In the balance of capacity and efficiency, I lean more toward filling to my capacity. I know I can comfortably carry 35lbs all day, so if I have the space, I bring a few excess items that I feel enhance my my time in the wilderness. What fun is traveling light if you can’t bring some luxuries?
If you want a fire, you need a way to cut and prepare wood. With a suitable knife you can do a lot; feathering and batoning wood can certainly get you enough for a fire, but it can be frustrating work and lack efficiency. The Light My Fire knife is an affordable, durable, knife that is suited for this task.
I would consider a folding saw a near necessity for backpacking. It allows you to clear moderate blowdown from the trails and makes processing fire wood bearable. I picked up a cheap folder from a discount store over 10 years ago, and its blade is is still surprisingly sharp. A small amount of weight was shaved from the saw with the addition of some scientifically placed speed-holes in the plastic handle. I’m practically a cottage gear maker now. Maybe I’ll start a Kickstarter campaign for my remanufactured saws.
While certainly not essential, a hatchet makes feeding a fire far more manageable. Getting a fire started is much easier when you can split kindling and get at that dry center wood. Halving or quartering logs makes building and maintaining a fire much easier, especially in wet conditions. The trade-off with hatchet weight is chopping effectiveness. I’ve carried a 2lb hatchet on winter trips, but I can’t justify that on longer, moderate weather trips. I’ve found a happy balance with the 18oz Morakniv Camp Axe [link]. It almost feels like a toy, but has proven its durability and effectiveness. It’s perfect for splitting kindling. Chopping is less effective when quartering logs, but if you embed the hatchet batoning is very effective.
When I’m car camping, I love having my Husquavarna branded Wetterlings hatchet. It’s a beautiful tool while still being affordable. And not much beats a rough-cut hand saw for cutting. Cheap and durable, I like the Irwin [model, link]. I wrapped the cardboard sheath with packing tape for some added durability.