Take time – before, during, & after each hike – to peruse your gear, your packing habits, even the clothing you wear, for ways to reduce the weight that you must bear. You may be surprised at the amount of unnecessary weight that you inflict on yourself. Keep in mind, though, it is a process. A long-term commitment and challenge. You will, undoubtedly, think of something new practically every trip.
Here are some weight-reducing tips some are original, some are commonly known and used.
•3 lb Pack, 2 lb Sleeping Bag, 3 lb tent
This is, perhaps, your biggest opportunity to reduce weight. Seek out a good 3 lb pack that is relatively comfortable with 35 to 40 pounds in it. Since, most of the time, you will be carrying less than that, the suspension of that 3 lb pack should be adequate for you. Get a good 2 lb, 20 degree, goose-down (or comparable synthetic) sleeping bag and a good 3 lb 3 or 4-season tent. Let’s see, 7 lbs minus 3 lbs (pack), 3.5 lbs minus 2 lbs (bag), 5 lbs minus 3 lbs (tent)–that’s a weight reduction of 7.5 pounds. SEVEN AND A HALF POUNDS !!!
•Seek out TITANIUM products
Pots, stoves, backpack stays, tent pegs, anything metal, if made of titanium, will be significantly lighter than any other metal. For example, my titanium cook pot (with lid & handles) weighs 6 oz. That compares to 14 oz. for comparable MSR or SIGG lightweight stainless steel and about 10 oz. for Traveling Light’s Aluminum entry. For stoves, my titanium Primus butane/propane (with windscreen) weighs 3.4 oz, compared to MSR Whisperlite–12.7 oz, and Camping Gaz Micro Bleuet–7 oz. (both without windscreen). So far, in my experience, strength and durability of titanium products seem to be more than adequate.
•Toothbrush / Tooth Powder / Dental Floss / Sewing Kit
Assuming you use more than just your finger to clean your teeth, here’s a tip or two.
First find a toothbrush with a short head, say 3/4 inch. Next, cut off the handle–leaving about two inches to hold onto–and finish it off by sanding-down the rough edges. Oh yeah, drill a few holes in the remaining handle — if it’s a fat handle, hollow it out with your drill. Be creative — don’t forget to show it to me, if we meet on the trail ! 🙂
Tooth powder is lighter than paste, and can be meted out much easier. I measure a small palm-full for each day on the trail and store it in a very-small, very light plastic container which resembles a 35mm film container, but is about 1/2 the size and weight.
If you are going to carry dental floss, two suggestions. Take the floss, leave the plastic container behind. Rather than packing a sewing kit, use the waxed floss as emergency thread for gear repair. Put a sewing needle or two in your first aid kit or somewhere else safe.
•Water Is Heavy
So only carry what you need. Here are two potential ways to reduce the amount of H2o you’re packing (1) If you know the area you’re in and can be sure there are watering holes up ahead, pack only enough to get to the next water hole. Also, (2) if you drink as much as your innards can hold before you hit the trail and at each water fill-up, thereafter, you won’t need to carry as much, after you get going.
I follow these tips and now, most of the time, carry at least one pound less on my back because of it. (Caution: If you alpine scramble or otherwise navigate crosscountry – esp. if you desert hike – you may need to pack it all – plan carefully.)
•About Stuff Sacks
I carry much of my gear in color-coded stuff sacs and zip-loc freezer baggies. Where I use stuff sacs, I adhere to the following. (1) Use the right size sack–wasted space means unnecessary weight. (2) Cut off labels inside sack (3) Allow just enough drawcord so sack can have full opening–cut off the rest and melt the ends so they won’t unravel (4) Use the strongest-smallest plastic cord-locks you can find. All this may seem insignificant, but it adds up after a while.
Cut off unnecessary labels and lengths of cord. If garments have cord locks, replace them with lighter versions, or instead, use small doubled-up patches of light-weight leather with slits. I’ve noticed that some manufacturers have been doing this, also.
If you carry extra clothes for emergencies, cut off pockets, cords, tags, unneeded linings, etc.
I have saved some weight on hats by cutting out labels and replacing plastic adjusting straps with elastic. It feels better and won’t break in the field as easily as the plastic ones.
Shorten nylon webbing straps wherever possible. I once saved a quarter pound (4 oz) by removing the hypalon crampon patch from the top of my pack’s lid and the nylon belt loop with foam backing from the inside (which allows the lid to double as a hip sack when removed from the pack). In addition, I removed a couple of plastic loop fasteners on the sides of the lid used as part of the hip sack configuration. Most of the time, I don’t need those parts (and their corresponding 1/4 pound !).
For the times I was taking a long trip which included some day-hiking or I needed the heavy-duty hypalon patch, I purchased a second lid.
•Boots, Shoes & Laces
Two tips here. The first, definitely do it. The second, consider it a potential way to significantly reduce relative pack weight, but don’t take it as gospel. Analyze your own situation, experiment, and do what’s safe and healthful.
First, on shoes and boots, I cut off excess shoe lace–for two reasons (1) excess shoelace means unnecessary weight and (2) excess shoelace means safety hazard in the bush. Ever have a big lace-loop catch on an exposed root or tangly bush ? After you cut them, scorch/burn/melt the ends so they won’t unravel.
And secondly, as your pack weight goes down, your requirement for heavy boots is reduced, as well. Since each pound on your feet is supposedly equivalent to 5 pounds on your back, you can reduce the relative weight of your pack by getting a pair of lighter weight boots.
If you have, as one lightweight packer terms it, entered the new paradigm where your pack weight is really low–25 pounds for four or five days–you might even want to consider going with a sturdy pair of 2 pound cross-trainers or running shoes. Like I said, though, there’s potential here, but experiment. What works for me, may not work for you.
Consider the implication. Assuming the “1 pound on the foot is equal to 5 pounds on the back” theory is true, trading-in the 4 pound boots for a pair of 1 3/4 pound running shoes (with vibram soles) would decrease your relative pack weight approximately 11 1/4 pounds ! It’s at least worth a second thought !