10 Tips to Lighten Your Backpack

Because lighter is righter…or something. Step 7: Replace video game console with smartphone apps.

A heavy backpack can make a backpacking trip no fun at all. Here are a few tips to lighten your load and maximize the fun on your next outing:

1. Instead of packing 8 beers for your overnight backpacking trip, just take 6. Total weight savings: 1.5 pounds.

2. At the trailhead, open your pack and remove two or three pairs of shoes from it. Leave them in the car.

3. Instead of that old kerosene lantern, try a headlamp. This can shave several ounces off your pack weight. For example, by leaving your Coleman 1 Mantle Kerosene Lantern at home and replacing it with a Petzl Tikka headlamp, you’ll decrease your total pack weight by 4 pounds, 11 ounces.

4. If you notice you have a baby with you, run back into town quick and find someone to babysit it for the weekend. Babies are heavy and become awkward to carry after several miles. Plus they require lots of extra food and gear like diapers.

5. At the trailhead, set aside all your heavy stuff and ask your friend to carry it for you. Explain that you are trying to lighten your pack.

6. Try to limit yourself to three or fewer stuffed animals.

7. Portable video game consoles are heavy. Instead of your Playstation Vita (1 pound, 10 ounces), download a few games like Angry Birds Star Wars II, 80 Days, Asphalt 8, and NBA Jam to your iPhone and hope those will get you by for the weekend or week.

8. Instead of packing separate bottles of shampoo, conditioner, mousse, gel, detangler, and hairspray, try using a stylish but lightweight hat to hide your dirty hair for the weekend.

9. Buy all new stuff. If your stuff is from last year, it’s very likely way heavier than this year’s stuff. Go into a gear store and tell them to give you all new camping stuff, and enjoy the weight savings, plus the shiny newness. If anyone gives you any shit about it, such as your spouse, tell them your old stuff was too heavy and it was giving you back pain.

10. If you have some things that are troubling you, tell them to someone on the way to your hike, or to your friend when you meet at the trailhead. Even if it’s just a convenience store attendant or bartender, it can be very cathartic to just get your problems off your chest. This will lighten your pack, if only metaphysically.

Camp Notes is a big high five to the fun of sleeping outdoors and all that comes along with it. You know, camping and stuff.

Photo by jaywei80


Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.
Showing 8 comments
  • backpackerjoe

    But how will i live without my xbox in the backcountry?

  • Jay Long

    Very funny stuff; love Semi-Rad. Number ten strikes closest to home. Great post.

  • Dean

    This is great. I love it.

  • laure

    Hard to believe, but #6 is a real challenge for my 10-year-old daughter who sleeps with an army of stuffed animals on her bed. There’s little piggy, big piggy, big owl, small owl, hello kitty, Mr Strong, squishy piggy and a few more. Last time we went backpacking, she limited the stuffies to 2 and at the last minute, added a little one because “he would be feeling lonely.” Never mind the weight – she carried everything. You never know what kids will do for a good night’s sleep:)

  • Dan Dickinson

    Or, just place all the beers in your partners pack to surprise them with at the top!

  • Jason Pedersen

    #9 – I love it. I fall to that one every year. I always have to have the latest camping gadget or newest gear-widget. Great article.

  • NonDa

    Just take weed, weed is lighter than beer and you will forget you are even wearing a pack.

  • Paul Nehlson

    For light, I like the Big Agnes MtnGLO string of lights–they give a more diffuse, homey light for your tent.

    Plus, they’re super lightweight (about 3 ounces), though there are other lightweight lights/lanterns.

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