How Do I Shave Weight While Backpacking?
Seven hacks to lighten your load this summer
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Light is right when you’re backpacking, even if you’re just out for the weekend. You’ll be more comfortable on the trail and less fatigued when you get to camp. But don’t worry. I’m not going to suggest you cut the strings off your tea bags or forgo the chocolate bars. Here are seven totally doable, real-world hacks to keep the weight down.
#1: Bring Multi-Purpose Products
I like to pack gear that serves more than one purpose. For example, I always bring a multi-tool instead of a can opener. And I like trash compactor bags because they keep clothing dry, hold food at night, and carry waste out at the end of the trip.
#2: Plan Your Food Wisely
You don’t want to be hungry on the trail, but you also don’t want to haul too much food in. I like to bring a mix of real food (think apples and hard boiled eggs), snacks, and just-add-water meals that I portion out carefully. On big days, I often skip lunch and opt for a hearty snack like beef jerky and trail mix that I can eat on the move.
#3: Don’t Carry Too Much Water
If you plan carefully, you shouldn’t have to weigh yourself down with extra water. Read trail guides so you carry just enough to get you to a stream for filtering or to a potable water site.
#4: Ditch Any Unnecessary Packaging
Instead of carrying the whole mac and cheese box, dump everything into a freezer bag. Another tip: take the cardboard roll out of your toilet paper. Hacks like this shave ounces and space in your bag.
#5: Cut Unnecessary Straps
This is another hack that only saves a few ounces, but it will make your life easier. Many backpacks come with too many straps, so cut the ones that don’t serve an essential purpose. You’ll spend less time fumbling to get your pack ready for the day.
#6: Invest in a Lightweight Rain Jacket
You can buy ultra-light tents and sleeping bags, but they’re usually silly expensive. Not so with a rain jacket. You can get the OR Helium II, which only weighs 6.4 ounces for $160. The Patagonia Alpine Houdini ($200) is also a good choice. Stuff it in the top of your pack and forget about it 'till you need it.
#7: Use Geargrams
This app gives weights for specific pieces of gear, then creates a pie chart so you can see what’s weighing you down the most. It’s a good tool for helping determine what should or shouldn't get left behind.