10 Tips To Help Lighten Your Backpack

chart showing the weight of a tent in your backpack vs your friend's backpack

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.


More stories like this in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.

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19 replies on “10 Tips To Help Lighten Your Backpack”
  1. says: Andy

    Only hike downhill, then have your friend go back to the car and come pick you up (drink beer while waiting).

  2. says: Mark Mc

    I like to “forget” things, then just barrow things along the way. Saves lots of weight.

  3. says: Justin G

    Wear a small day pack on a weekend trip, strapping everything to the outside awkwardly, but brag that you fit it all in 1800 cubic inches. It might not actually be lighter but you can talk a sweet game.

  4. says: Steven

    Canned food only from Costco. Strap on whole case so you have food if you are lost. Bring big can opener from home.

  5. says: Bob D

    11. If the sidearm (in this case, a .40-caliber revolver with belt holster and extra rounds) is weighing you down, turn around, store said sidearm in a secure place, then resume your hike. (This actually happened to a friend of mine, who learned the practical limits of open carry at altitude)

  6. says: Ed Gnarly

    Instead of carrying 8 beers, hide those 8 beers in your friend’s pack when they aren’t looking. Ask for one at the top of what ever peak or pass you are climbing. It will taste better because you didn’t have to carry it.

  7. says: Lisa Merc

    Is it acceptable to play Oregon Trail while hiking the Oregon Trail? It’s a bitch to drag my Lisa and floppy disks along, forced me to hike with a 4-person tent.

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