutes to erect this tent even in inclement weather. This tent can be freestanding. We use external frame backpacks for any trek longer than a week, but for less we use medium sized, internal framed backpacks. We’ve found Kelty Redwing (4 lbs. 11 oz.) serves our ventures well. It is well recommended by users at (I’m on my second Redwing and I love it.)

You will need a good pair of light-hiking boots and cushioned socks. It is extremely important to take care of your feet. Keep them dry and healthy. Our favorite hiking boots are Lowa Renegade Gore-Tex Waterproof Hiking Boots.

Survival essentials require: Shelter, bedding, clean water, cooking equipment and food, first aid and personal hygiene. These are our tried and true solutions:

• Shelter: Eureka Tetragon 7

• Bedding: Kelty Light Year 25 degree down sleeping bag. (2 lbs. 3 oz.) Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Regular Sleeping Pad (15 ounces).

• Purified Water: Sweetwater Guardian, Nalgene Lexan Wide-Mouth Loop-Top Bottle - 32 oz. Don’t forget to take along water. You should still drink two to three liters of water during a day hike. Caution: Don’t drink too much water at once. You can’t absorb water that fast. It will go right through you.

• Cooking Equipment: Stove - Snow Peak GigaPower Stove - Titanium Auto Ignition (Less than 3 oz.) (Average boiling time: 3.5 minutes for 1 liter of water), Snow Peak Giga Power Windscreen, Snow Peak Giga Power Fuel, Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset (11.6 ounces), Snow Peak Titanium Spork (0.6 ounce), (Super lightweight, strong as steel) Lexan Utensils.

• Freeze dried meals: Mountain House - Rice and Chicken, Mac and Cheese, Blueberry Cheesecake to name a few. You may burn a minimum of 100 extra food calories per hour on light load hiking. We always carry nutrition bars and extra protein such as almonds.

Save weight on personal hygiene equipment. Use a shampoo that includes a cream rinse or an all-in-1 body wash. Cut off the handle to your toothbrush, take a child’s size brush for your hair, make certain that all your medications are updated and are in waterproof containers then put in waterproof bags. A must have: First Aid kit, including ivy aide, antihistamine cream and tablets and Q-tips.

Other accessories include: Waterproof map, sunscreen, bug repellent toilettes, flashlight and extra batteries, a whistle combo/waterproof matches/mirror, compass (practice this at home BEFORE you leave home), emergency blanket (Aluminized non-stretch polyester, reflects body heat back to body, wind and waterproof, 1.8 ounces), rope, moleskin to prevent blisters, and a multipurpose knife. These are the essentials. Your preferences may include a camera, binoculars and so forth. Consider the value versus weight.

With everything in place and planned you’ll be ready and safe for your next adventure. We’ve just experienced watching Florida deer softly amble near our campsite along with a curious little raccoon. You never know what you may see or discover on your way back to nature, peace and harmony.

Karen can be reached at

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