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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.

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.

To set the record straight, here are some small things which have made a big impact on some of my trips.

Kitchen Sink

OK, When I’m solo backpacking, I wouldn’t take a Kitchen Sink with me. But when two or more people head for the backcountry together, a 5 Liter 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 tiredest, 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 absolute backcountry pro.

Wilderness Wash

If you didn’t spot it in the above paragraph, Wilderness Wash is my 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 300 feet from a water source.

If you use the 40ml / 1.3oz 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.


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.

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

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 Sack

When packing gear into your backpack, think of an eVac Dry Sack 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.

Mosquito Headnet

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 Sea to Summit Headnet. 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.

BACKPACKING HACK #3: Our 30 Liter UltraMesh Stuff sack will work as a headnet if you are in a pinch – and of course works as an ultralight storage sack in your pack, too

The items listed in this account have little in common – except they are small, relatively inexpensive, and incredibly useful. And there you have it. I can virtually guarantee that none of the above will feature in the next gearhead bragging session.

But sometimes it’s the unsung heroes who actually get the job done.


Featured Image: Kirsten Williams

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