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.
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)|
|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|
|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|
|Spare water bottle cap||Smartwater||1g|
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:
- Knife sharpener- Fallkniven DC3
- Necklace clip for Photon torch
- Spare Fire Steel
- Two Esbit tablets
- Gram Cracker (for Esbit)- 3g
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.
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:
- Head torch– Black Diamond ReVolt
- Chap stick
- Hand sanitiser- in mini dropper bottle
- Sun cream- in mini dropper bottle
- Spare mini ‘clipper’ compass
- Ranger beads
- Pocket knife– Wenger
- Stickpic- attached to a pack loop with a 4g Nite-Ize S-Biner Microlock
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.