Tips for Lightening a Heavy Backpack

Tips for Lightening a Heavy BackpackPack-lightening will challenge your organizational and improvisational IQs, but will pay monster dividends to your body parts on a hike. If you learn your destination's terrain, climate and hazards and then test your systems before you go, your packing will be more efficient. Expensive ultra-light equipment can be minimized by measuring, weighing, repackaging and reconsidering your gear.

Replace worn out gear with newer, lightweight equipment. Your load will diminish in increments over time.

Test-pack everything you "need," weigh the load, and then start eliminating things you can do without.

Use the lightest backpack that is rated for the weight you need to carry. The need for heavy frames and fabric disappears with reduced loads, and companies like Golite and Mountain Smith make very light backpacks. A pack weight of 5 to 6 pounds should be enough for any burden.

Weigh every item you need with a digital scale, record the weights and repackage items which seem unnecessarily heavy.

Tips for Lightening a Heavy Backpack

Try a lightweight tent or tarp. In summer, mosquitoes and the odd rain shower are the principal hazards, and they can be kept outside your living space without a heavy tent. Tarp tents need only your hiking poles to erect.

Evaluate the trade-off between cost and weight for sleeping bags. Down bags are lighter than synthetics but are useless when wet. Quilts are another lightweight option.

Tips for Lightening a Heavy Backpack

Buy or make-at-home an ultra-light alcohol stove (soda or cat food cans may be used) and a carry the fuel in a plastic bottle. It does not have the heating power or control features of a canister type stove or the heavier liquid fuel stove, but it will make small amounts of hot water for soups or drinks quickly enough.


Pack for multi-use. Eat out of the same pot from which you cook. Ponchos make excellent rain wear, awnings and fire covers. The back-pad from a backpack augments short, light sleeping pads and trekking poles will support your tarp tent.

Take only the food you need and choose that which requires only one pot for cooking. Transfer foods to light containers like zip-lock bags.

Carry one change of lightweight synthetic clothing whose weight provides optimal performance, and, if conditions permit, use trail running shoes which will double as apres-hike footwear.

Do not duplicate unnecessarily when hiking with a group, and split up the shared items, including stoves, cookware, tarps and tents, flashlights, sunscreen, maps, cameras and insect repellent.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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