Packing lightly isn’t a skill easily acquired, especially if you’re used to bringing much more stuff than you need “just in case”. While it’s true that we tend to overthink and over pack when we’re traveling, it is possible to wrangle ourselves into accepting that more often than not less IS more.
When it comes to going on long hikes or backpacking trips, you need to be aware that every single thing you put into your backpack you will have to carry with you every step of the way. It’s very important to think about how you can shed some weight while you’re packing and if you’re new to the whole concept, then there are tips and tricks that can help you along the way. I will talk about my ways of avoiding a seriously heavy backpack that will become a nightmare as you progress on your journey.
Start with Your Backpack
We can easily get overenthusiastic about an upcoming trip and go on a shopping spree that will leave us with plenty of “top-notch” gear you will never use and a super fancy backpack that is much heavier than it needs to be. Sure, it’s great that your new shiny backpack has twenty different kinds of straps and whatnots, but let’s be real here, you won’t use most of them and they all add unwanted weight. Don’t rush into buying such an essential part of your gear, but do your research and go for the backpack that is simple and functional, it gets the job done, and it doesn’t weigh too much on its own – there are plenty of ultra-light options to choose from. Be careful when choosing though, because you don’t want to risk having a bad suspension system that will make the backpack uncomfortable to carry and can cause serious aches and pains, not to mention injuries.
Talk to Your Partner in Crime
If you’re planning on going on your backpacking adventure with some company, then coordinate with your fellow travelers to see what each of you is going to bring. There’s no need to duplicate the gear because that will only mean more lugging around for all of you, rather sit down and make a list of who’s bringing what. That way you’ll find out what pieces of equipment your friends have, which will not only allow you to pack more lightly but also stop you from spending extra money to buy things you don’t have and can be shared on the journey. If you’re planning to seize the day on your own, then take a very close look at the things you have, decide what you truly need and what you might need and scratch the might part right away.
Be Rational with Food
I’ve seen this more times than I can count and I’ve done it myself when I first started going on longer hiking trips – bringing more food than I need. We all have an instinctive fear of being hungry, especially when alone in the wild, but you have to know how much food is enough. Go for foods that are lighter and don’t take too much space in your backpack – dry foods in the form of noodles, soup mixes and pasta, canned meats and trail mix are all good alternatives. If you don’t want to deal with calorie calculations, there are plenty of survival food kits that you can find in every well-equipped survival shop, they’ll be very lightweight and save the day when it comes to packing food supplies for your trip.
Having access to clean water at all times is paramount when you’re trekking or backpacking through nature, but this can be a difficult task if you’re on unfriendly terrain. You will first need a good strong water container that isn’t too heavy and you can go for a simple plastic bottle if you don’t feel like spending money on stainless steel ones that weigh significantly more. When it comes to purifying your water, carrying water filters with you isn’t optimal, seeing that you’re adding weight and losing a lot of space in your backpack. The best solution for me has been either water purifying straws or chlorine dioxide kits because you won’t notice their weight and they will do an outstanding job when it comes to supplying you with fresh clean water. Another option is to boil all the water you find in the wild, that way you’ll get rid of most of the bacteria and pathogens.
Clothing, Shoes and Sleeping Bags
The same rules apply here as with food – don’t overdo it. You don’t need to bring half of the wardrobe to your hike, in fact, bring exclusively things you know you’re going to need. That means cutting down on duplicates (except when it comes to underwear and socks) and taking full advantage of the clothes on your back. Also, avoid bringing pieces made of cotton or denim because they’re much heavier than other synthetic materials that can make a lot of difference in the weight of your backpack. When it comes to shoes, I know you will feel safer with some strong hiking boots, but think carefully whether you truly need them. If there’s fair weather and the hike in itself isn’t strenuous, I always go for trail runners, they take the weight off of your back and your feet. As for your sleeping and bivvy bags, there are plenty of them on the market that are super light and will still keep you warm and insulated from the cold and wet ground, which is why it would be a good idea to consider carefully what kind of the bag you need that won’t be a burden on the long run.
Becoming better at packing light comes with practice and will become your second nature as soon as you spend one hiking trip with too much weight constantly on your shoulders. For me, the most important fact to remember is not to overthink and be paranoid whether or not I’ll have everything I need. Even if push comes to a shove and you don’t have a certain piece of equipment, you’ll survive and learn how to find your way around every situation.
– By Guest Blogger Robert Foster
Robert Foster is a Santa Barbara native, who’s spent more than 5 years trying to help people understand the importance of fitness. He’s also an experienced survivalist who spends more than 200 hours every year mountain biking, hiking and climbing. If you want to have a better insight into his unique knowledge, head over to http://prosurvivalist.com/ and read some of his interesting articles.