Travelling Light: 10 Ways to Minimize Your Backpack Weight
There’s something wonderful about hiking deep in the woods, nothing but you, the birds, the trees, the crunch of twigs beneath your feet – and your backpack, of course. If that backpack weighs 30 or 40 pounds, then it won’t take long before you’re cursing the weight on your back, instead of enjoying the wind rustling through the leaves.
When you’re hiking and camping, one of the best ways to maximize your enjoyment of the outdoors is to minimize the weight that you’re carrying.
Consider The Big Three
The three heaviest pieces of equipment that you’ll be carrying will probably be your tent, your backpack and your sleeping bag. Consider lightening your load by choosing lightweight options. Do you really need a tent? Maybe a tarp, a bivy sack or a hammock tent will suffice. You won’t need a sleeping bag rated for frigid temperatures if you’re hiking during the hottest part of the year. And once you’ve lightened your load, then you probably won’t need a big four-pound backpack to haul it around in.
Weigh, Measure And Itemize Everything
Keep a running list of every piece of kit and equipment, along with its weight. While this might seem like overkill, it will let you see which items are heavier – and it will help you to honestly consider whether or not you actually need them. Don’t forget to count items used to organize your kit, like stuff sacks and dry sacks.
Take Less Stuff
There’s no need to take a full-sized bottle of camp soap if you’re only going to be gone for the weekend. Take only what you need, and leave the rest at home. Really think about whether you need things, or whether they’re just luxuries – an extra pair of shoes, for example, might seem like a necessity when you’re packing your stuff at home. But after carrying them for ten miles, you might realize that you don’t really need them, after all!
Take Lighter Stuff
As technology improves, gear gets lighter and lighter. You can get a good three-season sleeping bag that weighs under two pounds, for instance. However, buying ultralight gear often comes with a higher price tag, so you have to strike a balance between a lighter bag and a lighter wallet.
Think About What’s On Your Feet
Depending on the terrain, the climate and your body, you might find that lighter trail shoes are a better fit than heavy leather boots. That extra weight will really add up after 15 miles of lifting foot after foot! No matter what footwear you choose, make sure that your shoes or boots are well broken in before you go out on a long hike.
Give Yourself Enough Time To Plan
If you know where you’re going and what you’re going to need, then it becomes easier to figure out what you can leave behind. If you’re hiking in a remote area, for instance, then you’re going to be carrying a lot more weight (in food and water) than you will if you’re doing shorter treks with stops to resupply in between. Likewise, if you’re travelling with someone else, then you may be able to share some weight by carrying just one first aid kit or one camp stove between the two of you.
Choose Things That Can Multi-Task
A good metal camping mug can take on the role of cup, small pot, plate and bowl. There’s no need to carry soap, shampoo, dish soap and laundry soap when you can use a universal camp soap instead. Some ultralight backpacks use a folded up sleeping mat for the padding that rests against your back. Look for ways that your gear can do double-duty to help you reduce your load.
Get Rid Of The Unnecessary
Do you really need to bring the stuff sack that came with your raincoat? Get rid of any extra packaging that you don’t need. Consider snipping off tags and extra straps that you aren’t using. Some serious ultralight backpackers go so far as to saw off the ends of their toothbrushes! While each little bit that you remove might not weigh much on its own, those ounces can add up.
No matter how light your bag is, if you’re not used to walking long distances carrying your kit on your body, it’s going to be hard work at first. Build up to your hike by carrying your pack over shorter distances, slowly increasing the weight until you can carry it comfortably. Your body – and your ankles – will get stronger, and that bag will feel even lighter!
Don’t Forget Food And Water
A quart of water weighs about two pounds. Depending on where you’re hiking, you might need to carry much more than that. Do some research to figure out which would be most practical: carrying extra water, carrying a filter, or carrying purification tablets. Food will also add weight to your pack. If you choose your food carefully, aiming for about 100 calories per ounce, you should be able to meet your daily caloric needs with less than two pounds of food. Of course, if you’re hiking for two weeks without stopping to resupply, that weight will add up quickly. The weight of food and water make it even more important to lighten the rest of your load.
Lightening your backpack can be a very time-consuming task. It takes a certain dedication to weigh, measure, compare and think carefully about every single thing that you slip into your bag. However, it will be well worth the effort when you feel like you’re flying along that path, rather than being dragged down by the weight of the world on your shoulders!