Have you ever packed something for a backpacking trip and not used it? Are there things you bring that are luxury items that you could really leave at home? These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself if you’re saving pack weight.

Let’s look at some examples to illustrate this:

  • Do you bring a camp chair when you go backpacking?
  • How about a pillow?
  • Extra clothes that you don’t wear?
  • Extra clothes because you want a clean set every day?
  • 4 ounces of bug dope, hand sanitizer or suntan lotion when you only use a few squirts?
  • A guidebook?
  • Stainless steel or Nalgene water bottles?

Each of us is different, and there is nothing wrong with bringing extra luxury items on backpacking trips. You just need to be cognizant that you’re doing it. That’s why I advocate weighing everything you put in your backpack so you can ask yourself if it’s really worth carrying.

For example, I don’t carry a 10 ounce sleeping pad-style camp chair when I go hiking because I’m happy to sit on a rock or to lean my back against my backpack. I also don’t carry a pillow because I can bunch up the lightweight synthetic jacket I carry and use it instead.

I usually wear all of the clothing I bring to stay warm at night or when I’m cooking or hanging around camp, and I wash my day-time clothes when they get dirty or crusty instead of bringing extras. Some people don’t like smelling ripe and I can understand that, but is it worth carrying clothing that you won’t use for days on end? It’s easy to rinse out your clothes when you hike in warmer weather and to wear them dry using body heat.

Then there are items you’ll never use up like a 4 ounce or 8 ounce bottle of bug dope, hand sanitizer, or suntan lotion. I repackage all of these in 1 ounce plastic bottles so I’m not carrying more than I need for a trip. If you’ve been bringing larger containers with you, you can often chop a half pound of gear weight (8 ounces) by repackaging like this.

How about a guidebook? I either photocopy the pages I need or tear them out of annual guides if I’m hiking a long trail.

These are just some examples of places where you can shave gear weight by eliminating luxury items or things that you don’t actually use on a hike. It sounds simple, but you really need to evaluate everything in your pack with a critical eye and ask whether it’s worth carrying or not. You’ll be surprised with how quickly it adds up and by how much weight you can leave behind.

Repackage Creams and Gels into Smaller Bottles ©Philip Werner
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