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Hiking Light – Sweat the Small Stuff and Reduce the Weight of Everything in Your Backpack
All my life people have been saying “Don’t worry about the little things.” That’s usually good advice. But in a light backpack it’s a great idea to “sweat the small stuff”.
You can reduce the most weight from the larger items you carry such as the tent, sleeping bag and the backpack itself. Then you move on to a sleeping pad, rain gear and cooking gear. But don’t stop there. Any remaining trifles are also added up. If you cut them relentlessly, you can carry significantly less weight. You will enjoy freedom and be able to maintain comfort. In a way, you will have more comfort, not only because of the weight savings, but also because of the smaller size and simplicity of the equipment.
Remember that any light technique is an option. Choose what suits you. Every backpacker is different. Do it your way.
Have you ever been ready to go on a trip and grab something at the last minute? Maybe you packed a flashlight or an extra shirt that weighed 6 ounces. That seems pretty easy. It certainly won’t spoil your hiking. Not by itself anyway. But in a lightweight backpack, the thing to remember is that every single item adds up.
In my backpack, I carry a sandwich-sized ziplock bag that weighs less than 6 ounces – and holds 27 items. That’s 27 pieces of gear that weigh as much as many mountaineers’ flashlights. Read the list and see how you can reduce weight and enjoy a lighter, simpler backpack.
Compass – 0.1 oz – It is a small inset compass piece for a keychain
Whistle – 0.1 oz – Small cylinder shaped aluminum style
Mirror – 0.2 oz – For signaling and grooming. acrylic, finely trimmed
Comb – 0.1 oz – Cut in half of course!
Book matches – 0.3 oz – 2 full regular books
Safety Matches – 0.3 oz – Low Wind and Water Resistant in a 2×3″ Ziplock Bag
Soap, Biodegradable – 0.3 oz – For Body and Dishes, small amount in 1/4 oz. container
Sunscreen – 0.3 oz – Liquid style, small amount in 1/4 oz. container
Pencil – 0.1 oz. – A dense filling will work
Paper – 0.2 oz – Several “sheets” in a 3×5″ binder – fires and starter!
5 Rubber Bands – 0.2 oz – Repair accessories, air mattress wraps, etc…
Toothbrush – 0.1 oz – Cut off the handle, then drill holes for fun!
Tooth Powder – 0.1 oz – Lighter than toothpaste…
Thread – 0.1 oz – In a 3×5″ zipper great for mending as well
SPF Lip Balm – 0.2 oz – Look for a thinner, lighter brand than usual
Benadryl Cream – 0.4 oz – added to a first aid kit, provides some relief from bug bites
20 Ibuprofen – 0.2 oz – Backpacker pain reliever of choice in 2×3″ zipper
12 Aspirin – 0.1 oz – Supplements for Altitude Headaches in a 2×3″ Ziplock
8 Loperamide – 0.1 oz – For diarrhea, trimmed and placed in a 2×3″ ziplock
6.1″ Brass Safety Pins – 0.1 oz – For equipment repairs and blister treatment
30 Aqua Drink Tablets – 0.3 oz – in 1 dram amber bottle, 1.1 oz if in original bottle
Lightweight Nylon Cord – 0.2 oz – For repair or general use, 25 feet in 3×5″ zipper
Gerber Micro Knife – 0.4 oz – Very light, high quality
2 Princeton Pulsar II – 0.4 oz – Light enough for camping use, includes backup
Extra set of batteries – 0.2 oz – Extra set for both. It provides many hours of light
Favorite Writings – 0.1 oz – 40 years in the wild, must be light!
Here it is. That’s 27 pieces of gear that weigh less than 6 ounces! You can do it and enjoy the freedom.
You can also reduce the weight of other small pieces of equipment. For trash, the large 10 ½” x 12″ resealable bags found in supermarkets work great and weigh only 4/10 of an ounce. If you need sunglasses, start looking for the lightest quality rimless pair you can find, then make them the ones you always keep in your backpack. For your map, take only what you need, but don’t carve legends or “escape routes”.
Some car keys may be dented. I punched almost half my weight. I attached bright mylar (from balloons) so that the key is easy to spot if it falls out. Take some cash, at least one credit card and your driver’s license, but leave your wallet and most of its contents at home. It’s dead weight.
Don’t skimp on the toilet paper, but put it in a ziplock bag. And be sure to use white, unscented. A super lightweight emergency blanket can provide you with protection at just 1.8 ounces. Your first aid kit can be quite complete and very light. You can start with the “mini kit” and throw away the plastic bag it comes in. Place the contents in a zip lock bag and with the weight savings of throwing away the original container you can actually add more emergency items or things you use most often. These may include items such as butterfly bandages, a roll of lightweight surgical tape, extra packs of triple antibiotic ointment, or an extra mole. You can pack a lot of first aid into two ounces.
Most people want some type of pillow, but experiment with a light one. Your clothes in a duffel bag might work. Part of your package might work. I use a small piece of foam that weighs 7/10 of an ounce and add clothing underneath for more loft.
Some hikers won’t leave home without a camera. There are many lightweight options for cameras. There are backpackers who consider deodorant a must. Arrid makes a cream that can be placed in a small plastic container. If you need reading glasses, look at very narrow glasses. They are probably half the size of your regular pair. Use small ziplock bags for your medications if the medications don’t need to be in super airtight containers.
When you “sweat the small stuff,” you not only save weight, but you also simplify your hiking techniques and save weight in your backpack. Reducing the weight of small items is another way to help you float down the trail.
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