Light My Fire Spork

Lightweight Backpacking Tips: Don’t Bring It!

Most of us backpacking types spend our hard-earned cash on new and innovative gear in order to get the lightest possible equipment. One way to save money and weight is simply to not bring something altogether.

Think about all of the stuff in your backpack and then think about the redundancies. Do you really need a second cooking pot? Moreover, do you even need a bowl to eat out of when you could just as easily eat out of your pot while solo?

SilPoncho Tarp
Integral Designs SilPoncho

Often we can find items to do dual duty, meaning that one piece of gear can replace bringing multiple items. The Spork is a great example of this and I’m a big fan of the light and cheap plastic Light my Fire model.

Instead of carrying a waterproof pack cover I carry an Integral Designs SilPoncho tarp, which can be used to cover my pack, me, can be set up as a tarp to eat under or as an emergency shelter.

In the case of my Mariposa Plus backpack I actually use spare socks and gloves as my shoulder and waist padding and my sleeping pad helps add rigidity to the frameless pack.

The next trip you go on keep track mentally of all the items you use and how necessary you find them for either safety or comfort. This doesn’t mean that I would take out my rain gear if it didn’t happen to rain on my last trip, but it can work to identify things that are seldom used.

By doing this I was able to cut down on a lot of the clothing I was packing. I’ve stopped bringing spare pants or shorts for short trips and just wear one pair of zip offs; if they get dirty, who cares, and if they get wet they will dry overnight. The same goes for excess shirts, where in summer I usually pack one merino short sleeve and one long. I’ve also stopped carrying bathing suits and will just swim in my boxer shorts if I come across a mountain lake or beach waterfall.

Gossamar Gear Mariposa Plus
My Mariposa Plus all packed up for a winter trip

If you’re experienced with first aid and comfortable knowing which parts of a kit are important you can easily strip out some items to lighten your load. Packing 20 band aids in various sizes and designs for a 3 day trip is excessive and having good gauze and bandages can be used for a wider variety of injuries.

Sometimes this works to eliminate items in your pack and sometimes you realize that it’s not worth the weight savings. For example, I found that just using my flint and steel to start my alcohol stove was inconvenient and so on my next trip I resumed carrying a butane lighter.

I once tried using my clean water bladder from my Platypus CleanStream as my hydration bladder. This works by just buying an attachment drinking hose. I found that it was awkward to get it zipped shut and was a pain to keep pulling it out of my pack for filtration or to use as the camp water source. Sure it adds weight carrying a second hydration bladder. But it adds convenience as well.

Platypus bite valve
Platypus drinking hose

If there’s gear that you are packing, but seldom using, take a look to see if you can eliminate it all together or at least replace it with a dual use item. Before you consider buying some new fancy piece of equipment in order to save weight in your pack check to see if you even really need it. Maybe you can save weight just by boiling water in your cookpot instead of buying a fancy new titanium kettle.

Leave a Reply