When hiking, the weight of your backpack can make or break your experience. With a too heavy pack, even the easiest trails will feel like a chore and you’ll be more tired by the end. So if you’re looking for ways to reduce the weight of your backpack, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll look at 11 tips that go over some of the obvious ways to reduce weight and some you might not have thought of before. Keep reading to discover the secrets to the perfect backpack weight for all your hiking needs.
Get a Better Backpack
Most people immediately look at reducing the weight of their gear. But extremely lightweight gear can be expensive and might not be an option for everyone.
Instead, you can start by investing in a lightweight backpack that is well-made and has a good design. It should have adequate support so the weight of the contents is evenly distributed across your body.
Make sure the shoulder straps are comfortable, that there’s plenty of support, and look for a hip belt too. If you have a high-quality backpack it won’t feel as heavy even when it’s packed full and weighs a lot.
Most backpacks weight between 3 to 4 pounds but, if you have very lightweight contents that are less than 15 to 20 pounds, you can opt for a lighter, frameless pack instead. Otherwise, look for a backpack constructed from lightweight materials with minimal extra zippers, loops, and pouches.
Upgrade to Lighter Gear
If you’ve got a good backpack but it’s still just too heavy, it’s time to figure out what gear to replace with a lighter option. As we mentioned, lightweight gear can be really expensive so do your research in advance.
Check how heavy each item is by weighing your tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Start researching alternatives and see how much they weigh compared to what you already own. You’ll easily be able to see if the difference in weight is worth the extra cost.
Although weight is an important consideration, don’t let this be the only factor. Make sure you know how to use all the gear and that it will suit your needs based on the duration of your trip and the local climate.
Find Lightweight Food
One of the reasons food is so heavy is because it usually contains a lot of water. You can eliminate a lot of weight by backing lightweight meals instead.
If you have the budget, you can purchase freeze-dried camping meals and just add hot water to them at the end of the day. But it’s also easy, and much cheaper, to make your own by buying ingredients in bulk and mixing them to make your own recipes. Not to mention many of the pre-packaged meals don’t’ have a lot of nutrition and are often high in sodium.
You can also try to compare the weight to calories ratio when choosing food and snacks. Opt for food that are calorically dense while remaining lightweight. But don’t fall into the junk food trap because these meals are not very filling or nutritious.
Make a meal plan based on how many days you plan to be gone. It’s recommended to take around 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food for each person per day. Make a list of everything you want to take, check the nutrition and calories, then weigh it all out.
Pack Only the Essentials
Become a minimalist and figure out exactly what you’ll need for your trip. Most of this will depend on the weather so check the forecast in advance and pack accordingly.
If you’ve already gone on several hiking or camping trips, you probably have a good idea of what you actually use and need. Take notes on each trip and start to pare down items to the bare necessities.
There are many comforts that you can probably do without and you can save weight by neglecting your hygiene if you’re on your own. After all, deodorant doesn’t make much of a difference when you can’t even properly shower.
If you’re careful about where you pitch your tent, you may be able to skip the footprint altogether. And if you don’t mind eating cold foods, then ditch the stove and cookware, especially if you’ll only be gone for a day or so.
Clothes are heavy and one of the items most people end up overpacking. Only bring as many clothes as you can wear at one time.
Purify Your Water
Water is one of the heaviest things you can carry but it’s absolutely essential for any hiking or camping trip. So what’s the secret to reducing weight without getting dehydrated?
Always start by bringing some water with you and do some research in advance to find water sources along the way. Then get a good water purification method and one back up in case the first method fails.
After that, only carry as much water as you need to get to the next water source. This will prevent you from carrying tons of water and getting worn out hauling it around for miles on end.
Mail Supplies to Yourself
One trick that is utilized by long-distance and through hikers is to save weight by mailing themselves supplies. If you are going to pass through a town, send yourself a package in the mail with some food and other supplies.
Then stop in at the post office to pick it up and you’ll be instantly refueled for the next stretch of your trip. It will also save money because you won’t need to buy items in small towns where they could be expensive.
Not to mention you will have all your favorite foods and whatever supplies or gear are necessary for the next portion of the trail. If there’s anything in your pack that you haven’t been using, you can use the same box to mail it back home so you don’t have to keep carrying it.
Get Multitasking Items
Look for gear that can be used for a variety of purposes so you only have to pack one item instead of three or more. Hiking poles, for example, can be used to dig a cathole instead of lugging around a trowel.
Get comfortable hiking boots that don’t result in painful feet at the end of the day and you can easily skip the camp shoes. Don’t bring a pillow, just use a jacket or unused clothes rolled up into a ball instead.
Bring a mug that can double as both a cup and a bowl for eating meals. A spork combines the utility of both a spoon and fork in one piece. Handkerchiefs or bandanas can be used to keep cool, dry things off, clean your sunglasses, or even strain debris from the water.
Eat a Big Breakfast
Save room in your backpack and bring one less day’s worth of food by eating a big breakfast or lunch on the day you depart. You can also increase your caloric intake in the days leading up to your trip to make sure your body is fortified for the days ahead when you might not be able to eat as much as you’d like.
Plus it’s easier to carry food that’s already in your stomach compared to a few pounds in your pack. So eat up and then hit the trail and digest while you hike. Then have a light snack in the evening before bed.
Instead of a whole tube of toothpaste, find some small containers and just take a couple of days’ worth. The same goes if you plan to pack soap, deodorant, or other supplies that can be reduced.
Travel-sizes are always a good option but even those may be too big for short backpacking trips. Look for the small, lightweight containers that can be easily labeled or opt for mini plastic bags for portioning things out.
Once you’ve figured out all the ways you’ll save weight in your pack and have everything laid out, do a dry run and actually pack your backpack. Balance the weight by putting heavier items in the center and closer to your back.
Then stuff softer items around to provide cushioning so things don’t move around. Put your backpack on and see how it feels. Make sure it’s comfortable and there isn’t anything poking into you. Make a note of how you packed so you can repeat the steps each day.
This might sound like a weird tip, but if it’s possible, then just do some laundry while you’re out on the trail. Pack a small amount of biodegradable soap that won’t damage the local environment and wash out clothes and socks.
Re-washing items will only work if you have a decent amount of water or are near a stream or lake. You’ll also be counting on the weather to cooperate so things can dry overnight. But if you plan to camp for a few days, you’ll have extra time to wait for clothes to dry.
Extend the life of your clothes too by changing them often and airing out the ones you’ve worn overnight. You can also wear shirts longer by turning them inside out and repeatedly wearing them for several days in a row.