The Fundamentals of Cutting Backpack Weight

by Greg Rouse

Your plans for that great adventure are set. A remote destination is awaiting. You’ve invited your best friends and the food has all been purchased.

Now the question comes, where are you going to put everything? You want all that food, but you also need to bring the first aid kit. And your back can only handle so much.

So how can we lighten your pack?

Here’s 6 of the main ways to cut pack weight:

Fundamental #1 – Look at the biggest and heaviest things first. Replacing a 5 pound pack with a 1 pound pack saves you 4 pounds! Replacing a 7 pound tent with a 1 pound tarp saves you 6 pounds! By picking just two of the heaviest items of gear you’ve already shaved over 10 pounds and we’ve only just begun.

Fundamental #2 – Multi-function. Using one piece of gear for more than one purpose will allow you to leave other gear behind.

Fundamental #3 – Find the lightest and smallest gear you can. Take a smaller LED flashlight or headlamp, consider taking an old Gatorade bottle instead of those big wide- mouth Lexan bottles. And don’t forget lightweight cook pots or just one pot and use zip-lock bags to mix and eat in. By themselves these substitutions may not seem like much, but in combination they add up.

Fundamental #4 – Get rid of that big backpack. With a big backpack you have a tendancy to fill it, but with a smaller backpack, you just don’t have the room. Hence, you’ll usually be a little more picky about what you bring.

Fundamental #5 – Forget it at home. Everyone has forgotten something before, it’s always amazing how you were able to get along without it. So ask yourself, do you really need those extras?

Fundamental #6 – Analyze what you take. Finally, take time before, during, & after each hike to inventory your gear and packing habits. Keep equipment lists and analyze what you used and didn’t use at the end of every trip. You may be surprised at the amount of unnecessary weight that you carry. In time, you will see patterns and ways to shave weight, but keep in mind it is a process and takes some time to get the hang of it.

That reminds me of a backpacking buddy I had that would bring every thing and the kitchen sink. He was a nice guy and would always share if someone didn’t have something, so I started not bringing things and just borrowed his.

He had extra cooking pots, food, and clothing. But, as the saying goes all good things must come to an end, he finally decided to go lightweight, darn it.

Well, here’s to lightening your load.