Double Duty

“If you can’t ride two horses at once you shouldn’t be in the circus.”

~  James Maxton (1885-1946)

Items that can fulfill more than one purpose are a great way of decreasing your base weight. Here are fifteen examples of multi-use backpacking gear:

  • Bandana in convenience store mode.

    Pot: Can act as bowl, cup and washing vessel.

  • Bandana: Towel, water filter, neck protection, pot cleaner, tent drier, hanky, useful to wear on your face during sand storms, makeshift gaiters when the trail is overgrown, handy if you are low on funds and decide to rob a convenience store.
  • Smart Phone: Cell phone, MP3, camera, GPS, computer for keeping a journal.
  • Hiking Poles: Can be used to hold up many lightweight tents and tarps. Very helpful when crossing fast flowing rivers (see River Crossings in HEALTH & SAFETY). Also handy for protection in Third World countries when you find yourself surrounded by a pack of potentially rabid dogs.
  • Backpack: Put under your feet at night, thus allowing you to use a ¾ length rather than a full-length mat. It’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds. It’s good for you as well, as after a long day’s walking having your feet raised helps to decrease swelling in the lower extremities.
  • Tent Peg: In addition to its primary role in keeping your shelter up, can be used instead of a potty trowel to dig holes.
  • Sleeping Mat: Can be used as a makeshift frame sheet to give structure to a frameless backpack; foam models are good for sitting and stretching on during breaks…………useful for sliding down waterfalls as well.

Thermarest Ridgerest in waterfall mode.

  • Dental Floss: Can double as thread for sewing.
  • Duct Tape: Can be used instead of bandaids or moleskin; gear repairs in the field.
  • Baking Soda: Cleaning pots and drinking bottles; toothpaste substitute; helps to remove foot odour from shoes; antacid for tummy rumblings; helps to relieve itching associated with insect bites, bee stings and poison ivy/oak; underarm deodorant substitute……….at the end of your hike, it’s always nice to smell a little better in case you need to hitch back to your car!
  • Umbrella: Represents an unbeatable combination of shade, ventilation and, of course, wet weather protection. Not so great in high winds or when hiking through overgrown terrain.
Greg "Malto" Gressel wading through the appropriately named "Duck Hole." One of the more memorable moments from our recent trip in New York's Adirondack mountains. #thehikinglife #adirondacks #shouldhavebroughtflippers

Dampish conditions in New York’s Adirondack mountains.

  • Socks: Can double as mittens.
  • Hydration bladder: If extra clothes aren’t doing the job, you can inflate your empty hydration bladder and use it as a makeshift pillow.
  • Sleeping Quilt: If temps drop lower than expected, a quilt can be draped over your shoulders on chilly mornings and evenings around camp.
  • Poncho Tarp: Can serve as shelter, pack cover, rain protection, ground sheet. Along with the bandana and baking soda, the ultimate multi-purpose backpacking item.

MLD ProPoncho in tarp mode | Florida Trail, 2012

MLD ProPoncho in Poncho mode | Ouachita Trail, 2011