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Tips on Lightening your Backpacking Gear

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

When you take all your Camera gear with you on backpacking trips, the weight can add up and there are very few things you can alter with your camera that will lighten them up, so you're left with lightening up all your other gear.

The most important way to save weight is to use items that have multiple purposes. For example, instead of bringing rain gear and a pack cover. You can get a Poncho that would serve as both. The other added feature for some ponchos is that they act as a Tarp for a shelter. Another example is some tents that require support poles can be replaced by using your Trekking poles instead.

Other ways to shave off weight:

Tags - Remove tags from everything, Clothes, pack, stuff sacks, sleeping bag, etc. You would be surprised how much weight they add up to

Hygiene items - Use smaller sizes of items like deodorant, toothpaste, and even your toothbrush. You can go as far as cutting your toothbrush handle down to a usable length. You can also place your liquids into very small 5ml Eye drop bottles. Powdered toothpaste would also cut weight, and a little goes a long way.

Stuff Sacks - Items that come with a stuff sack like a Sleeping bag, air mattress, etc can be lightened up by not using the stuff sack. Your sleeping bag can be stuffed into your pack just by itself. This also helps to fill in spaces in your pack to keep items from moving around. On the other hand, certain stuff sacks are very light and waterproof. These can be used for your clothing and anything else you want to keep dry. (Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil)

Backpack - Most packs come with extra-long straps. Once you fit the pack to yourself you can trim down the straps. Be sure to melt the ends with a lighter to prevent the straps from fraying.

Cooking Gear - All you really need is a Cooking pot that holds at least 2-3 cups of water. The most common backpacking food is either Freeze dried, dehydrated, rice-based, or Pasta. All these items can be cooked with boiling water.

Food - Food items usually come in packaging that is bulkier than the food itself. To save on weight for your food items create the needed portions and place them in Ziploc Double Zipper Heavy Duty Quart Freezer Bags. You can then label these bags and even cook your food in them with the help of a Special Food cozy (Hyperlite Mountain Gear Repack) this also helps with not needing a bowl or plate. You can eat out of the bag.

Clothing – Avoid using anything made with cotton, it’s not completely because of the weight but because it doesn’t handle moisture well. To manage moisture and temperature using wools and synthetics is best. Wools stay warm even when it's wet and synthetics dry fast and help wick sweat away plus are light. An example of high-performance wool is called Merino and a high-performance Synthetic is Capilene. Patagonia has many nice lightweight clothes made with these materials but they are pricey.

Sleeping Shelter – There are many options for sleeping shelters. You can go minimalist and use a lightweight tarp, which will save you lots of weight but won’t always protect you from the elements. The benefits of using an actual tent are they provide better protection to the elements and bugs, plus tend to be a little warmer in cold weather. But the downside is they are heavier. Many of the new lightweight tents are going with a single-wall design to cut weight. Meaning there is no rain fly. The single wall acts as the rain fly. The downside to this style is the condensation builds up on the inside. But these are very light, and even save on weight by using your trekking poles for support. Either path you take can be pricey. Tarps and tents can range all the way up to $600+. Tents are a personal item and you should do your research before you buy. Look for lots of headroom, weight, material, price, etc when deciding. ( , both have great lightweight tent / tarp options)

Sleeping Bag – The sleeping bag is another personal item when it comes to selection but it is also part of your pack's base weight so you want to select something that will keep you warm and light. There are two types of sleeping bags to consider the common sleeping bag style and the quilt style. The common sleeping bag style has a tapered foot area and a zipper that runs the full length of the bag, and the quilt doesn’t have a zipper at all, this is where the weight savings is. Most people tend to use a sleeping bag/quilt that is rated around 32-42 degrees for weight savings. If it gets colder then what your bag can handle you can wear clothing to bed to help keep warm. This also helps if you have to get up to pee at night or just get up in the morning. You won’t have the shock exiting the bag. Another important consideration is the material within the sleeping bag; down or synthetic. Down will be lighter, warmer, and more compactable, but doesn’t handle getting wet very well. It dries slowly and doesn’t provide any warmth when wet. Synthetic bags are heavier, don’t pack as small, but handle being wet better and dry faster. Choices to consider are the Sierra Design Backcountry quilt, or Western Mountaineering SummerLite

Sleeping Pads – Sleeping pads have come a long way in technology and are getting more comfortable and lighter. You have many choices, and it all comes down to what is the most comfortable for you. Some people go with a Foam pad for the lightweight, cheaper, and multipurpose use as a seat or backing for your pack, but others go with an air pad for comfort and packs down to be super small. A good pad to consider is the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite, one of the lightest, warmest, and 2.5 in. thick.

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