5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Reduce Your Pack Weight

When it comes to backpacking, weight is everything. The lighter the backpack the faster and further you can go without injury or exhaustion. Check out these 5 surprisingly easy ways to reduce your pack weight before you hit the trail this summer and you’ll surely have a great adventure.

1. Bring Items That Can Be Used in Multiple Ways – Think of ways you can use the same item for multiple uses. For example, I carry a down jacket for hanging out at camp on cool nights then I use that down jacket as a pillow at night. Paracord is another great example. You can use it for gear maintenance, first aid and many other ways. Check out these other great uses: 5 uses for paracord.

2. Extra Clothes– Leave them at home. Seriously, I used to always bring extra clothes ‘just in case’. The backcountry isn’t a place for wardrobe changes. Select comfortable, quick drying layers that each perform a different task. Don’t duplicate any pieces of clothing. You only need one pair of shorts, one short sleeve shirt, one long sleeve shirt and a warmer jacket. Don’t bring two identical long sleeve shirts ‘just in case’.

3. Consider Your Food Wisely– Plan your meals with weight and space considerations. It’d be nice to cook a nice meal with rice or quinoa but a freeze-dried meal will be lighter in weight and since you only have to boil water instead of actually cooking the rice, you can carry less fuel.

4. Only Carry The Water You Need – Water is heavy. Bring a water purifier and get water at each water source you pass. Drink all of your water while you’re at the water source and only carry what you’ll need until you reach the next water source.

Check out these other backpacking water tips: How to get the most out of a water source or Which Backcountry Water Filtration and Purification Method is Right For You?

Lightweight backpacking

5. Examine the Big Three- When it comes to purchasing gear, you can make the biggest weight saving in the big 3: Tent, Backpack and Sleeping Bag. Those are the three largest items and offer the most potential weight savings. Spending more money on lightweight cookware won’t have as much impact as a light weight backpack. Carefully scrutinize those three items and make careful purchasing decisions to reduce your overall pack.

Plus one bonus tip:

6. Cut the Excess– Grab a pair of scissors and cut off everything that isn’t useful. Backpack manufacturers are notorious for adding straps, buckles and thingies that you’ll likely never need. Also, cut the handle off your toothbrush and any other extra pieces you won’t need. These cuts only save an ounce or two but remember you were looking to save every ounce when you paid extra for that lightweight tent or backpack. Every ounce counts.

What other ways do you suggest for reducing backpack weight?

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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.

5 comments on “5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Reduce Your Pack Weight

  • Bring an e-reader instead of a book. They are light, you will have far more reading choices, and when using a newer model you don’t require additional light to read.

  • Gosh, sounds fine and dandy, but I’d have to take issue with a couple of things. Carrying water only between water sources is fine, if you remain healthy and if the water sources are there. If they’re dried up, if you twist an ankle, you’re screwed. I’d take enough to make it to the water source AFTER the next one. As for extra clothing, it seems to me that we were taught decades ago that extra clothing is one of the Ten Essentials. I might go with only one pair of shorts, but I would be darn sure to have a pair of convertable pants in my pack in case I’m caught out and face a night in wet clothing. I may walk a little slower, but I’d like to arrive alive and hypothermia-free.

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