There are so many good reasons to consider getting your overall packed-weight down for Backcountry trips. The most important reason, to help protect you from injury.
Packing too heavy will adversely affect your joints and spine, especially if your pack suspension is not well designed to carry the bulk of the weight on your hips. The additional strain can lead to injury on the trail which can lead to bigger problems, especially when you find yourself more than a day’s travel away from your nearest exit point. In these cases, you can always hope the extra weight you’ve carried is inclusive of additional food and a well stocked first aid kit with Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen :)
As for guidelines for backpacking light; that really depends on the balance of weight vs comfort on the trail. I’ve seen recommendations for both:
- keep it within 10-20% of your total body weight (Ultralight)
- keep it under 1/3rd of your body weight.(basic recommendation)
The basic recommendation is reasonably attainable depending on the expected climate conditions and of course, the length of your trip. The good news is that you do not have to spend a fortune to get your packed weight down.
In my younger days of exploring, I swore by the ⅓ rule. It worked easily enough for me. That being said, those were simpler days :) Now that I’m a parent and am more frequently venturing on backpacking excursions with my finance with 3 school aged kids in tow, I’m finding it a much higher priority to shave off ounces on items because I’m carrying food/supplies for 3 extra bodies.
I’m always on the lookout for good opportunities to hit that good balance of comfort (for kids especially) and overall weight.
Good places I’ve found to shave that weight include:
Shelters - consider the Tent/Tarp design and materials carefully.
Sleep Systems: sleeping bags, sleeping mats, there are quite a few lighter weight options with good r values (thermal ratings)
Kitchen: food, drybags, tools, stoves, cook systems, and related tools. Consider getting a good food dehydrator and inventing your own meals. With respect to kitchen tools, think of ways to use an item for more one purpose. A mug could also be a bowl or maybe you just eat from your cooking pot. Long handled titanium spoons are light and versatile. Consider more efficient cook systems, wind screens and heat exchangers really help to keep things fuel efficient. Choose meals with short cook times. Pre-Packaged meals can be wonderfully simple on trail but there are even lighter home-made options you can consider that come with less packaging.
Personal Gear: your backpack, boots, hiking poles, clothing, basic personal hygiene. Choose clothing that dries quickly and wicks moisture away from your body, wools and synthetics are the best options here. Pack clothing that layers well. Base/mid/thermal and a shell for wind/precip protection. Thermal/weather protection for your head and hands should always be considered.
Other Essentials to consider when packing: potable water/water treatment, water bottles, first aid kit, map, compass, headlamp/light source(s). Water will be one of the heaviest items you carry. Whatever method you choose for water treatment do you expect that water will be plentiful or will the opportunities to replenish be further and fewer between? While something like water sources are not within your control, these are considerations when factoring in overall trip packed weight.
If you think about it, the categories that more consistently give good options to shave weight are in your Shelter, your Sleep System, Stove and Food and your Personal Gear. The great news is that there are some good, reasonably priced solutions out there.
Of course when you consider the cost of a good quality, well designed backpacking tent vs the costs of a night in a hotel and you think of how often you’ll use this gear. The money invested begins to sound like more of a bargain.
It is an investment in your ability to create some pretty wonderful memories of time spent in some glorious locations.
I firmly believe this is something we could all use more of :)
Jenn @ thebackcountrycollective