While there are many awesome gadgets you might want with you on a backpacking trip, you can’t take it all. Being mindful that every item you take adds weight to your pack is important to many hikers. Don’t bring too many electronics, anything you would mind using, too much food, or too many clothes.
The kind of gear you pack depends on where and when your hike takes place. The length of the hike will also determine how much you carry and what you might bring. Read on for ideas on how to pack for a backpacking trip, as well as the gear you should carry with you as well as some gear that you might not.
Items most likely to be ditched by an experienced backpacker:
Backpackers all have luxury items, and they are important. However, do your best to keep these to an absolute minimum. Here’s a list of items most likely to be ditched while out on the trail…
- Extra clothes. You can probably do without the puffy vest!
- Rambo style knife: These can be too heavy, and a pocket knife will be able to do the job just as well.
- Multi tools: It’s not necessary to use most of the things that it has, but bring it if it’s a must-have for you.
- A saw and hatchet: You won’t need to cut wood and will be able to use what sticks and fallen wood that Mother Nature provides.
- Bear deterrent gear: This can be bear bells or bear spray. It gives some people peace of mind to carry it, and most people find that it isn’t necessary. In grizzly country, this might be a different story.
- Heavy trowels: You can find ultra-lightweight trowels.
- Additional light sources: You’ll be fine with just a headlamp, and can use a lighter or battery in a pinch.
- Extra batteries: You probably won’t wear out your lamp unless you are doing a lot of night hiking.
- Kindle, Nook, or iPad: These are heavy to carry around, and you’ll find that you may not need to read and will be content with listening to the sounds of nature.
- Camera: Unless you’re a professional photographer, you won’t want to lug around your camera and lenses.
- Firestarter: A lighter and some balled up pieces of paper or leaves will be fine.
- Extra cookware: Some hikers prefer a cookware/mug combo.
- Nalgene Bottles: These can be heavier than a water bottle or water bladder.
- Large camp towels: These can be more absorbent, but a bandana is a good lightweight alternative.
- Solar shower: This isn’t worth the weight.
- Stuff sacks: Most hikers ditch the bags that tents come in as well as other items. Trash compactor bags can help to keep things dry as well as any regular trash bags.
Clothing No No’s
Leave your cotton clothes at home. When cotton clothes get wet, they are nearly impossible to fully dry out. This includes jeans, which can be uncomfortable to hike in but are absolutely not what you want for an overnight backpacking trip. Also, avoid bringing white colored clothing. It will just get filthy.
Having good hygiene on the trail will have to be compacted into only the essentials. You can stay clean with less than what you might use in your routine at home.
• Biodegradable and eco-friendly soap
• Toilet paper in its own plastic bag to stay dry
• Baby wipes or towelettes
• Toothbrush and fluoride free toothpaste
• Feminine hygiene products
Do NOT Bring:
• Shampoo; it is not good for the environment
• Deodorant; the smell can attract animals
• Mirrors are clunky and easily broken
• Disposable products (razors, etc.)
It’s Easy to pack too much food
Writing down what you will eat each day and bringing a little extra will save the hassle of accidentally carrying too much weight in food. Each person will need between 1.5lbs to 2.5lbs of food, depending on your calorie needs according to weight, size, and exertion. Try to carry nutritious and calorie-dense foods with plenty of protein.
This makes the most out of the food weight you’re carrying. Repackage your food into lighter containers. Take out the cardboard boxes and put food into Ziploc baggies.
Focus on your essentials
When bringing things with you on the trail, less is more. Leave expensive jewelry and watches at home. You will only need one jacket. Track pants or leggings make great lightweight bottom choices. Think about what you need to wear and minimize any extras.
If you’re hiking with a group, plan together and see what you will need. Try not to bring multiples of things that you will comfortably share, such as a stove.
“Every extra ounce counts during a hike.”
Think about what you will need and eliminate items that are unnecessary. Once you return from a hiking trip, take inventory of your items by laying them out on the floor. Determine what you used a lot, what you used once in a while and things you never used.
You probably won’t need to bring a large quantity of medical supplies. Bring anything that is necessary for your medical needs, as well as what is appropriate for your group as well as medical expertise.
You may not need to carry water with you. Research beforehand and see if there are any lakes, rivers, or streams that can provide fresh water and help to cut down on pack weight from the water you’re carrying. In the morning, drink plenty of water to get hydrated and reduce the amount you need to carry.
Invest in newer and lighter gear
New gear comes out every year that weighs less than older, bulkier gear. If you can afford to upgrade, it’s a good idea to help reduce your pack weight by purchasing upgraded equipment. Focus on the biggest pieces: the tent, the sleeping bag, the bag, and the pad.
- A new sleeping bag can be a major investment, yet you can find something that fits your needs and brings your total pack weight down. Getting your sleeping system (pad and bag) down to three pounds can help you to achieve your ultralight backpacking goals. If your sleeping bag weighs more than 3lbs, it should be replaced. One rated for 20 degrees will last most of the year. Find one that is compressible to help to reduce the total volume of your bag.
- There are backpack options that can weigh between 2 to 3 lbs. Look into these when you are switching out your gear.
- Tents should weigh less than 40 ounces. Some people use hammocks or tarps as lightweight alternatives to tents. Keep in mind these are suited only for warmer weather conditions. Aim to have the combined weight of the sleeping bag, tent, and bag to be 9 lbs or lighter.
- Ultralight sleeping pad options include air inflatable ones. A torso length pad can help reduce weight as well as a cut pad.
Choose an appropriate pack size
Every extra ounce counts during a hike. You will want the weight of your pack to be as light as possible when you are on the trail.
Everything from the type of backpack you choose to the stuff you put in it matters. Try out backpacks and chose the one with the space you need at a good price made from light materials that are durable.
For overnight trips, a 30-40L pack is a right size. 40-75 L packs are good for three to five-day trips, and consider 75L or larger packs for when the weather is cold, and you need to carry more clothes or extended trips.
You can do without the pack cover, which might be bulky. Protect your gear by lining the inside of your bag with a trash bag liner instead. Some hikers sew their backpack to bring the total weight of their bag down.
Is your pack weight more than 20% of your body weight?
How much you can and should carry varies depending on how much you weigh. A loaded pack for backpacking should not weigh more than 20 percent of your total body weight. For day hikes, don’t exceed 10 percent of your weight.
If you are falling outside of these parameters, take a good look at your items and re-evaluate.
Start by knowing what the base weight is. This is how much your pack weighs subtracting food, water, and fuel. The base weight will include a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, stove, clothes, and water filter.
You can weigh it with a kitchen scale or luggage scale. Swap out similar items, such as fleeces, and see which brings the weight down the most. An “ultralight” pack weighs less than 10lbs as a base weight, a light pack is 20lbs, while most packs weigh in at about 30lbs.
Take your gear on a trial run before the big day
Before taking on any lengthy hike, it’s critical to do a trial run prior to the trip. Test out everything you’re bringing, from your pack to your shoes, on a trail where you feel safe and comfortable.
Learn how every item you’re bringing is working. You will be able to adjust your pack weight and other factors after taking some time to try it out first. Your trial run can be anywhere from a couple hours to a whole day.
Now that you know the basics of packing light and what NOT to bring backpacking, you are all set for an awesome adventure. Proper preparation will help your hike go better than planned, and helps you to have more fun. Enjoy!
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Megan is an outdoors enthusiast who loves gardening and the fresh air. She has traveled extensively across the United States and has lived the #vanlife. Megan enjoys skiing, camping, hiking and meeting new people.