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10 Ways to Cut Down on Backpacking Weight

10 ways to cut down on backpacking weight without spending a ton of money on ultralight gear

Ultralight backpacking sounds extremely appealing, especially when hauling everything on your back up and down mountains. But it is also extremely expensive when you buy all ultralight gear. Believe me; I know. I’ve invested way more money than I’d care to admit into ultralight backpacking gear. But if you are just getting into backpacking, you don’t want to spend a ton of money on something you may or may not like. Or maybe you simply don’t have the money or want to spend it. So I’ve compiled a list of 10 ways to cut down on backpacking weight.

1. If you think you might use it, leave it behind

I have found that when I pack something that I might use, I don’t use it. When backpacking you spend most of your day hiking. For example the I once packed my iPad because I thought I might get some writing done. But I found that when I get to camp and get it set up, I just want to get in my sleeping bag and read my book. Well, actually I read my Kindle. Because it is lighter weight.

2. Make a list and stick to it

Another great way I have found to cut down on backpacking weight is to not pack haphazardly. Making a list helps me to stay focused and not throw in anything on a whim that I don’t really need or use. Because by packing things I don’t really need or use is just dead weight.

3. Use a smaller pack so you don’t have room to over pack

I made the mistake of buying a huge backpack. I bought the Gregory Deva 70 liter pack. And I do love the pack, but after numerous backpacking trips, I wished I had purchased with the smaller pack. I’m pretty sure on my first backpacking trip, I packed over 40 pounds of stuff.

When I bought a smaller pack, not only did the pack itself weight much less, but I physically couldn’t fit so much stuff in it. This really helped me save my weight.

4. Use your clothes in a stuff sack for a pillow

After reading this tip many years ago, it wasn’t until I forgot my pillow and was forced to use my clothes that I tried it. And you know what? They worked just fine. So now, this is almost all I use. If you have to carry the weight of the clothes, you might as well use them for a pillow too. That leads me to my fifth tip to cut down on backpacking weight.

5. Choose multi-purpose gear to cut down on backpacking weight

There are many other ways you can combine your gear to save on weight. For example, clothes can be a pillow. You can also use your cook pot for your bowl or plate. Trekking poles can be used for tent poles if your tent is made for it.

My dog, Caddie, getting ready to call it a night before the sun even sets.
My dog, Caddie, getting ready to call it a night before the sun even sets.

6. Share as much gear as possible and split gear

When hiking with other people share as much as possible. For example, you don’t all need to carry a water filter. You can bring one water filter and share it. Another way you can cut down on backpacking weight is to split up the gear. If you are sharing a tent with someone, then one person carries the poles and stakes, and the other carries the body, rainfly, and footprint.

7. Drink as much at the source to minimize water weight

Water is probably one of the heaviest things in your pack. If you are backpacking in a location where you will have multiple water sources, consider only filling up a little bit and refilling at the next water source. You can also drink as much water as you can handle at the source so you don’t have to carry it. Unfortunately, this tip is not applicable in areas where water is scarce.

8. Skip the stove, eat food that doesn’t have to be warmed

This is a tip, I’m not sure I can do. But if you are really wanting to cut down on backpacking weight, you can leave the stove and fuel behind. Eating cold food or food that doesn’t need to be rehydrated is a great way to cut weight.

A woman hikes along in the forest

9. Use water tablets instead of a filter

You can leave the water filter behind and use purification tablets instead. I used to never carry a water filter. However, once I borrowed a filter and found it to be easier to use. But like with any ultralight tip, you sacrifice some comfort.

10. Bring only the clothes you wear

This is one of the big mistakes I made on my first backpacking trip. I took way too many clothes. I took at least three changes for a one-night backpacking trip! Now I only bring the clothes on my back, a sleeping shirt, sleeping pants, and extra socks and undies.

Cut down on backpacking weight

These are tips I use to cut down on my backpacking weight. Everyone is different. What I can do without, you may not want to leave behind. Like I said above, I like to read my Kindle. That is usually a way others cut down weight. But I find it a luxury I can’t do without. So you will probably want to tweak this list and come up with your own ways. You will also see what items are must for you, and what others think are a must that you can skip.

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