As with all things, there is a continuum of backpacking styles. On the one side you have the ultralight backpackers. They carry as little as they can, usually with the intention of covering more miles. On the far other side, you have the luxury backpackers who are willing to suffer through carrying a super heavy pack, knowing that once they get to camp, the effort will have been worth it. Well, wouldn’t it be cool if you could combine the two?
In the last few years, some really cool gear has hit the market that now make luxury attainable without breaking the back. In this article, I’m going to point out a few of my favorite luxuries items. In order to be on the list, they either have significantly increase comfort without adding much weight, or they have to significantly decrease weight of existing products without decreasing comfort.
#1 Helinox Chair One and Ground Chair
I think the single piece of gear that has added more camp luxury for me is the Helinox Chair one. We initially started carrying one when my wife was nursing my oldest child (now 3). It was such a hit, that we rarely go anywhere without one now. Our little boy loves it too.
Helinox Chair One – 2.1lb weight, 320b capacity. $100
Helinox Ground Chair – 1.4lb weight, 264lb capacity. $110
#2 – Helinox Cot Lite
What would you give to sleep comfortably on the rockiest ground? 2.6lbs? I have never used a cot while backpacking, but that’s because there hasn’t been a good, lightweight option available until recently. For those that have a bad back or are sick of not sleeping well in the backcountry, the Helinox Cot Lite might be for you.
Helinox Cot Lite – 2.6lb, 265lb capacity. $249
#3 – Big Agnes mtnGLO Tent Light
A light in your tent that is only for your tent? Doesn’t a headlamp work for that? Yes, a headlamp works fine, but this big agnes light spreads the not-too-bright light out across the whole tent to allow the users to see everything in the whole tent without anyone being blinded by a headlamp. This light kit is a string of LED lights that can be attached to the top of your tent from one end to the other. Is it a necessity? No. Is it convenient? Very. And it only weighs a few ounces.
Big Agnes mtnGLO Tent Light Accessory Kit – $39.95
#3 – Nemo Helio Shower
There are very few things I don’t like about spending lengthy amounts of time in the backcountry. About the only thing I can think of is the inconvenience of staying clean. Many companies have offered shower conversion kits for large water bags. The drawbacks to these options are that you have to hang them high (really high if you’re tall) in order to get any water flow, especially when washing your hair or head. It’s not a huge deal if the right tree is close by, but that isn’t always the case. A few years ago, Nemo came out with the Helio Pressure Shower as an alternative that, in my opinion, is much better. The helio shower is definitely a more convenient option, though it is heavier than the shower conversion kits.
With the Nemo Helio Pressure Shower, you fill the reservoir with water and set it in the sun for a few hours. When the water is warm, pump up the reservoir with air to pressurize the system. Then, spray with the nozzle. The hose is over seven feet long in order to reach the heads of the tallest users. No tree or heavy lifting is required.
I’m sure there are many of you out there that think carrying a shower into the backcountry is a little absurd. I definitely agree that it’s unnecessary weight and a quick bath in a stream works just fine. But, the shower is more convenient and can be used not only for showering, but also for kitchen chores or spraying off dirty body parts before climbing into the tent.
Of course, when you start talking about activities other than backpacking, that’s where the shower really shines. Spray sand off after surfing or SUPing at the beach, spray yourself or dog off after a muddy mountain bike ride, etc. And this is a perfect car camping accessory kitchen and bath chores.
#4 – Goal Zero Switch 10 Multi-tool kit
Some people head into the backcountry to get away from the technological life we all live. Others take the technology with them to help enrich the backcountry experience. If you are the latter, then Goal Zero is your brand. Goal Zero offers a variety of solar charger and battery kits to recharge your phone, GPS, Cameras, tablets, etc.
The Goal Zero Switch 10 Multi-tool kits is one of the my favorite GZero items because of its versatility. This USB charger also works as a flashlight or a fan when your tent is a little too warm or muggy. Pair it with the Nomad 7 solar panel and you don’t have to worry about bringing extra batteries.
#5 – Freeze-dried Backpacking Dessert
Freeze-dried backpacking food is not a new item. In fact, it’s been around for decades. But, the food has gotten much tastier over the last five years or so. Among the growing selection of meals are a few dessert options. Mountain House is our most popular brand of freeze-dried food. Their dessert options include Raspberry Crumble, Cheesecake Bites, Apple Crisp, Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Neapolitan Ice Cream. Other brands, such as Backpacker’s Pantry and Alpine Aire, have additional options like cobblers and pies available.
For some people a Snickers is good enough for an after-dinner snack. But, I must say, on a cold night, warm apple crisp or cobbler really hit the spot.
#6 – Nemo Tango Solo and Tango Duo
Do you wish your mummy bag wasn’t so mummy-like? Do you wish that your backcountry sleep experience was a little more like your home sleep experience? Take a look at the Nemo Tango Solo and Tango Duo sleep systems. They are essentially a pad with a lightweight bed sheet over it and a cozy, ultralight down comforter than snaps on top. The foot is a highly water-resistant fabric so that your bag doesn’t get wet and your feet get cold. Not only is this system ultra-comfortable, it also weighs less than most high-end sleeping bags of similar warmth.
#7 – Backpacking Pillows
Gone are the days when you have to stuff your clothes in a stuff sack to use as a pillow. I mean, you’re still welcome to do that if you’d like, but with such a large selection of ultralight pillows, why would you? Maybe tradition, I guess. There are tons of great pillows on the market. I’ll point out a few that I’ve used. These aren’t necessarily better than the others on the market, they are simply the ones that I’ve had experience with and know they’re pretty decent.
My experience is that the Nemo Fillo (Orange one) is more comfortable than the Marmot Strato because of a layer of memory foam, but the Marmot pillow is ridiculously small and lightweight. Lay a fleece jacket or merino shirt over the Strato pillow and it is still quite comfy.
Every year we are impressed by the new and innovative luxuries for the backpacking market. I’m sure there are many that I’ve missed. I will try to point out other cool new luxury items in subsequent posts. Until then, enjoy the mountains!