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10 Weight Saving Tips

Lightweight backpacking or thru-hiking doesn't need to be expensive. Following these ten tips will help you along the way to packing a lighter pack.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       08/03/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
08/03/2021

1. The Big Three (Pack, Tent, and Sleeping Bag)

Selecting the right pack, tent, and sleeping bag can save you pounds of weight as some of your biggest gear items on your hike.

Pack

Focus on the right sized pack for your body and your type of hike. Most long-distance backpackers or thru-hikers that hike over two thousand miles in one season carry backpacks that are 60 liters or less. You don’t need a large pack to cover big miles. Most thru-hikers resupply about every five to seven days so there isn’t a need for super large packs. If you need specialized equipment like an ice-axe and micro spikes you can mail them ahead of time and pick them up later on in your hike instead of carrying them the whole time.

Tent

Select the right sized tent for you. If you are hiking alone, you will probably want to focus on getting a one person tent. Free standing tents or tents that don’t require stakes are typically heavier. Tents that use trekking poles instead of tent poles also tend to be lighter.

Sleeping Bag

Select the right temperature-rated sleeping bag for your hike. Most thru-hikers choose a down sleeping bag rated between 15°F and 20°F. Carrying a bag with too much down fill will add more weight and also may be uncomfortable at night because you may get too hot depending on the climate you’re in.

Sunglasses wrapped in a cloth inside of a Crystal Light container.

2. Make your own eyeglasses case

By making your own glasses case you can easily save 3 ounces. The typical prescription eyeglasses case weighs around 4 ounces. A glasses case you can make at home will only weigh around an ounce.

Learn how to make a UL glasses case
jet boil fuel canisters

3. Consider taking a smaller fuel canister

A smaller fuel canister will save you almost 6 ounces and when you run out of fuel, you can just resupply with another small canister instead of carrying a larger and heavier one from the beginning.

plastic water bottles in hiker box

4. Ditch the heavy Nalgene type water bottles

A common mistake with new hikers is carrying Nalgene bottles. Nalgene bottles weigh about 5 ounces more than a Smartwater bottle that is cheap and one you can buy at almost any grocery store.

knives laying on scale

5. Carry a smaller, more practical knife

You don’t need a knife to take down a bear. Most long-distance backpackers and thru-hikers carry a small knife like the Swiss Army Classic SD pocket knife that is lightweight and has a lot of functions including a main blade, tweezers, scissors, toothpick, and file. You can easily save 4 to 5 ounces by selecting the lighter, smaller knife.

6. Ditch the large lighter

The small Bic Mini can provide over 2,000 lights and can easily last for an entire 5-6 month hike. It will also save you about 0.4 ounces when compared to the large Bic lighter. Even fractions of ounces add up, so it’s something to consider.

7. Only carry a bear canister when needed

You should restrict the use of the bear canister only to areas where it is needed and required. Many people like carrying a bear canister out of a sense of fear and wanting to be extra cautious. Carrying a bear canister when you don’t need it will add about 2 or more pounds of extra unnecessary weight to your pack.

6 resupply boxes with food

8. Plan out your food carefully

It’s important to plan out your meals. Carrying a lot of extra meals because you didn’t plan correctly just adds unnecessary weight.

As you hike more and figure out how much you eat each day, you will begin to figure out how much food you need to carry.

hiking poles

9. Think of “double uses”

Look for items that are used for more than just one use. For example a knife that has tweezers and scissors is not just a knife. Trekking poles can also be used as tent poles. A down jacket can turn into a pillow. A pot lid can be used as a plate. A cooking pot can be used as a measuring cup. When items are used for multiple uses it saves weight and space.

hiker box with random supplies like toilet paper, ramen, stoves, and a water filter

10. Constantly evaluate your gear and ditch the things you don’t use

You should constantly reevaluate your gear to make sure you actually need to carry all of it. If you haven’t used that personal solar shower you picked up in a hiker box for a few weeks, it might be time to put it in the next hiker box you see.

Summary

These 10 hiking tips should help you on your way to cutting your pack weight. It’s important to keep an open mind when reevaluating your gear.

Determining your needs and wants is probably one of the hardest parts of thru-hiking or long-distance backpacking.


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About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 50 guides for trails around the world.