Small stuff: the Ditty bag

 Ditty bag

A bag full of 'stuff'

A bag full of ‘stuff’

The ditty bag- a simple name for what languishes in the pack, holding all that useful ‘what ifs’ and fixing stuff, and spare this ‘n’ that, and, and…

As a teenager and in my early twenties there was little in the way of sundries that went out with me. A small signalling mirror (in best Hardy Boys and Famous Five fashion), mini thermometer, cordage, ubiquitous pen knife and, well, that was about it. Twenty years ago not a lot had changed. Still the cordage and knife, possibly a tube repair kit if on cycle, a Sigg pouring spout for fuel, a couple of spare AA batteries, no electrics, no phone, possibly a bit of change for the telephone box, that was about it.

It is easy to go totally overboard and carry far too much that guards (or makes us feel guarded) against the unforeseen eventualities. The belt and braces approach to backpacking varies vastly between individuals. Certainly, I agree with those who believe that the most formidable weapon or tool we cart around with us is that between the ears. A noggin of common sense, backed up with knowledge, skill and experience goes a long way to effecting repairs and putting things right.

Collapsible lantern from Mont Bell. 4g

Collapsible lantern from Mont Bell. 5g

Be that as it may, I still feel that the carefully thought out contents of a ditty bag are indispensable in some situations. The items I carry vary from trek to trek. Is it a day walk, weekend or multi day walk, camping involved or not, are there multiple towns en route at which to buy the ‘little things’ required, am I alone or with family- in a group? All these factors and others will determine what I am bringing along. There are a handful of items that I am probably always going to keep in the ditty bag, the tiny crushable lantern from Mont Bell is such a sweet little thing that at only 5g I will waste no time on looking for alternatives.

Note that ‘fixing me’ items, i.e. First Aid, are kept elsewhere. I also carry, as required according to season, sunscreen, hand sanitiser, insect repellent, chap stick etc. in the hip belt pockets. Where possible, these are decanted into smaller dropper bottles. To start things moving, I list below some typical items that comprise the contents of my ditty bag for a typical multi-day walk.

Stuff Sack Cuben fibre- Tread Lite Gear 2g
12″ rubber twist ties Two- Nite Ize 12g (6g each)
Spare glasses 19g
Glasses case crushproof two part plastic case 38g
Dyneema cord 16m x 1.5mm, 110kg b.s. 20g (approx 1.3g/m)
Shock cord 2m x 3mm 12g
Crushable lantern shade Mont-bell 5g
Torch lanyard LRI, for Photon Freedom 1g
Torch clip (magnetic) LRI, for Photon Freedom 5g
Backpocket journal (in baggie) Tomoe River Edition- Curnow Bookbinding 19g
Pen Stowaway, Fisher Space Pen 5g
Mini highlighter pen 5g
Super Glue (in baggie) 1g tube 3g
Thermarest repair kit (in baggie) various patches and tube of glue 8g
Sugru Mouldable rubber glue (5g) 6g
Sewing kit in mini plastic case 11g
Lighter Cricket 12g
Ear plugs (in baggie) 1g
SDHC card for Camera Spare 32GB, in mini plastic case 4g
Stormproof matches, 2 strikers, in waterproof case UCO 15g
Nail clippers Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim 16g
Dr. Bronners (in dropper bottle) multi-use 26g
Nail brush 6g
Spare water bottle cap Smartwater 1g
Total 252g
Ditty bag and contents

Ditty bag and contents

There is still too much luxury and ‘what if’ paraphernalia in this assortment. 252g is quite some heft. Recent items to have been excluded and therefore not shown above have included:

The sewing kit will be refined further. It isn't perhaps the best I can manage and for 11g I can do far better.

The sewing kit will be refined further. It isn’t perhaps the best I can manage and for 11g I can do far better

I reckon it would not be too difficult to reduce this further- Smaller Dr. Bronners and dropper bottle? I have been thinking of carrying a bar of castille soap instead of the liquid stuff. Cricket lighter could be swapped out for a mini-bic too. I am still on the search for a lighter crushproof glasses case but have been unsuccessful so far. Certainly, when you are as blind as I am, a spare pair of glasses is no luxury.

I used to use one of the small 16g Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Quarter Cubes- These handy little packs (190mm x 110mm x 60mm)  are made of a translucent ripstop silnylon. This is a slippery material that slides in and out of a pack with ease, the handle on the end aids in  yanking it out when deep in a pack. The cubes are not waterproof, barely water resistant in fact. But anything at risk inside was kept sealed in its own waterproof cover. I recently swapped this out for the small 2g cuben fibre stuff sack listed above. Too small to be honest , I should really swap this out for a slightly larger cuben fibre roll top bag so as to be able to seal everything in- watertight.

Inka pen, 85mm

17g Inka pen, 85mm

64p, 39g Moleskine cashiers journal and its replacement 48p, 19g Backpocket journal

64 page, 39g Moleskine cahiers journal and its replacement 48 page, 19g Backpocket journal

I have also been looking at the journal I take with me. This has been an interesting recent wander through some of the options available and I have done a separate post on this. The Backpocket Journal and Stowaway pen have taken the place of a Moleskine plain page notebook and Inka pen which were my favoured pair for years. An excellent exercise in replacing items with similar but lighter alternatives where possible and practical.

As mentioned, elsewhere about my pack or person will be a few other smaller items. These include:

There is also the ‘Electrics’ bag. I shall cover these elsewhere as one of my biggest changes here will be occurring in the months to come.

A hank of line is always a useful thing to bring along. Replacement guy or doubling up on guys, emergency lace, or strung up for drying out washing or soaked gear. Two Moors Way.

A hank of line is always a useful thing to bring along as a replacement guy or doubling up on guys, emergency lace, or strung up for drying out washing or soaked gear. Bunk House at the Drew Arms, Two Moors Way, 2012

4 thoughts on “Small stuff: the Ditty bag

  1. David N.

    Fascinating post; you provide much food for thought on an interesting subject. I myself am always in the process of adding subtracting, substituting, and refining the items I choose to take on my various jaunts. Regarding a lighter, more compact solution for the storage of eyeglasses, I may offer some useful advice. Cruise the nearest supermarket powdered drinks aisle, and you may encounter a low-calorie, sugar-free powdered drink mix known as Crystal Light. The actual drink mix is fairly terrible, but the container in which the foil packets are purchased makes an excellent ultralight glasses case. I am uncertain as to the actual weight, but the Crystal Light container makes a lighter weight, crush-resistant alternative to any type of convention eyeglasses case. The price at my grocery is about $4 USD. Additionally, the tiny eye dropper bottles in which breath-freshening drops are sold make delightfully useful tiny containers for liquid solutions. Thanks for an excellent blog, I appreciate all the wonderful expertise and advice that you provide.


    1. Jools Post author

      Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I have refined my ditty bag considerably since I posted this. Probably time for an update


  2. Ian

    Ref glasses if only used for reading have you tried the plastic prince-nez style without arms?
    I have purchased on E-bay for @ £5 weigh 7g in credit card case that can be kept inside your phone case for safety and easy retrieval .Makes you look like a Professor but for occasional use perfect 👍


    1. Jools Post author

      An interesting solution Ian, not suitable for myself unfortunately, blind as a bat without the specs!



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