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Cutting Pack Weight

When shopping for gear, it’s easy to get sucked into buying cool, high-tech stuff that seems like it will be very necessary.  However, before you make any purchases, ask yourself, “Will I absolutely need this?”  If you’re not going to use something everyday, then don’t bother buying it.

Start out with your three basic pieces of gear: pack, sleeping bag, and shelter.  Build on from there.  Put some serious consideration into getting a low base weight.  “Base weight” is what your pack weighs without food or water.  Aim for a base weight of 20 pounds, and you’ll be thanking yourself later.  Some hikers follow “ultra-light” principles and carry 10 pounds or less.

I guarentee that once you’re on the trail carrying your pack up and down mountains, you’re going be thinking of what items you can send home.  If your pack weight is hurting your back, you are not going to have a pleasent hike.

Here are some tips for cutting pack weight:

  • Consider using a hammock set up, instead of a tent.  You’ll save weight if you don’t have tent poles to carry.
  • Or just bring a tarp for shelter.
  • Switch to a summer sleeping bag for the warmer months.
  • Cut off tags, extra straps, and cut your toothbrush handle off.  The ounces add up.
  • Use Powerade bottles or water resevoirs.  Nalgenes and metal water bottles are heavier than necessary.
  • Don’t be that person that brings a bear rope capable of holding your body weight.  A thin, 30 foot long rope will do.
  • Or don’t even bring a bear rope.  Most hikers stop hanging their food bags after a month or so.
  • Don’t bring a water treatment system like Steripen or a filter.  Just bring some bleach tablets.  Or even better, don’t treat at all.
  • Don’t bring books to read.  You’ll probably fall asleep as soon as you finish dinner anyway.
  • Let your SmartPhone double as your camera.
  • Try OB tampons.  There’s no applicator.
  • Don’t bring underwear.  They’re not going to stay clean anyway.
  • Keep the clothes simple: tshirt, long-sleeve shirt, rain jacket, shorts, pants, socks, sports bra.  You might need a warmer jacket for cold weather months, as well.
  • Mail home your cold weather gear, when the summer months roll in.
  • You don’t need a gun or a GPS.  Trust me.
  • Cut your guidebook into sections, and mail ahead the parts you don’t need yet.
  • Try using an alcohol stove made from a tuna can.  Or don’t bring a stove and just cook on fires.
  • Don’t bring rain pants.  They just trap in sweat and you get wet anyway.
  • Instead of bringing thick, bulky hiking pants; bring yoga pants or running pants.  They’re more comfortable and cuter.
  • Don’t bother bringing a solar charger.  The leaves on the trees block the sun and they don’t work very well.
  • Many sources urge using liner socks under thick wool socks to reduce blisters.  Well, your feet swell up when you hike so the extra pair of socks can actually cause blisters.  I like to wear a pair of thin, wool socks so my feet have plenty of room.
  • Try wearing a hiking dress.  Then you don’t have to bring shorts and a tee.  And you can easily layer yoga pants underneath on cold days.
  • Limit yourself to one luxery item: like a journal.

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