So what is ultralight backpacking? Ultralight backpacking is a minimalist approach to backpacking. In a nutshell, you want to carry the lightest, safest, most efficient gear. All this and have your pack under 10 pounds.
I’m not going to get into the “Big 3” meaning backpack, sleeping bag+pad, and shelter. I’m going to assume you already know about them. I want to tell you about some ways to save weight that you might not have thought about before to reduce your pack weight.
Before we jump off into that let’s talk about a couple of “must haves”:
1. A scale
2. An open mind
You want a scale that can weigh grams, ounces, and pounds. Like this one. You’ll be using the scale to weigh everything that goes in your backpack.
The open mind you’ll need for reasoning things out, like, “Do I really need that Rambo knife that has the suture kit in the handle?”
Speaking of suture kit that brings us to our first weight savings.
FIRST AID KIT
Cut down on the number of bandaids, alcohol swabs, ointments, and “stuff” you need. Ask yourself, how far will I be from help? Am I hours, days, or weeks away? You can play the what if game but if you do you might as well bring a whole medical team with you backpacking.
You don’t need sutures, snake bite kits, tweezers, or a bottle of Betadine (vodka works too!). Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying do not bring a first aid kit just cut back to basics. It’s all the extras that will keep you from reducing your pack weight.
CUT THOSE TAGS AND STRAPS
Tags!! That’s right folks, tags. No, I’m not talking about hashtags I’m talking clothing tags. Hopefully, you already ditched the excess clothing, like the 3 pairs of socks, cotton t-shirts and the Sponge Bob pajama pants.
Cut all tags from your shirts, pants, and gear. Pretty simple right? I bet you have at least 1 tag, somewhere, if you go through all your gear. It probably doesn’t seem like much, but as they say, every ounce counts!
Excess straps. You know that lower strap just below your navel called the hip belt? Cut the excess off. You don’t need it! You don’t plan on gaining back all that weight you’ve lost doing all that hiking you’ve been doing. Same thing with the sternum strap, cut it and any other straps dangling in excess. Most hiking pants come with a belt nowadays, if so and there is excess cut it! Make sure you burn the ends so it doesn’t ravel.
SHARE THE BURDEN
This is specifically for the backpacker who hikes with a partner. We all do it, it gets lonesome on the trail. This can get very broad here so I’ll just give one example. One of you carries the water filtration system, you only need one. Yes, you can share. Same goes with a stove, you only need one. This is unless you subscribe to the prepper thing where two is one and one is none. If that’s the case stop reading here.
DITCH THE STOVE
This is the new thing right now, especially for thru-hikers. They are ditching their stoves in favor of no cook methods of cooking. This can be a broad area too, but one of my favorite no-cook meals is taking a pita or flatbread and putting pizza sauce, cheese and pepperoni on it and making a pizza wrap. It’s fantastic!
SWAP OUT YOUR BATTERIES
If you carry a headlamp, switch out your alkaline batteries for lithium. Lithium batteries weigh about half that of alkaline batteries.
Even if you’re not interested in being “ultra light”, there are countless ways to shave ounces and reduce your pack weight. These are just a few that you may or may not have thought of.
As a backpacker, I’m constantly researching and thinking about ways I can shave just a few more ounces from my pack.
To what end?
That’s a good question!
A note to the reader
If your reading this short article I encourage you to share at least one way to shave weight in your pack. It may or may not be obvious to some people, but for the beginner backpacker who may be reading this blog post, they might benefit from reading your comments.
And don’t forget to subscribe on the right hand side so you can keep up to date with new posts!
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13 thoughts on “Savvy Ways to Lighten Your Pack”
I enjoyed your post, but disagree with one point…tweezers are a must during tick season. I have a small pair, about 1.5 inches long that doesn’t register on my scale (it only measures in tenths of an ounce though). On a trip last fall, even with long pants and permethrin, I still had to remove 2 ticks. Was really glad I had those tweezers! Avoiding tick-borne diseases is worth an extra ounce!
You are definitely right! Everyone has to their own “must brings”, regardless of the weight. I certainly do. Thanks for the input Emily! What part of the country do you typically hike in?
I agree with you on reviewing items after a hike. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken items an never used them. I’m using the Altra 2.0 trail runners it’s like I have air on the bottom of my feet. I’ve never heard of the Firetails but i’m going to check them out now. Thanks for your imput.
I ditched my hip knife for a skeleton necker that weighs fractions of the weight of the larger knife with just as much sex appeal. Yet to come across something that needed an edge that the necker couldn’t handle. New problem is that I can’t resist buying necker!
Switched from one multi use pack (Osprey) to one for short trips (zimmerbuilt) and one for longer (ULA Ohm) so I don’t carry excess pack weight.
Ready to go with trail runners. I wear and love my Salewa Firetails, but I am sure I can shave some weight there. Actually shaved a ton of weight when I went TO the Firetails from my old leather Timberlands.
All this works, but my best strategy is to ruthlessly review after a trip what I used and what I didn’t. Best way to reduce the weight on an item (non-essential) is to not take it at all!
Nice Little article, Since we hike with our dog, we found a Collapsible dog bowl and that saved some weight as well.
I keep wanting to get a hiking dog. Great idea. You also have a great website. Thank you.
Thanks! yeah Jasper is great on hikes, camping and fishin’ trip’s, he also adds extra protection against bears, coyotes and bobcats around here. I also enjoy your site as well and subscribed!
Grapenut, you are brilliant. Maybe you could write a guest post????
I agree maybe he could be a guest blogger.
Nice article Jaxx. I think a good follow-up topic might be “if you could only buy one size or temp rating of each of your “big 3” then what are some ideas to strike the best balance? For example, buy a 20 degree partial length down underquilt. A quilt that size can be augmented with additional clothing, or pads, etc making it “modular.” and so on… What do you think?
I agree I think that would be a great topic.
Heck yea man! light hiking boots or shoes is a good idea brother. Thank you for the tip.
I never thought about Lithium batteries being lighter. Good tips. Although I don’t thru-hike, mostly day hike I could see all of these being useful ideas. My tip would be find the lightest pair of hiking boots you could? How is that? Good or no?