Snivel Gear

In military parlance, snivel gear is equipment that is deemed not vitally necessary to deployment, designed to increase comfort rather than to further the mission.  –from

I am a big proponent of the phrase NO SNIVELING.

There is a fine line between sniveling and venting or grousing, but it is a line to not cross. Basically if a problem happens, suck it up, figure a way to solve the issue (perhaps with some colorful words. See above about venting) and get it done.  Expecting someone to bail you out or for others to solve the problem for you is not what a competent adult should do.  That does not mean assistance is forsaken, as any competent adult will also know when help should be asked for, but rather the ultimate responsibility for solving an issue is on YOU. 

Whining, kvetching, putting the blame on someone else, etc. is all sniveling.

Old pair of skis I used to own. This sticker is also on my car. 🙂

And, if imperfectly, I try to avoid that.

However, when outdoors, there are certain gear items or luxuries I will sometimes bring to help prevent any possibility of sniveling.

Borrowing the term from the military, it is snivel gear. A little extra luxury or warm gear to make the difference between being in the backcountry in relative comfort or slogging something out.

Obviously this snivel gear is trip dependent. If I am walking all day in prime three season conditions, a candle lantern or even a book is not something I bring just makes no sense for me.

On the other hand, when I am on a quick backpacking trip in December, both of these items are rather welcome on a long night in a sleeping bag.

So here are some of my personal snivel gear items depending on the trip I take.

  • Extra pair of socks just for at night

Cold and rainy during the day? No problem. I have my “sacred stash” of warm and dry socks worn only at night. The feet are warm, I am given a psychological boost and, as a practical bonus, my sleeping bag or quilt stays a bit cleaner. I like the simple Merino Smartwool-type socks sold at Costco for $10 or so for a three-pack. In fact, I am wearing a pair now.


-from the WW2 era “Willie and Joe” comic by Bill Mauldin. There is a long history of dry socks being snivel gear. As a side note, Bill Mauldin was in the 45th division. Same division as my grandfather. Maybe my grandfather had dry socks as his snivel gear, too…

  • Mug for hot drinks

On longer solo hikes, I rarely have a hot drink. Weekend jaunts to decompress? I like my hot coffee in the morning or even tea at night. Does not matter the amount of mileage I’ve done…it is a luxury I enjoy.  I could use a cook pot or even my gatorade bottle. But a simple coffee mug from the convenience store works well, thank-you-very-much.

From a trip to Canyonlands NP around Thanksgiving. Dropped to single digit temps at night. The hot drink was a welcome luxury both at night and in the morning. The coffee mug came from a Shell gas station.
  • A candle lantern

I wrote about this item recently. A snivel item I’ve grown to love again as I am doing more winter backpacking and camping over recent years. Keeps condensation down a bit, gives a welcoming glove and hell, the retro look is cool.

  • Adult beverages

Long a staple on my hut trips, I’ve been known to pack in a beer or two even when solo. See above about hot drinks. With canned beer, the weight penalty is rather slim to pack out. A twenty-mile day of hiking, a beautiful camp spot and tasty beer? Why, yes.

  • Book

Twelve hours in a sleeping bag? Or even a hectic week and I want to further decompress by reading? A book. I’ve been an avid reader since at least eight years old. And I continue that habit into adulthood.  Putting a bit of a modern spin on it, I’ll sometimes even schlep in my iPad mini. (The horror!) Weighs less than many books. Of course, on longer trips the books, and esp the iPad, will stay home.

Twelve hours in a snow cave means I need some reading material

  • Extra pair of liner gloves

For cold and wet hiking, group winter trips or building a snow cave, the extra pair of liner gloves works well. One pair gets wet? I dry it against my body and slip into the other pair. Repeat.

Rotcho liner gloves I believe


  • Pretty much all our car camping gear

Sure. We could bring our standard camp stoves, sleeping pads, a single wall tent, etc. etc. But why? If we are in  a place for five days, esp when it is remote,  there is no reason to NOT bring some snivel gear. Good food, a spacious tent, the right stove and equipment to cook the food, thick sleeping pads, camp chairs, etc. I go light when backpacking because it is more efficient and comfortable for me overall when walking.  There are no such restrictions when car camping other than what I can pack efficiently in our vehicle. I’ll bring the Coleman stove. And be damn glad I did.

Capitol Reef NP – Thanksgiving 2014


So that’s my snivel gear. For certain trips, I’ll gladly bring it. Better bringing the snivel gear rather than actually sniveling. 😉



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