(Jens Ottoson via Shutterstock)
Gear Guy

How can I reduce the weight of my backpack for an overnight trip?

While preparing for a recent overnight backpacking trip in the Adirondacks, I was surprised at the weight of my loaded pack. Despite having modern "lightweight" gear such as a Western Mountaineering down sleeping bag and the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD, my pack probably weighed 50 pounds. The pack itself, an Arc'Teryx Bora 80, is somewhat heavy, but I needed its size to fit all my gear, including a bear food canister. Do you have any advice for reducing the weight of my pack for an overnight trip?

Doug Gantenbein

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With a Clip Flashlight tent and Western Mountaineering sleeping bag, you’re certainly on the right path to lightness, Bill. But something has gone awry. For a true overnight, in anything except the dead of winter, 30 pounds ought to be more than enough (and would seem shockingly heavy to lightweight purists).

I think you need to take all your pack contents out, spread them on the garage floor, and do a thorough inventory. Pick up every item that goes into your pack EVERY item and ask yourself two questions:

Do I really need to take this?

Is there a way to make it lighter?

I don’t know exactly what you have in your pack, but I suspect the first question will shave off ten pounds. Clothes may be a big culprit. Think in terms of a single “set” of clothing that adapts to various conditions. You start with shorts and a synthetic T-shirt. It cools, you add long underwear and maybe a pile jacket and light gloves. It gets wet, you don your waterproof jacket. From this list, the heaviest single thing is the jacket (and pants, if you carry those too). A waterproof, breathable jacket can be shockingly heavy two pounds, easy. Consider instead a Marmot Precip Jacket only 14 ounces and $99.

Substitute a simple foam pad for your three-pound self-inflating one, or take a three-quarter length pad. Downsize your flashlight or headlamp. Take one spoon rather than a whole raft of utensils. Cut your toothbrush in half. Rip that paperback in half, figuring you’ll get only get through a few chapters overnight. Ditch the big camera and take a disposable one. In short, be ruthless. If you pack something you haven’t used for a while first aid kit excepted (and that too can be shrunk) consider leaving it at home.

The bear canister is a real problem, but there’s no way around it. And while it’s no crime to load 45 pounds into a Bora 80 its suspension makes that load feel lighter than the same weight in a lesser pack if you can get down to around 30 pounds, you won’t NEED the Bora and can use a smaller, lighter pack. So think light, think fast, think like you had to cover 20 miles tomorrow to avoid the pack of hound dogs on your trail. Really, what all could you leave behind?

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Jens Ottoson via Shutterstock