Declutter your gear closet by repurposing your favorites
If your household members are gear junkies like mine, you might find your storage overflowing with backpacks and sleeping bags. With the popularity of tiny houses and KonMari-ing, it can feel a little excessive. Slowly, I am incorporating my backpacking gear into daily usage to discover what things I really need in life. Below are some suggestions and if you have more, please post below.


After whipping up a copycat batch of fluffy ginormous Big Sur Bakery pancakes- the kind hard to pull off in the backcountry but easily accessible at the bakery when exiting the California Coastal wilderness- I pull out my 1.3L Evernew Titanium pot. In it I add some blueberries and put the heat on low. 10 minutes and simmer later, I have a fruity reduction sauce to top my breakfast. Why own 2 small pots, one for the back and one for the front country? My pot is also perfect for melting butter and cooking flour for pâte à choux or cheesy roux. Lest you think my palate it pretentious, my pot has cooked its fair number of hard boiled eggs and rice noodles on my gas range.

How often do you need to grab a meal on the go? A lunch at the park, a train ride, a dinner during a community meeting? I carry an Orikaso Fold-Flat Bowl in my bag for these emergencies. It can be used as a bowl or a plate, and doesn’t need to be cleaned really. Instead, you can lick it (I suggest not during the meeting) or wave it in the air vigorously (also not during the meeting). In a pinch, it can be used as a cheese & bread cutting board when needing to refuel during an all-day tasting tour of wine country. Doing dishes is such a waste of time!

Do you know who have a good reputation for predicting their thirst and keeping well hydrated? Kids. Not. When they are thirsty, they want water ASAP. Which is why I carry my Avex or Nalgene water bottles everywhere. These bottles have hollow covers which I fill with water so the wee little ones can easily sip without spillage. Have you ever tried drinking water out of a plastic sippy cup? It’s unpalatable. This way I can drink like an adult and my kids’ dehydration doesn’t get in the way of my smoothly planned day. I have water bottles stashed around the house too, for quick hydration access for older kids like me.

There are no coffee drinkers in my house, and thus no high-end coffee pots or pods. What I do have are 2 plastic coffee filter cones. The large is for my sister and the small is for everyone else. One of the first things people ask when I suggest we go on an ultralight backpacking trip is “how much coffee can we bring?” After witnessing some friends (unsuccessfully) use toilet paper at camp to filter their coffee, I keep a filter in my first-aid kit. The coffee cones are stored in the kitchen and not the gear closet so any house guests can make a fresh cup at anytime.

Above, in Cochamo, Chile: Evernew 1.3L Titanium pot, Orikaso Fold-Flat Bowl, and the prAna Janice Pants which I will henceforth refer to as The Perfect Pair Of Pants (TPPOP).


We have down quilts for all seasons, and they have come in handy whilst having overnight guests. I simply place a quilt in a fancy duvet and my guests stay warm all night. In the morning I am complimented on my luxurious bedding. I have yet to turn any of these guests into backpackers but I believe it to be a good start.

No one ever tells you that many kids prefer not to sleep alone by themselves all night long for years and years. If that information was widely distributed, I believe our population would collapse. A perfect solution to this dilemma is keeping a camping pad & sleeping bag in your child’s closet. During a midnight awakening, simply put the items on the floor and fall asleep. It’s such a quick & comfortable solution to a situation that can easily get out of hand. You might not even remember where you are when you wake up the next morning.


“There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” That’s what I tell my neighbors when we’re hanging out in our court and I’m wearing my Rab Infinity Down Jacket. They may make fun of me for being over dressed while they attempt to hide their shivers, but I am never cold. My down jacket isn’t only for fall nights alongside a mountain lake! Weather in our city doesn’t drop below 40 degrees in the winter, but that doesn’t stop me from keeping off the chill during a stroll through the neighborhood. I may look ridiculous but in my opinion it is more ridiculous to call 40 degrees cold.

Above, near Trolltunga in Norway: Keeping warm in my Rab Infinity Down Jacket while playing cards at our campsite after a glorious day of back country skiing. My pot and bowl are not too far away, of course.

I first fell in love with wool undergarments while traveling for a year through South America. Every time I took a shower, which was infrequent, I hand washed my underwear. My Icebreaker Siren bikini dried so fast, and were so comfortable and always smelled cleaned. The problem was, they were expensive so I owned only 2 pairs. Fortunately I’ve been able to stock up on underwear I can afford through Massdrop, and have switched exclusively to wool underwear.

It’s difficult to find pants that look appropriate in the front country but function exceptionally well in the backcountry. The first pair I found were the prAna Janice Pants, and I haven’t had much luck since. I would love to see more products like this on the market so I don’t have to have 2 wardrobes, one for the front and one for the backcountry. Quick-dry pants and wool underwear allow me to bike to work in the morning and arrive with my just-showered scent. I don’t have a lot of time to keep in shape for my weekend excursions, so dressing in gear helps me sneak in workouts like bike commuting or running to meetings instead of Lyft-ing.

Above: Playing city tourist in my backpacking clothes featuring TPPOP. Left: Machu Picchu, Peru; Center: Bogota, Colombia; Right: São Paulo, Brazil next to a book vending machine in a Metro station.
Above, in Salento, Colombia: TPPOP can be made into comfortable shorts!
Above: TPPOP are perfect for long distance & grueling outdoor excursions. Left: At 15,500 feet near the peak of Illiniza Norte in Ecuador; Right: Santa Cruz loop in Cordillera Real, Peru.

Blurring my front- and back-country gear really helps decrease the amount of money I spend on stuff, which in turn decreases the amount of time that I need to work to earn money for gear. Instead, I use the bonus free time to enjoy the outdoors and the bonus money to save for early retirement*. Part of what attracts me to ultralight backpacking is simply taking less stuff which means it’s easier to rifle through my backpack to look for something, and much less time packing, laundry, and clean-up upon returning from the wilderness. Perhaps it is cliche to end this with a Chuck Palahniuk quote, but it’s genius: “The things you own end up owning you.”
* Early retirement = continuous backpacking trips
thumb_upKrystalGardner, Jackson Williams, and 3 others


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