"Oh my god" Backpacking Items!
Jim and I did the John Muir Trail in 2016, and we found that our gear was great, but we but had few pleasant surprises. We discovered a few things that we remarked gave us particular joy, and we made a list of them. I doubt I'll ever backpack again without these 6 items.
1. Miso Soup: When we got in to camp for the night, we were invariably tired. The first thing we did was heat some water, and have a cup of Miso Soup. It was salty, restful and felt restorative. It weighed very little and really hit the spot.
2. Camp Chair: We carried the REI Flexlite camp chair on the JMT. On the one hand, you want to keep your pack as light as possible, and I was about at my max when we picked up a food drop. Each day after the food drop my pack got lighter and lighter, and a luxury item made more and more sense. However, at camp every night being able to sit and rest seemed more like a necessity then a luxury. It was so resting to have a seat with back support. Call it a luxury, but I'll be taking the Flexlite the next time I do the JMT.
3. Gravity Filter: it seems like I have spent a lifetime pumping water at camp, and its not that big of a deal. However, to have to pump zero water for the whole trip was surprisingly joyous. For a solo hike I take aqua mira liquid drops, but for a pair of hikers or more this thing is wonderful. It really started to slow down, and we needed a new filter cartridge after 14 days on the trail, FYI.
4. Pepperoni instead of beef jerky: As we were packing food we defaulted to our traditional protein source for the trail: beef jerky. We tried to change up the lunches for each of the 4 segments of our trip, so we got pepperoni in the plastic jars. That stuff was wonderful. I don't think I'll go back to beef jerky for a long time.
5. Deodorant: Jim and I got convinced of the value of personal hygieneon the trail a long time ago. We swam in lakes, washed our bodies off, washed clothes, and took baths with wet wipes every night. On the JMT we shared a tent, so our tent weight was only 1 lb 2 oz for each person (a Tarptent MoTrail) and we appreciated the thoughtfulness of our tent partner keeping reasonably clean. I keep clean when I don't share a tent also, as a consideration to myself. We had a travel size deodorant tube that contained a block of dry white waxy stuff. If worked fine, but when it got thinner it broke, and became a pain to use. We thought a gel that extruded or a spray-on would be better.
6. Solar Panel and battery that worked: Our 2016 JMT was heavy on photography, and we had a GoPro, a Sony a6000 camera, and 2 iphones which we used for videos and timelapses. We carried a Suntastics 5 solar panel, and an Anker 6700 ma battery. By sundown the Ankar battery was fully charged with the solar panel, and our cameras and phones were pretty much discharged. I lay in my bag and charged each of the devices one at a time, and it was no hassle. I didn't go to sleep right away anyway. With a setup like that you could go anywhere and know that you were self sufficient on energy, if there is sun. It was a nice reassurance.