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Unsung Heroes: Why These Small Products Pack a Big Punch

Unsung Heroes: Why These Small Products Pack a Big Punch

Small is beautiful. But small often gets overlooked. To set the record straight, here are some small things that have made a big impact on our tirps.

When people talk about their outdoor gear, the conversation usually turns to the ‘big ticket’ items: tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, shell jackets. Almost nobody talks about the smaller things. Diminutive pieces of gear that rarely get splashed across the front page of an outdoor magazine, but surprisingly make your life in the open air that much easier.

Kitchen Sink

kitchen sink

When solo backpacking is involved, we wouldn’t recommend taking a Kitchen Sink but when two or more people head for the backcountry together, a Kitchen Sink can be a fine thing to have along. At the end of the day, setting up a sink full of warm water, laying out a DryLite Towel and some Wilderness Wash, and leaving the most tired, grungiest members of the group to get a rejuvenating wash while you begin dinner is an absolute game-changer.

BACKPACKING HACK #1:Wash your cookware and tableware in the sink after dinner, then use the leftover water to douse the camp fire before going to bed, and you look like an a backcountry pro.

Wilderness Wash

wilderness wash

If you didn’t spot it in the above paragraph, Wilderness Wash is our go-to backcountry cleanser. Concentrated and biodegradable, ideal for cookware, tableware, clothing and human beings, the best part is that it comes in a bottle that really does not leak. Just remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and use the Wilderness Wash 200 feet from a water source.

BACKPACKING HACK #2: If you use the 50ml / 1.6oz size, keep the bottle once you’ve emptied it. Then decant some Trek & Travel Hand Sanitizer into the bottle and put that in your solo backpacking bathroom kit.


x bowl

Calling an X-Bowl “a plastic bowl” is like calling a Swiss Army Knife “a sharp object”. As we’ve recounted before on this blog, the pack-flat X-Bowl also does the following:

  • Measure with it - X-Products have measuring lines molded into the silicone rubber.
  • Chop with it - flip it over and use the reinforced nylon as a cutting board.
  • Pour or strain with it - pinch one side of the silicone rubber side together to form a spout; trap a spork in that spout if you’re straining liquids.
  • Keep food warm in it - put a little hot water in an XL-Bowl, set an X-Bowl inside of this and put whatever food you want to stay hot inside the X-Bowl.

Members of the team have sat down to fresh meals which were produced in minutes using the above suggestions and watched the sun go down while considering that they would be happy to eat as well at home. A Pinot Noir in an X-Mug seals the deal.

Garment Mesh Bag

garment mesh bag

Travel products rarely get talked about at all when people are gushing about their favorite equipment. But if you ever car camp, or set up a base camp for other activities like mountain biking or canyoneering, you are probably living out of a duffle bag. Which is to say, you may spend a lot of your time rummaging around in your bag looking for an errant sock or glove.

Enter Garment Mesh Bags. Exit inner-duffle chaos. So easy it feels like cheating.

Evac Dry Bag

evac dry bag

When packing gear into your backpack, think of the Evac Dry Bag as a lightweight stuff sack with a built-in secret: not only is it waterproof, but you can squeeze out excess air out before sliding it into your backpack. The air passes through the air-permeable waterproof eVent base.

Pack your sleeping bag or down jacket into one, and it will stay dry and mildly compressed – remember to squeeze it into a confined space so it does not draw itself full of air again. If your backcountry adventures take you anywhere where it will rain or snow, this is what you need to pack your compressible gear.

BACKPACKING HACK #3: If you are using a dry bag as a critter bag / bear hang, make sure to run the line through the D-Ring at the top of the bag. This will take the load off of the buckle – remember bags hung in trees are subject to a load equaling the weight of the contents times the acceleration of being bounced around by the wind.

Mosquito Headnet

mosquito head net

If you’re OK with flies crawling on your face, or with living with mosquito bites on the nape of your neck, fine. If not, get a Mosquito Head Net. The soft polyester mesh is black for better visibility and has hexagonal holes for better airflow.

You may be an ounce-counter: if so, count this ounce straight into the lid pocket of your pack during bug season.

Ultra-Sil Day Pack

ultra sil day pack

There is a simple reason that Backpacker Magazine awarded this packable marvel their Gold award: it transpires that the Editors had taken their Ultra-Sil Daypacks on countless trips over the prior half-dozen years and realized jut how useful they were. If a small backpack would come in handy for grocery shopping on a thru-hike zero day, or if you shed layers as a day hike turns out to be unexpectedly warm, or if you need a way of transporting essentials on a tour of European capital cities, you need one of these in your pocket. Updated for 2023 to include bluesign-approved PFC-free fabric. The Ultra-Sil Daypack may be small and very, very light – but measured in usefulness it is simply huge.

The items listed in this account have little in common – except they are small, relatively inexpensive, and incredibly useful. And there you have it, sometimes it’s the unsung heroes who get the job done.

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