How to Save Weight and Pack Your Preferred Gear When Backpacking

The Golden Rule: If it’s not useful to YOU, don’t carry it.

What’s useful and what isn’t? There is no definitive answer as everyone has their preferences.

Who else thinks taking a comb on a backpacking trip is laughable? I watched a guy talk about his base weight of less than eight pounds. He saves weight by not taking pots or a stove; he cold-soaks his food in a plastic peanut butter jar. Yet he carries a comb! A harmonica, light, pouch for his stakes plus wet wipes, floss, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, Green Goo, scissors and ear plugs also go into his pack.

Before we start tossing stuff out though, let’s make the most of those items you prefer to take when lightweight backpacking.

Strip your gear of all unnecessary weight and leave room for more of the things you can’t live without. Start with the obvious like labels on and inside your gear and clothing. If you need the washing instructions, keep the labels with your receipts and manuals at home. (You can even take photos of them on your phone to refer to later!) Saw off useless handles from your pot, mug, toothbrush, etc. Why the heck would you take along something expendable when you can take a piece of chocolate?

Discard features that you never use. I remove the drawstrings from the hems of all my garments. After a backpack trip or two, I pretty much know what buckles and straps can be removed or shortened. The rest is useless weight. (Although sometimes I end up sewing them back on… whoops.)

Consider packaging. Do you really need to take that cute little bag that your stakes came in? What about the plastic ring that is left after you twist open a Smartbottle? Can you save a couple of grams replacing the spray cap on your bug dope with a simple cap? Spraying is wasteful anyway. Foil meal pouches may be fine for an overnighter, but for multi-day trips, transfer the contents to Ziplocs—and remember to remove the oxygen absorber, that’s for long-term storage. To ‘cook’ your dinner, nest the Ziploc in a rehydrating pouch like the Hyperlite’s RePack.

Capitalize on Multiple Use. Hiking poles that double as tent poles are a bonus. If a sleeping bag liner is your preference, consider the Unightie. It’s a bag liner with benefits. You can wear it to the biffy at night to conserve heat or to go down for a wash in the morning while staying modest. I appreciate convertible pants, breathable rain jackets and the multi-wrap Buff. Mr. Eight-pounder wraps his Leukotape around a truncated straw. How about a more useful spindle like a pen, pencil, pole repair sleeve, bottle or mug? The larger the core diameter the better.

Reduce Water Weight. Liquid soap is 98 per cent water. Sea to Summit presses soap into dry wafers; ditch the container they come in and replace with a tiny Ziploc. Be careful though; you can’t get them wet by accident or you’ll have a gooey little lump. Try to eliminate all the water in your food items too: ketchup, peanut butter, milk and jam all come in powder form. Toothpaste not only comes in powder but also crushable tablets. Save your used teabag to use again in the morning. Dried bread rounds are great to scoop reconstituted hummus or soup. For their weight, Tiller’s dry-cured Meat Chips are super tasty, especially fried.

Milligrams add up! And it takes milljoules to haul them. However, preference may raise its weighty head and you’ll be totally willing to pack it in, like the pre-buttered bagels that I love to fry.

This article was sponsored by Unightie


Squat, wash, cuddle and dream pretty much covers the reasons I went on a mission to perfect a sleeping solution for backpacking. Now enjoyed by backpackers, campers, cruisers, cabin/lodge/hut dwellers and world trekkers.

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