What are your backpacking goals for the New Year? Are you training and planning for a large-scale trip? Hoping to bag some of the high peaks that beckon from just east of Fresno? Thinking about your first solo trip? Heading into unexplored territory?
The Central Sierra offers Fresno backpackers a wealth of destinations in a pristine wilderness, but reaching them is likely to involve a bit of strenuous hiking. Memories of struggling up switchbacks with a heavy pack aren’t the ones you want to bring home, and recollections of pain won’t entice you back to the Sierra anytime soon either.
So this New Year, resolve to lose some weight from your pack to make hiking easier and more enjoyable. This resolution is an easy one to keep. Here are a few ideas for getting it done:
1. Start at the beginning. Pack weight starts, well, with your backpack. Although it may have been great when your big brother gifted you with his old pack or you inherited your uncle’s army surplus pack, if your backpack is heavy, you’re headed for a hefty load before you even put anything inside. Consider, too, that you may be lugging around more pack than you need.
Upgrading to a smaller, lighter pack not only saves weight but also restricts the space available for superfluous gear that you don’t really need. If you can replace one piece of gear on your way to a lighter year of backpacking, consider making it your pack. Many mainstream companies as well as some specialty cottage companies offer lightweight packs, and many are reasonably priced.
2. Make a gear list. Prepare a list of all the gear you intend to take on a trip, including food and personal care items. Systematic and organized packing helps you avoid duplicating items or packing unnecessary gear, which can easily happen if your packing process is random.
3. Weigh your gear. An few extra shirts or pairs of shorts don’t weight much, right? Or do they? That fleece jacket is cozy, but is it way heavier than two lighter layers that will keep you just as warm? How much do the items in your pack actually weigh? You can’t pack lightly if you don’t know how much your gear weighs. A small investment in an accurate scale will pay back dividends in saved ounces.
Weigh everything—even your stuff sacks—and make a list of the results. Not only will you be able to make smart decisions about what you take or leave behind but you’ll also begin to see which pieces of gear you might need or want to replace if backpacking lightly is your goal.
4. Weigh before you buy. With gobs of stylish and versatile gear that change with the seasons, it’s easy to pick up a new jacket here or a good-looking shirt there. If you’re shopping for new gear right now with holiday money or gift cards, pay attention to the specs of the gear that’s catching your eye. Look for functional items that are appealing but also lightweight and multipurpose, and don’t spend money on something new that’s heavier than what you already have.
5. Reduce food weight. This one’s a cinch. Repackage your food into resealable bags (Ziplocs) to eliminate heavy or duplicate retail packaging. Pay attention to how much your food weighs. Look for lighter-weight versions of your favorites (dehydrated refried beans, for example). Consider taking stevia packets (super lightweight!) to sweeten beverages instead of sugar.
When you think about losing pack weight, consider this: removing just four 2-oz. items from your gear saves half a pound. You can almost always find this extra weight in your food stash, first aid kit or clothing.
- Got a plastic container of peanut butter in your bear can? Peanut butter is great trail food! But consider double-bagging a generous portion in Ziploc bags instead of taking the entire container.
- Carrying four pairs of lightweight undies? Consider taking two instead—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to wash them during your trip, and they’ll dry quickly if they’re synthetic (as they should be).
- Carrying a fleece to layer with your insulating jacket and packing a rain jacket as well? You’d be surprised at how insulating your rain jacket is—you may be able to ditch the fleece and never notice a difference in comfort.
- Does your first aid kit contain enough bandages, ointments and pain relievers for a small family? Leaving half of it behind or simply customizing it to your individual needs can save weight without sacrificing safety or comfort.
Losing pack weight is a rewarding and worthwhile and even fun resolution. Give it a try and see just what a difference it can make on your next wilderness outing. Already on your way to lightweight trips? What are some of your pack weight loss secrets?
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