How to Lighten Your Pack. (Backpacking)




Here's how to lighten the load of your backpacking pack, from what I've learned through my experience backpacking.
Hope they help some of you, and they wont all be "buy really expensive stuff".

Step 1: Split It Up:

One of the things we always do while backpacking is split up any shared gear. Tent partners split the tent and each carry half. One will have the stove while the other has their water purifier.

Step 2: Hammocks:

I received a pm from funkybassman105 suggesting that I added hammock camping to this list. He suggested it because it is far more lightweight. So long as you have sturdy trees available, and a good tarp, a hammock will make a wonderful shelter for the solo packer, or a member of a group that sleeps alone. They are far lighter than a tent, and keep you off the ground so you don't need a sleeping pad. You can also tent with just a blanket, or no other sleep gear at all if the weather is good enough.

Step 3: Leave It Home:

Pretty much a common sense thing here, if you don't need it, don't take it. If you have carried it in the past and you haven't needed it, or could get by without it, you can leave it home. If it's a luxury, consider if it's worth it's weight. Like the fuzzy purple bathrobe pictured above, do you really need it?

Step 4: Lighten Up Your Cooking Gear.

Well, obviously there's the route of "go titanium", which I'd love to go myself, but not all of us can afford that.
The first thing you can do to help lighten your cooking gear, is to minimize what you bring. If you can, only bring one pot, unless your food requires more.
Bringing only a spoon as a utensil is another thing you can do. At Philmont, that's all we needed to eat with. less to carry, less to clean.
The next is to get lighter cookware, ie; converting to aluminum or titanium pots, lexan or titanium utensils, et. etc. Cast iron = NO.
( I know, Titanium this, Titanium that, blah blah blah titanium)
A lighter-weight stove can help. you can make a lightweight alchohol stove, or even use an open fire. (depending on availibility of wood, and the regulations of where you are hiking)

Step 5: Lighten Your Food.

Food is heavy. that's a fact. however, it doesn't always have to be. If you'll be in an area where you can easily get water, freeze-dried meals are a good option.I absolutely despise those mountain house meals, however. Some people swear by them, it's really up to you. I buy freeze-dried ingredients in bulk, then mix up my own meals from them.
Take minimal cans. Not to say you cant take a can or two, just remember that they are heavy, and you have to carry them out. (LEAVE NO TRACE!!!!!)
for good recipes on backpacking food you can make at home, try:

Note: These pictures are definitely NOT lightweight backpacking food. this is just how we roll :) The beans were pretty good though.

Step 6: Clothing

Clothing can get pretty heavy as well. I recommend against denim. it's almost useless when wet, takes forever to dry, and weighs a lot.
Consider re-wearing your clothes. I hiked the Philmont Scout ranch this year, and for an 11-day hike, I only took 2 pairs of clothes (one of which I was wearing), plus one pair for sleeping in. Socks, however, are one thing that I feel you should never skimp out on, although i have seen guys only bring 2 pairs of socks, and just switch out.
Wool, albeit heavy, is a good option.
For reducing weight, synthetics are a great option, but can be expensive. Our crew had synthetic wicking t-shirts, and they are amazing to have. Easy to wash, don't hold a smell to badly, and dry super fast. (we only got showers once while on the trail).

Step 7: Extreme Lightening.

For some people, lightweight just isn't light enough. Some people will go so far as to shorten the straps on their pack, cut down their sleeping pad, precisely measure their fuel, etc. etc. I am not like this, but if you are really going the distance, or like to travel light, those few extra ounces lost can really help. Another useful tip is to have your buddies carry a lot of your stuff for you, haha.

Step 8: Suggestions?

Feel free to comment or message me suggestions for further pack lightening. In no way does this comprise all of my backpacking knowledge. (which is still plenty inferior to many other people's knowledge.) This just covers some of the basic things. I am always open to reasonable suggestions. If I get anything good enough, I'll edit the instructable to include it, and of course give credit to whom it came from.



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    11 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hammocks are nice but not that convenient in all situations (Hard to find that perfect spot to hang it ...) I brought one in a trip and finally I havent used it much because of that.

    Most of the time I just carry : Sleeping bag, 2 tarps ( one small for under me, another one for over me ), light rope (maybe a inflatable mattress or mosquito net if I feel confortable :P )

    With the tarps and rope, you can build you own tent-ish shelter, and Its way lighter than a tent to carry. It have multiple uses too, and its more stealthy and quick to set than a tent (for urban camping ... )

    Some solid tarps could be used as hammock too !

    I also function with the multifunction rule : The more uses for an object, the better ! For example, I carry a piece of fabric that I can use as a towel-scarf-improvised backpack-dress-skirt-extra blanket ... Or a liquid bio soap for hair-skin-dishes-clothes washing ...


    4 years ago

    What size backpack should I use for Philmont


    One of the best ways that I have found to lighten my pack is to Use A Smaller Pack.

    And the hammock is the only way to go, especially if you use a cheap foam pad (cut down somewhat) inside your sleeping bag and maybe a lightweight fly overhead.


    6 years ago on Step 2

    You do still need a sleeping pad of some kind in a hammock because the combination of you compression the insulation in your sleeping bag against the hammock and the wind blowing underneath it mean the insulation properties of the sleeping bag are greatly reduced. It's best to have some form of pad that has enclosed air pockets (self inflating sleeping mad or a foam pad).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    As an Ultra-lite backpacker, looking through this instructable and through the comments it amazes me how much some people carry.
    My 3-season base weight (everything but food, water and fuel) is 10lbs. It's even hard for me to wrap my head around those cans. I'm not sure which side of the scale is crazier, but you guys are definitely manlier. Ha ha.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I think a water filter is super important. Water is so heavy! This is probably a given, but wasn't listed.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, it's a given. however, you still need to have the capacity to carry enough water if you find out that there won't be a water source. At philmont we all had the capacity to carry one and a half gallons, but would only carry three liters on average. Only when we would be going into a dry-camp, or not have a reliable water source nearby would we carry all 6 liters. As well, if you'll be able to boil water, a purifier isn't necessary. Water purification tablets are far lighter than a filter, but you have to wait for them to work. What you carry depends on where you're packing, and what you plan on doing.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't like to carry much more than about 30 Kg (60 pounds) and can easily go for a week with 20 Kg (40 pounds). light weight clothing you can layer is better than heavy warm jumpers.

    A fleece and a plastic garbage bag for rain cover works fine - why carry a water proof jacket that will only weigh you down and make you sweat.

    2 man tent rip stop nylon and a plastic cover sheet for painting sheet for a fly sheet - totally water proof and very light. If you going to be around trees even the tent poles can be replaced by a length of para cord between trees.

    I know several walkers who only carry a tarp to make a bivi rather than a tent. even you survival bag will keep you dry and warm with a decent sleeping bag.

    A friend carries a vacuum pump to store his sleeping bag in a plastic bag suck the air out and you will be surprised how small it can get.

    I never never carry tins. Dried food and lots of trail rations Nuts dried fruit and chocolate both bars and to drink much better than coffee and warming as well as nourishing.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    On the rare occasions I tent solo, I use a US military gore-tex bivy cover. Super light, 100% waterproof, and breathable.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    The trick that helps for me is to sneak some of my gear into some elses backpack!

    Logan D

    7 years ago on Introduction

    You're making me ache for Philmont, there's just nothing like standing on Baldy.