Ten Ways to Lighten Your Load

Ultralight hiking is all the rage. Who hasn't seen a sneaker-clad hiker carrying what looked like a daypack-on-a-diet flying by so fast and fleet that we didn't even have time to say howdy, let alone pick their brains? Not all of us want to hike 35 miles a day. Not all of us are willing to do without any kind of creature comfort. But who wouldn't like to shave a few pounds of a heavy load? Here are 10 ways to get your packweight down without risking your safety.

Make gear do double duty. For example, you might carry an extra layer of warm clothes "just in case." Use them in conjunction with a lighter weight sleeping bag.

Ratchet up your skills. In many parts of the country, summer is a great time to experiment with outdoor skills because the weather is usually warm. Take a tarp instead of a tent and learn a few different ways to pitch it.

Do without. Do you really need that backcountry espresso maker that looked so cool in the store?

Downgrade. Give your gear a serious once over. Do you absolutely need an air mattress, or can you get by with a closed cell sleeping pad?

Modify your gear. Just because your pack comes with all those extra compartments doesn't mean you have to use them all. Maybe you don't need those side pouches. Or that plastic doo-hickey that protects your pack from crampon damage (You especially don't need it if you don't own crampons).

Splurge on ultralight substitutes for common items. Titanium pots will shave several ounces off of your old aluminum cookware. Flexan spoons are lighter than metal (and last longer than plastic).

Share gear with your partner. There's no need for both of you to have stoves, water filters, knives, pots, first aid kits, and a host of other items. But before you marry your gear, be sure you both are committed to staying together for the duration of the hike.

Look at the weight of every single item before you buy it. Double-check it on a postal scale when you get it home—you'll be surprised at how many discrepancies you'll find between the advertised and actual weight.

Pack your food carefully. Most hikers come back at the end of their hike with food left over. A little extra is good—you might have needed it in an emergency. But try to pack accurately, because food is the heaviest item in your pack.

Get the smallest and lightest pack that will comfortably carry your load. You don't need a 7 1/2 pound expedition pack to go on a weekend hike. A smaller pack that weighs 4 1/2 pounds saves you a whopping three pounds.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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