Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lightening that Backpacking Load

One of the things I love to do as a hiker advocate, educator and ridgerunner is helping hikers eliminate unnecessary weight from their packs in shakedowns. I had the opportunity to do this the other day with a young hiker who was dead tired after four miles and ready to quit. Not only was the hiker carrying heavy items like a seven pound tent and a chair, but the backpack did not fit correctly either, and the hiker carried all the weight on the shoulders.
Make the right choices to lighten the load

Not cool and definitely a painful ordeal.

So what do you take out of your pack? Most hikers tend to do overkill with food, toiletries, first aid,
etc. They take every part of a cook set rather than just the tools they need. Sometimes half the medicine chest is in the first aid kit. This hiker I helped had two 8 oz. fuel canisters for three days. Also many lightweight times can quickly add up to pounds. Eliminating these in rapid fashion decreases the weight and make a hike more comfortable.

So let’s take a few of the above.

Food. A good rule of thumb is approx. 1 ½ lbs. of food per day. No need for cans. Check my blog on hiker food ideas to give you nutritious meals without the weight.

Toiletries. No need for a deodorant, brush, shampoo. Ladies – you don't need make up. If you are hiking long distance, chances are great hostels and motels have shampoo and soap. A few baby wipes can make you feel refreshed in camp (but pack them out!!). I have never felt the need to take a brush or comb. Take only what you need for trail first aid.

Cooking. Many hikers take an overabundance of cooking gear to make simple meals. Honestly, all one needs for most meals is one pot and one Spork. No need for a plate, frying pan, or extra pots. And don’t forget a simple stove, like a pocket rocket version (there’s a cheap one on Amazon some have said works good) and a canister to cook. I’ve seen hikers struggle to cook meals over a fire with wet wood and go hungry. Bring a lightweight stove. Substitute a Smartwater bottle for a Nalgene bottle saves some good ounces.  

Lots of heavy bags, stuff sacks etc. Simple, good quality Ziplocs make organization easy and you can see through the bags to help determine what you have. But do carry a good waterproof food bag for bear bagging. And make sure your clothing and sleeping bag are in good waterproof bags.
Electronics can get heavy. Bring only what you need. A phone in many instances can serve as a camera, music player, etc.

Check your pack. Do you REALLY need that huge book? That chair (try cutting an old blue foam pad or ridgerest and plop it next to a tree)? Leave out the heavy knife and egg container. If you don’t think you will use it, don’t bring it.

Lastly, make sure your pack fits you right. Make sure also you are using the waist belt correctly.

Just few ideas to lighten the load and make it a happy trip.  

3 comments: said...

Oh yeah I here you on the weight saving. I was going on the AT for a week and I over packed. I purposely did not weigh my backpack before setting out because I knew it was heavy.
We started out in Amicalola State Park (the AT approach trail) and that backpack was killing me, I was ready to quit after just making it up those stairs. We took a side trip to the Hiker Inn. I was able to weigh my pack there: 57 pounds. I was only going to out there for 6-7 days. The staff their were very helpful in cutting my weight down to still heavy but more manageable weight of 48 ponds and helping me get my pack fitted better for the days ahead. Also leaving some money they where kind enough to box up and mail me the extra gear that I was leaving behind. Although life is getting on the my of my getting back to the AT it is still a goal to tru-hike the whole AT one of these years. But import lesson leaned, before I set out for any hike day, overnight, weekend, what ever I take a long hard look at what I'm bringing, more much I'm bringing and I always weigh my backpack.
I hope my story helps someone learn the lesson so they don't make the same mistake and decide to never try again.

HickerChick68 said...

Great tips!

Gilbert @ Bear Necessities said...

One of the greatest space/weight saver is a bear bag rather than a bear bucket, which is not the cheapest piece of hiking gear. Then, learning how to Ranger roll your clothes ( is a HUGE space saver and allows you to fit in a smaller ruck sack.

An indulgence that I would spend and extra pound REI Flex Lite Chair ( It is SO nice to kick your feet up on your pack at the end of a hard day, while your companions are leaning against a tree.