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.

Photo by jaywei80


Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.
Showing 17 comments
  • J

    All except #1 are good, #1 idea is just stupid!

    Cmon Brendan, just go with aluminum cans – dude, let go of the bottles.

  • Jared Hoke

    You can also do as some friends and I did some years ago: rent a llama. That worked great going in, but then we decided to huff it all ourselves on the way out … making for a very l-o-n-g and heavy afternoon down the front of the Grand Teton.

    • Nezumi

      You will lighten your load significantly if you don’t try to carry a llama.

      • Evan Lewis

        This genuinely made me laugh out loud.

  • Doc

    Regarding #1: Just leave the heavy beer at home. Buy a box of red wine, but take the wine bag (that’s inside the box) out and carry just that. A box of wine is equal to something like four bottles of wine, just without the heavy bottles. Be sure to drink all of the wine so you don’t have to carry it back, saving even more weight on the hike out.

  • jim

    Step 11.
    check your pack for that rock that your buddy put in there while you weren’t looking.

    • Helen

      It’s even possible to buy dehydrated wine powder! According to reviews it tastes like shit and will make you gag, but hey, it weighs practically nothing!

      • Michael Pitt

        But it wont be alcoholic anymore

  • Uriah

    I’m going hiking and camping this weekend, up in the snow. Thank God I read this first! Unfortunately, as funds are tight (after buying all the necessary beer), I cannot afford a babysitter. But do not fret: I have a good plan to lighten the load. I’ll simply leave our two-month old at the trail-head, along with some food and spare diapers and perhaps a few building blocks for mental stimuli. She can eat snow for hydration purposes. That way I don’t hurt my back.

  • tom

    the best tip to lighten your backpack, is to have a burro carry your required cargo. I’ve been hiking with an adopted burro from the b.l.m. since 1992, with nothing more than a lumbar pack and maybe a hydration pack. incidentally, forget the llama, we need to get these burros adopted that are overpopulating the public lands. and they are many times more capable and durable than an imported llama…..

  • Jonathan Scott

    Some more tongue in cheek ones.

    Buy a carton of wine, leave the cardboard box at home. Wine is stronger to drink and you will sleep better after drinking it. Its also a good conversation starter around the campfire to offer someone a glass of red. Then when the mylar bag is empty, blow it up for use as a pillow and take all the air out to pack tiny for the return walk home.

    Men – reduce your underwear count by half. Wear the same pair for 2 days, simply turn inside out for day two.

    Cut the weight of a tooth brush by half – cut the shaft down to half its length. Save on toothpaste weight – go to the dentist at your next checkup and ask them for the sample tubes of paste. Keep those for camping.

    • Justin Housman

      Wait, people bring more than one pair of underwear on a backpacking trip?

      • jim

        I know right? that was a head scratcher

  • Christopher Wernham

    … bourbon…

  • Mark Malcomb

    A baby sized acoustic guitar or a portable guitar is perfect for a backpacking trip. It’s kinda pain in the a** but surely worth the trouble.

  • Captain Obvious

    This wasn’t helpful at all.

  • Andrew E. Dasilva

    Hey man, This is a great list. And number 1 is become my favorite one. Number 2 is essential one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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