Lightweight ‘” What is it?
Lightweight backpacking is a popular term for cutting down the weight in your backpack. Most backpackers agree that to be considered a lightweight backpacker your pack must weigh no more than 20 pounds. This 20-pound goal is extremely difficult to achieve and often times forces backpackers to compromise comfort for a lightweight backpack.
The lightweight Advantage
The advantage of getting your pack below 20 pounds is to allow the hiker to walk faster and cover more miles each day. A simple analogy would be if there were equal amounts of gasoline in both a Toyota Prius and a Ford f150 which car would cover more distance? The Prius would of course, because it is lighter and engineered to do so. Likewise a hiker carrying a 60-pound pack will cover far less distance than someone carrying a 20-pound pack. The 60-pound pack is now less efficient because the weight takes more energy to carry. Now lets say this ultra-heavy hiker is traveling up a incline of 500ft/mile not only is the weight against him/her, but now there is gravity pulling against the pack making the journey even harder. And if that wasn’t enough evidence the hiker with the heavier pack is now required to carry even more water than the lightweight backpacker because they will loose a lot of their water through sweat, therefore making their work harder. Hiking is supposed to be a fun recreation and the last thing you want to do is to not be able to enjoy your hike.
The way to cut down on your pack seems easy enough in theory, but in practice it can be very difficult. Oftentimes beginner backpackers will bring unnecessary items with them such as extra large knives or entire books they wont read. Thinking that the extra ounce or 2 of weight really wouldn’t matter. Although there is some truth that you will not feel an ounce or 2 of weight, if you had 8 small items each weighing a measly 2oz, you would quickly have an extra pound of noticeable weight. Lightweight can also be very expensive, so be prepared to fork out the extra money for gear. An extra $100 for a sleeping bag that is 6oz lighter might seem ridicules at the store, but once you get on that trail you will be thankful for every oz. Oftentimes people will want to make their own meals at home to try to cut down on costs. Although this is a great idea there are some general rules to go by.
1. Water is heavy – As a general rule, every 2 cups of water adds 1 pound of weight to your back.
2. Avoid canned products – canned food such as vegetables or salmon might seem like a cost effective solution for a hiker, but they contain large amounts of water and they are placed in heavy containers. Both will cause the weight of your pack to increase rapidly.
3. Dehydrate all of your vegetables – Vegetables also contain large amounts of water and as we’ve learned water weighs a lot. If there is anything in your bag that contains liquids, it is a good idea to try to see if it can be dehydrated.
4. Taste Test – Try all foods at home to make sure they taste good. I remember a few hiking trips where decided to cut down on costs by making up my own recipes and when it came time to actually eat them on the trail they ended up being disgusting even by hikers standards. There were 2 instances where the food was so bad that I washed it away in the river and didn’t eat that night.
5. Food is energy ‘” Remember to try and pack food that contains a large amount of calories or carbohydrates per gram.
As mentioned earlier, lightweight backpacking can be very expensive, and because of that it is not for everyone, but there are some great resources on the web for cutting down costs, while still staying light. Here are some examples
1. Tarp tent ‘” Tarp tenting is a very easy way to take $100-$200 off of your trip. Tarp tenting is where you use a regular painting tarp as a rain fly and repurpose your hiking poles and some twine to stabilize your contraption.
2. Homemade Alcohol Stoves ‘” Alcohol stoves are very popular with lightweight backpackers because they are extremely lightweight and are made from common soda cans.
Variations of Lightweight Backpacking
Ultra light backpacking
Ultra light backpacking is very similar to lightweight backpacking with one difference, less weight. To be considered an ultra light backpacker you must carry between 6 to 10 pounds. These ultra enthusiasts trim excess material off of anything shaving fractions of an ounce at a time. A very common behavior between ultra light backpackers is to snap off the handle of their toothbrush and remove all straps from their bag.
Super-ultra light backpackersPacks are between 4 to 5 pounds. This hiking style is very difficult to achieve and some people might say is getting a little obsessive. To get to this level you must repurpose everything you carry and throw out everything you don’t absolutely need.
Uber light backpackers
Packs are below 3 pounds. This style of hiking is the most difficult to achieve. In fact to be an uber light backpacker you must give up all forms of comfort in exchange for being apart of the fast and elite hikers. Packs are handmade out of rip stop nylon and contain only the necessary items for survival: food, fire and maybe a sleeping bag.
These guys do not carry water, purification or a tent. They sleep on the ground usually with their sleeping bag (otherwise known as cowboy camping) and stuff themselves with water whenever they’re around a spring avoiding the need to carry water.
As you can see lightweight backpacking can be both fun and intimidating. The m ost important thing to consider is to enjoy your hike by balancing convience and weight.