Backpack Light

Try to only pack things you know you will need, not things you want.

Backpacking is an adventurous and exciting way to experience the wilderness. To maximize that experience, it’s best to find the lightest items needed to survive outside so as to reduce back pain and fatigue while hiking. Light gear can be expensive but is a worthy investment.


1. Do a weight test on your current gear. Pack your pack as you normally would and place it on pack scale (or, use a regular scale and subtract your body weight). Then, based on this number, determine the base weight you’d like to carry. Base weight is all gear excluding fuel, water and food.

2. Recognize the easiest ways to drop weight. These are: shelter, pack and sleeping bag. For example, if you currently have a single person tent with a rainfly, get a tarp tent or just a tarp. Your pack should really weigh no more than 3 1/2 lbs. The best sleeping bags are filled with 800-plus goose down–a filling that provides maximum warmth (through loft) and smallest amount of weight. A good three-season down sleeping bag will weigh no more than 1 lb.

3. Follow the “two use” rule. Go through your entire pack and determine the function of each piece of gear you are carrying. Save for a few emergency necessities, you should not only be using everything in your pack each day, you should be using it for two purposes. For example, clothes keep you warm and they’re also a pillow; a tarp keeps your dry, but it can also give you shade in the day; your knife should serve several purposes. Using this exercise, you’ll be able to eliminate gear you’ve been lugging that serves no purpose.

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4. Simplify your cooking setup. Two pots are never necessary. Neither are multiple utensils. A bowl is not even necessary, because you can eat directly from your pot. An ideal cooking setup contains: one aluminum or titanium pot, a titanium spoon and a homemade alcohol stove. Altogether the total weight of this setup is far less than 1 lb.–probably about 12 oz. It’s easy to add extra weight by including multiple utensils and non-essential pieces of cooking equipment.

5. Be careful about food. Never bring canned goods (they’re not only heavy, but there is the issue of packing out stinky cans). Stay away from all perishable items. Good, light items include ramen noodles (smashed and repackaged in a plastic bag), powdered mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (repackaged in a plastic bags), tortillas, and peanut butter. Remember to repackage all groceries to eliminate extra garbage that would need to be packed out of the wilderness.