You never know what you’ll end up getting the most use out of till you start, well using it. When I first started hiking I found I always wanted a soft seat when breaking for lunch, so I picked up a ThermaRest Lite Seat. It’s about the size of a stadium seat, with self-inflating foam inside. Weighs 3.5 ounces and has come in handy on pretty much all my campouts and long hikes. In the summer I add ice cubes to my water bladder and the Lite Seat makes an excellent insulating layer inside my pack to keep water cold for several hours. Lately I’ve been folding it in half and using it as a pillow on overnighters. When I was determined to sleep on an inch-thick foam pad, I put the Lite Seat under my hips to get at least a little bit of padding. A lot of my stuff sits on the shelf most of the year but this little pad earns its keep.
A lot of veteran campers scoff at the notion of paying extra for a custom-fitted tent footprint; I learned of this only after I’d shelled out 25 bucks for a footprint to go with my REI Quarter Dome. These days, though, I get far more use from the footprint than from the tent. It’s made of sturdy coated nylon that’ll keep just about anything from puncturing my inflatable pad — nice to have when camping with a tarp or floorless tent. It just feels nice to have that strong material between me and the ground. And I can convert it to rain gear in a pinch.
So, what about the rest of you hikers out there?