I’m on the sunset side of 60, but even when I was in my teens and twenties I had fun reducing the weight of my pack.
When I was young, strong, and full of energy I still couldn’t understand carrying a heavy pack. Backpacking is infinitely more enjoyable when you’re carrying a light load and getting closer to nature. Hiking should be closer to walking than hauling.
So, for over 50 years I’ve been working on ways to lighten my pack — without sacrificing comfort.
I get lots of catalog requests that say things like “I have knee problems and need to get my pack down to 35 pounds.” Ouch!! Why not get under 20 pounds so you can float along and really have fun!
Much of a heavy pack comes from the overkill of carrying winter items. If your biggest weather threat is a summer shower, backpacking should be simple. For starters, most people use a sleeping bag that makes them sweat in summer. It’s easier to use one of the Western Mountaineering bags — then if you go on a trip that’s going to be a little cooler, just add a silk liner. It’s just 4.7 ounces, and the liner keeps you another 9 ½ degrees warmer.
Once you commit to a light pack, you can save a lot of weight on the pack itself. Many packs weigh 7 pounds or more. And the manufacturers have the nerve to say how “comfortable” they are. Your knees and ankles know the total weight you’re carrying.
Notice how these products are as comfortable to use as heavier ones, and in most cases more convenient because they’re small and simple.
People have asked me for a specific list of how I can get my pack weight down to 15 pounds, and less. Here it is — including clothing and food. You can modify it with a tent instead of a bivy sack and so on. Put the pencil to it. It works!
Add up your heaviest items, the pack, sleeping bag, bivy, pad, rain gear, stove, and fuel and you’re still under 4 pounds — the weight of many packs alone! Choose a full size pack and a tent instead of a bivy, and you’re still under 6 pounds. Then see how light your total can be, including food and water.
Your 3-day pack can be only 7 lbs. 7.3 oz. plus 27.5 oz. for food for a total of 9 lbs. 2.8 oz.. No smoke. No mirrors. These are the real weights of each item and the real total. You can switch to a full tent and still be less than 11 pounds. Add water and you’re still less than 13 pounds.
Here’s a convenient Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet so you can compare gear. Special thanks to Chuck Lowe for providing the spreadsheet.