Few experience a perfect first backpacking trip. Gear doesn’t fit well, equipment is too heavy, or the trail is more demanding than expected. Many backpackers make adjustments during the next several trips, years, or decades.
One such adjustment is to lighten the load. A standard backpack measure is base weight. Base weight is the weight of backpack with all equipment minus food, water, and fuel. A backpack is classified as ultralight when the base weight is under 10 lbs. Light backpacking is defined as hiking with a pack of base weight between 10-20 lbs.
I adopted light weight backpacking soon after my first trip. Carrying a heavy pack meant slow travel, sore legs, and painful blisters. My pack weighed 48 lbs. on my first trip. Through reading, trial and error, and retiring old gear, the pack of my most recent trip weighed 29 lbs. when fully loaded.
The benefits of carrying a lighter pack are numerous. Walking is more enjoyable. Walking pace is quicker. Walking duration is longer. More of the trail can be covered each day. Many days, a hiker has more energy at the end of the day, and the beginning of the next.
Several websites describe ultralight or light backpacking. If I only had one resource, it would be the book, Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland. This book is an easy read and is heavily illustrated. The author reveals ideas that he has spent years considering, developing, and testing.
I adopted the following ideas to lighten my load and enjoy my hikes more:
- Weigh each piece of equipment so that I know where my weight lies.
- Retire my old equipment with lighter versions
- Never again pack for just-in-case scenarios. What if it snows in October? What if my gloves get wet? Packing for infrequent events is a waste for many trips
- Toothpaste dots – just enough toothpaste, no more.
- Pack a razor blade instead of a Swiss army knife.
- Take plastic water or soda bottles instead of heavy Nalgene bottles.
- Use a small headlamp instead of flashlight
Carrying a lighter backpack has changed backpacking for many. What adjustments have you made to gear that have enhanced your enjoyment of the trail?