Better Backpacking Basics

Posted: Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Getting down to less than a 30-pound backpack for a week-long trip may be ambitious, but it’s totally possible. Getting ready for a backpacking trip requires thorough planning, but it’ll set you up for a wonderful adventure in the backcountry. Read on for tips on how to shave down unnecessary weight, what to look for in gear, and other sneaky ways to cut back on weight and ensure a good adventure is in your future. You’ll have a more comprehensive knowledge to help make your next backpacking adventure a success! 


Before you embark on a backpacking adventure

Train for your trip so your body is ready for the trail. Backpacking is, by design, a full-body experience. It’s physically challenging to walk miles a day with weight on your back, no matter how fit you are. Prepare for your trip beforehand by doing some weight-bearing exercises that mimic altitude gains, practice hikes with weighted packs, and other strength-building exercises.


Another very important consideration is your gear - pull those goodies out of storage long before your trip. This gives you a chance to assess what you have and what you need, along with cleaning anything that may have gone into the tub a little dirtier than it should have from your last adventure. You should do this at the end of each trip, but it’s a good idea to give it a once-over before you stuff it in your pack. 


Shave off unnecessary weight 

Lightweight backpacking doesn’t need to be intimidating. It’s not just for pros, or extreme backpackers. It’s really just the best way to get outside and have a great time. Less weight = less worries! It’s more sustainable for longer trips and saves your knees in the long run. Everyone needs to start somewhere, so don’t be intimidated by going lightweight. 


There are clever ways to cut back on the weight that many people are not aware of. For instance, cutting tags off of clothing and gear can actually add up! You can also reuse plastic water bottles. Keep a few Aquafina bottles in your backpacking bucket to pull out for trips. It’s not as sustainable as reusable bottles, BUT if you are really looking to cut back on weight, a few ounces make a big difference. And, if you’re committed to reusing the same bottles for many trips, you’re at least being considerate of the environment. 


You can also get rid of excess packaging. Things like toothpaste can be portioned out and squeezed into a tiny ziplock, your macaroni box can be recycled and transferred into another plastic bag, same with any medication you might need.


Choosing the right gear is another way to lose weight. There is so much great gear out there now made for lightweight backpacking - how technology has changed! 


Get rid of things that serve one purpose. A rain jacket that also serves as a windbreaker is a better choice than bringing both! Sporks do away with the need for multiple utensils. Have fun thinking of how you can multi-purpose everything you pack!


Going with friends is a great way to balance out your pack. Sharing the weight is a wonderful aspect of group trips! Group gear like tents (if you’re sharing), tarps, water filtration, cookware, and any “bathroom” tools are great things to distribute the weight among the group.


Gear tips and recommendations 


Shelter is an important thing to do your research thoroughly - there are so many options these days. From tarps to  tents, hammocks, or bivvys, the shelter you choose plays a vital role in your lightweight backpacking experience. It’s typically one of the heaviest things you’ll carry so making sure you choose a good weight for your ability is important, along with how protected you need to be on the trail. Are you camping in the summer, and a lightweight hammock will do just fine? Or is this a fall trip and a 3-season tent is really the way to go? 


Some good options are: 

  • REI quarter dome  (excellent value and can be under 3 pounds)

  • Hubba by msr

  • Northface Mica

  • NEMO 

  • Big Agnes


Another essential item you’ll need is a sleeping pad. If you have a nice pad, you’ll be comfortable and warm. Choosing the right pad can help save weight in more ways than one. An inflatable pad will likely be lighter than a foam pad. There are many pads on the market that are technologically powerful, making it possible to go lighter on your sleeping bag. For instance, if you get something like the NeoAir Xlite, you’ll get the luxury of  4.2 value combined with extreme packability. The extra warmth this pad offers may make it possible to choose a sleeping quilt rather than a bag, which is lighter. But, when it comes down to it, you need to think about how much warmth you need personally, along with the environment you’ll be backpacking in. 

 backpacking tips for a successful adventure


Attitude is everything: how to have the best time of your life 

Going into a backpacking trip with a good attitude will set the trip off right. Set your expectations at a reasonable level, and check yourself if you find that you’re slipping into negative thought patterns. Camping, in general can be messy, uncomfortable, dirty, challenging. That’s part of the adventure! Now, that being said, it’s totally understandable if you have some down days on the trail. Recognize this, and try to figure out what can bring you back. Do you need a snack? Need a break? Need to redistribute your gear? Be vocal about your needs, especially in a group setting, so you get support from your team. 

Another tip is to allow at least one luxury item. This may go against many lightweight backpackers’ beliefs, but, if you get the rest of your gear dialed in, packing something that’ll give you a little bit of extra comfort is well worth it. Maybe that’s an inflatable pillow, or your kindle, or binoculars for wildlife viewing. 


Another way to guarantee a good time is to go with good people. There’s a magical camaraderie that bubbles up among a group of women on the trail. Sharing time, novel experiences, and creating new memories is a wonderful way to connect with like-minded folks, and in what better setting could you find than the great outdoors? 


Pack it out: how to wrap up your trips 


After you’ve taken your shoes off and had a long, relaxing shower, you should probably order a luxurious meal fit for a queen! Treat yourself after all the hard work you’ve done on the trail to put a feel-good bookend on an already amazing experience.


Once you’re well-rested, it’s time for the dirty work of cleaning and repacking your gear for the next trip. Your future self will thank you! 


Take time to reflect on your experience. Maybe take a moment to write down some highlights in a journal, or record a voice memo of a wonderful story. It’s also a great way to figure out what worked well and what you would change for next time. How did your feet feel at the end of each day? Do you need different boots? Or maybe you’ll consider hiking poles next time? Was the iodine a little off-putting, and you think investing in a different water filtration system should be top of the list for next time? Even if you had a perfect backpacking adventure, there’s probably a way you could make it the tiniest bit better next time - perhaps that’s simply choosing a new location, or mixing up who you explore with.


Book your backpacking adventure today

Lightweight backpacking doesn’t need to be intimidating. It’s just a fancy way of saying (more enjoyable) “backpacking”. You don’t need to be a seasoned backpacker to get your pack down to a comfortable weight. Getting ready for your trip beforehand is the best way to ensure a good time. From training to gear prep, the first steps you take will set the mood for your trip.

Choosing the right gear and cutting out small things can make a big difference. But, all this prep would be all for naught if you didn’t have a good attitude to pack with you. Hopefully, the people you surround yourself with will do so much to also boost this aspect of your adventure. 


At the end of the trip, taking time to reflect fondly on your experience can inform your next adventure and preserve your memories from the last. 

Pack it in, pack it out.

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