One of the main mistakes many novice backpackers make is carrying too much weight. In Cheryl Strayed‘s book “Wild,” her pack was well over the recommended weight. She states in her book that she didn’t see anything she brought as unnecessary.
On my first backpacking trip, I brought way too much unnecessary stuff. I didn’t weight it, but I bet my pack was around 45 pounds. That’s 17 more pounds than I had on my last backpacking trip.
No one carries the same items. And what one person thinks is necessary another may see as a luxury item. For instance, I always carry a book and my camera.
What’s in your pack also depends on what trip you are taking. When I backpacked in the desert in Big Bend National Park, we had to carry all the water we needed for drinking and cooking. That made our packs much heavier. I also have three sleeping bags that range in temperature from zero degrees to 50 degrees. The warmer the sleeping bag, the heavier they weigh.
So what is in my pack?
It might take you a few trips to figure out what you actually need and what you don’t. Like I said, my first trip I took way too much. I took two changes of clothes … for a one night trip! Now, I don’t take any changes. I do bring sleeping clothes, because I like to sleep dry and somewhat clean. I also bring a change of undies and socks for each day.
book, DSLR camera.
My book and camera are my luxury items, but I actually use them.
Tip: I have an old dry bag that has a small tear. The padding from my camera bag fits perfectly into it. I store my camera in the dry bag for extra protection from rain, but also in case my water bladder leaks.
I’ve read that many people bring books and never read them because they are too exhausted at the end of the day. But I still read mine, so I pack it. I also bring a extremely thin journal to archive the day. I do, however, look over my bookshelf and pick out the thinnest book I have to take.
Tip: If you are going to read a ton, invest in an e-reader. You’ll save weight, and batteries can last weeks. They are also smaller and do not take up as much room in your pack.
sleeping pad, backpacking pillow, bowl and spoon, sleeping clothes and extra undies and socks.
I bring a Therm-a-Rest inflatable sleeping pad for a little bit of extra comfort and insulation from the ground. And a Therm-a-Rest pillow. I have a Sea-to-Summit deflatable bowl for oatmeal and a lightweight GSI spoon.
Tip: Extra clothes in a dry bag can be used as a pillow. I actually use both at the same time for extra loft.
tent, sleeping bag, stove and pot, waterfilter, food, light, map/guide and first aid.
Everything else I bring I consider necessary for my survival – food, water, shelter, and of course first aid.
If I am going alone, I use the REI Quarter Dome 1 tent. If I am going with a friend that I don’t mind sharing a tent with, I use the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. The sleeping bag I use the most is a 30-degree The North Face Wasatch. I use and Olympus stove and cook set (two cup pot and lid). And finally I have a Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter waterfilter, and a three-liter CamelBak.
I carry freeze-dried meals I can eat in the bag, like Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry. I carry a headlamp, matches, a knife, rope for a bear bag, and first aid. And to make my parents happier, pepper spray.
If there is a chance of rain I bring a Sea-to-Summit ultra light rain cover for my pack.
Also I never go without a map or travel guide if I am not familiar with the area.
Tip: If you are only doing a portion of the trail in a guide book, photocopy pages and only bring the section you need.
My total weight
The last time I backpacked, my pack weighed in at about 28 pounds. It’s not ultralight, but it’s as light as I am going to be able to get it. There are many other ways to cut weight. For example, take a hammock instead of a tent.
I also have a pretty heavy pack. I mistakenly bought it larger so I could pack more stuff. That was a mistake. I bought a 70 liter pack, but probably could get away with a 50 liter. But I do love my pack. I have a Gregory Deva 70.
Break down of the weight:
• Gregory Deva 70 backpack: 4 pounds 14 ounces
• REI Quarter Dome 1 tent: 2 pounds, 10 ounces
• Footprint: 7 ounces
• Sleeping bag: 2.15 pounds
• Sleeping pad: 11 ounces
• Pillow: 9 ounces
• Water filter: 11 ounces
• CamelBak: 6.5 ounces
• Stove: 2.54 ounces
• Cook set: 5.6 ounces
• Fuel: 4 ounces