Wednesday, October 25, 2017

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 what's called a pack shakedown. I had the opportunity to do this many times, and with good results. In one shakedown, the young hiker was dead tired after only four miles and ready to quit. Not only was that 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

Definitely a painful ordeal.

So what can you take out of your pack?

Most hikers tend to overkill in the area of 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 items can quickly add up to pounds. Eliminating these in rapid fashion decreases the weight and makes 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. Most hikers tend to take too much thinking they will be hungry with the exercise and fresh air. Many times the exact opposite happens. Unless one has been out long distance hiking, it takes time for the appetite to really kick in. Plan accordingly.

Toiletries. No need for deodorant, brush, shampoo. Ladies – you don't need makeup. If you are hiking long distance, chances are very good that 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. No need for splints, lots of big bandages, etc. 

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) or a jetboil to cook. I’ve seen hikers struggle to cook meals over a fire with wet wood and go hungry. Substitute Smartwater or Lifewater bottles for a Nalgene bottle which saves some good ounces.  

Lifewater bottles have some cool designs

Lots of heavy bags, stuff sacks etc. can add extra ounces that add up to pounds. Simple, good quality Ziplocs make organization easy and you can see through the bags to help determine what you have. Cuben fiber is a great option for lightening the load. 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. Or I use the Thermarest seat lite pad. Leave out the heavy knife, ax, and egg container. If you don’t think you will use it, don’t bring it.

Lastly, make sure your pack fits you right and you have packed it correctly. Make sure also you are using the waistbelt correctly.

Some links for each:

Packing a backpack along with a video

Fitting a backpack

Just few ideas to lighten the load and make for a happier, less painful trip.  

4 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!

Anonymous 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.

Anonymous said...

A proper planning of your hiking trail will help you to pack your backpack light. Less weight wil ease your stress while carrying your gear on trip. A lightweight backpack on your back will save your energy for hiking.

Your tips are very helpful, thanks