13 Ways to Lighten Your Backpack Weight

We all know carrying a big heavy backpack can be a burden while doing a nice backpacking trip. You can barely enjoy it when you’re shoulders and hips are getting tired of carrying a backpack filled with nonsense, it becomes all you can focus on. I also want to note that there is a difference between comfort while actually hiking and comfort for at your destination. You have to decide:

  1. Do I want to be comfortable at camp?
  2. Do I want to hike fast, hike comfortably and most of all enjoy the hike?

Actually, the other thing is, you can totally be comfortable with lightweight gear at camp too once you realize how little you actually need! It might take some getting used to but trust me..less is more.

While doing the Pacific Crest Trail I learned a thing or two about lightweight backpacking. I wanted to share with you my 13 ways to lighten up your load for backpacking or even day trips. Let’s hop right into it shall we?

backpacking the pct

1. Water Bottle

Use a Gatorade bottle or Smart water bottle in place of a Nalgene bottle, heavy Hydro Flask, or bladder. They will hold up really well, trust me. I used both and saw many other thru hikers doing the same. The only thing is, make sure and change the bottles out every so often that way you don’t start drinking plastic. Yes, the plastic bottles do break down and mix up into your water. I would recycle my used ones every town I got to while I was on the Pacific Crest Trail and buy a new one. Just throwing this out there, when I am not on a trail I use glass or that heavy Hydro Flask to make up for all the plastic I used.

2. Ground Cloth

Use a Tyvek as a ground cloth or ground sheet. You may only be saving one or two ounces by doing this but hey..that’s one or two ounces. Personally, I carried the footprint that went with my tent. It wasn’t a big deal to me. You could be saving some money by using a Tyvek as well though, so keep that in mind.

Backpacking Gear - Lifestraw

3. Ration Your Drinking Water

It’s important to hydrate and bring enough water. But a little “trick” you can do is hydrate at a water source where you’ll be filling up at and then carry the right amount of water to get you to the next one. This could potentially save you 1 whole liter which equals 2 pounds. That’s a whole-lotta-weight.

4. Media

Your phone is like a swiss army knife. Why do you think so many people are on their phones so much now-a-days? Because they do a lot. Instead of bringing a camera, GPS, paper maps, books, compass, IPod, and what ever else you can think of. Bring your phone and a portable charging device like this one from Goal Zero or some other company. I literally used my phone for photos, maps, compass, calling, texting, the usual phone stuff, social media etc. I never had any problems. I would contemplate bringing a SPOT or something like that just in case an emergency does happen.

Big Agnus Copper Spur UL2

5. The Big Three

For number five, you’re going to want to invest some money into your gear, specifically the big three: Tent, Sleeping Bag, and Backpack. There are a few brands that come to mind that make ultralight backpacking gear and they are:

Use your tools and do some research to compare different tents,  sleeping bags and backpacks. Try opting for a tent using your trekking poles. Also, try a frameless backpack. I carried the REI Magma during my time on the PCT. A down quilt would be a great addition to any pack.


6. Food and Resupply 

Going on a long trip or thru hiking? Try to set up caches or mail your food ahead. Food is probably your heaviest items you will be carrying.

Some simple examples of foods you could bring are Barnana instead of a whole banana. A protein bar in place of an apple or oatmeal. Basically try not to bring whole, low caloric foods that have peelings. A good game you can play is see how many foods you can find that have at least 100 calories per ounce. I did this too often but I actually kind of enjoyed it.


7. Do You Really Need That?

This one is quite simple. Ask yourself, do you really need to bring that pillow? Or that entire bottle of toothpaste, lotion and sunscreen? Also, ditch the deodorant and embrace the BO. Everyone stinks out there so your stench will blend in quite nicely. Unless you ate garlic and onions, that’s a whole different sweat.

gsi pinnacle soloist review

8. Cooking Equipment

You could go stoveless. Crazy right? This thing called soaking might blow your mind. You can actually soak oatmeal, pastas, rice etc. Is it good? Personally, I like cooking up some hot water and having a nice hot refreshing meal. Another fun one is only eat bars! This way you can be a speed demon by not having to stop. It’s all up to how you want to hike though. Do you, boo boo.

9. Ditch the TP

Well this might be awkward. Someone’s gotta say it. Don’t bring TP. Instead use some nature in any creative way you can. Pinecones, leaves, dirt, rocks? I once heard a song that goes a little something like this:

When you’re sittin’ on the Jon

and the toilet paper’s gone

be a man (mon) use your hand (hond).

Don’t actually use your hand though. Okay, next one.

10. This One Might Sound Crazy

I once met a young boy that took all the labels, tags, wrappers, EVERYTHING off his products. Do you know what they called him? Grams. Cut all the excess accessories, tags, bags, all the useless crap off your stuff. This may only save you grams but hey, that’s grams you don’t have to carry.

11. Clothing Optional

If you’re going on a couple of day backpacking trip, try only bringing what you wear. Maybe some extra socks though.

Altra King Mt Trail Runners

12. Shoes

Instead of wearing big clunky boots, go for some ultralight trail runners. They are lighter, dry faster and more comfortable. Win! Also, leave your spare flip-flops and go barefoot for when you arrive at camp. Earthing has many benefits!

13. Pillow

If you do happen to bring extra base layers and rain jackets on your trip, use them as a pillow at night! Put them in a dry sack or other small bag to act as a pillow case and that will keep everything tidy.

That’s all my tips for you! I hope you enjoyed them or found them useful in some way. Do you do something crazy or unusual to save weight? Feel free to comment below or let us know on our Facebook page! Thanks for reading!


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