176: The Importance of Redundancy

Show Notes: Episode 176

Today on the First 40 Miles, if you’re bringing something on a backpacking trip “just in case”, there’s a good chance you’ll probably never use that item. How do you know which “just in case” items are actually important? Then, a classic backpacking gear standard that’s lightweight, cheap and easy to use. And we’ll share a hack that will help slim down your trekking poles.


  • Definition of Redundancy: The inclusion of extra components that are not strictly necessary to functioning, in case of failure in other components.
  • Redundancy is risk mitigation. Redundancy means you’re covering your bases
  • Redundancy means that you have a backup in case your primary piece of equipment fails. The redundancy is the backup item that may be cheaper, more compact, not as durable. But if you were to not have the original or the backup, it could mean trouble.
  • When we talk about redundancy we don’t mean two of everything.
  • Is it possible to be redundant without adding weight?
  • Backpack with friends. It requires some forethought and planning, but it sharing gear among friends can reduce everyone’s load, add redundancy and reduce risk.
  • Adding skills

Top 5 Backpacking Redundancies

Water Purification or Filtration

  • Backup option: Share filter with friend, Aquamira tablets or drops, iodine


  • Backup option: Contractor trash bags, clear plastic painters tarp
  • Bivvy that we reviewed in The First 40 Miles, Episode 001
  • You want a way to stay dry and protected


  • Backup option: Quart Ziploc bag with Power bars, peanut butter packets, drink mix.


  • Backup option: stormproof matches, paper book of matches, small box of wooden matches, strike anywhere, flint/magnesium
  • Extra fire also means that you have another way to purify water…although it is a very messy and laborious way to treat water.


  • System instead of backup set of clothes. Clothing is heavy, so it makes sense to bring clothes that can serve in different roles.
  • Clothing system includes base layers usually made of polyester or wool, a long or short sleeve top, hiking pants (maybe convertible), a fleece, a down or synthetic puffy, 2-3 pair of socks and a beanie or buff.

SUMMIT Gear Review: Sawyer Mini Water Filter


  • Hollow fiber filter (other kinds of filter are ceramic, fiberglass and silica depth)
  • “The Sawyer water filtration systems use technology adapted from kidney dialysis filters”


  • Twist it-Sawyer Mini has the same threading as many water bottles, which means you can refill a disposable water bottle and twist the Sawyer Mini on top to drink directly out of it.
  • Drink it– The Sawyer Mini comes with a straw that you can attach to the bottom of the Mini. Use it just like a straw to drink directly from a water source
  • Squeeze it– The Sawyer Mini comes with a pouch that you can fill with wilderness water. Then attach the filter and squeeze fresh water out.
  • Integrate it– The Sayer mini can be intergrated into your hydration pack. Just fill up your reservoir with glacial run off and drink away.
  • 100,000 gallons of water from freshwater lake, river or stream
  • Provides 0.1 micron absolute filtration — removing 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli, and removing 99.9999% of all protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium)


  • Weighs 2 ounces


  • Can be back flushed and reused
  • Do not freeze


  • $20-25


  • Don’t have to bring the back flushing syringe or the pouch with you.

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Removing Baskets for Slimmer Trekking Poles

Remove baskets from folding trekking poles for a slim fit into your pack.

Have more questions about trekking poles? https://andrewskurka.com/2017/trekking-pole-straps-baskets-removal/

Trail Wisdom

How annoying to be told it is only five miles to the next place when it is really eight or ten!–John Burroughs