Backpacking – How to lighten your gear

The military has a term for moving personal equipment form place to place that backpackers have adopted – humping your hear. There’s something about the phrase that suggests effort, and that is certainly true. Hauling personal gear for camping and hiking can be one of the less thrilling parts of the backpacking experience.

In order to minimize the downside of backpacking, give some thought to what you truly need for where you’re going. A little research into specific campsites you pick for your trip will reveal a lot of back saving information, when doing your research concentrate on these specific areas.

· Does the campsite have running water for showers?
· Does the campsite have drinking water?
· Does the campsite provide a tent?
· What is the climate of the campsite at the time your scheduled to visit?
· What other essentials would be needed?

Does the campsite have running water for showers?

You don’t want to arrive at a campsite and find out that there is no running water or worst yet, no showers. Many campsites have running water (some do, some don’t). The trick is to try to get a person, either via phone or email and ask specifically about quality of water and facilities. Some water suitable for bathing or cleaning dishes isn’t something you’d want to drink. If the campsite does not have running water than your only choice is to add provisions to your backpack.

Does the campsite have drinking water?

Knowing that water quality may not be the best, always bring a few gallons of drinking water, just in case. But keep in mind that you are hauling those gallons of water on your back, (about 4 liters) weighs about 8 lbs (36kg). You don’t want to have to haul that much on your back.

Does the campsite provide a tent?

Most campsites don’t provide a tent. Since this is the case you will need to buy and haul your won. Tents today are much lighter than their heavy canvas grandfathers. Today’s tents are made from lightweight, tough nylon. Heavy steel pools are a thing of the past. With internal frames, using aluminum or fiberglass, it’s possible to get a strong tent in a low mass package. But here again they weight at least nearly 4 lbs and the more pole support the heavier they are.

To lighten your load, I recommend a tent that is no larger than what you actually need. If the weather is expect to be fine, trade space for weight. Gear can be left outside and in some places you can dress outside and still have plenty of privacy.

What is the climate of the campsite at the time your scheduled to visit?

The climate of your site could be a very big consideration, especially if the date that you picked to visit a campsite is during the rainy season. How about if your campsite is in higher country, where frequent snow periods occur. These two scenarios point to either waterproof gear or thermal gear. Either way you will have to account for the extra weight.

What other essentials would you need?

A first aid kit is the one item that any camper/backpacker should never leave home without. This truly needed item can be carried in a small, lightweight package. Wrap around bandages, anti-bacterial cream (less bulky than spray), scissor/tweezers combos and a few other things can weight under 2 lbs easily. Remember, every pound you carry in, you have to carry out.

A backpack will add another 3 lbs (1.4 kg) and some of the gear like parachute cord, dental floss, toothpaste, mirror and a few other essentials will add a few more pounds.

Take only the essentials and your trip will be that much more pleasant. Give careful thought to your list. You’ll be surprised how much you can do without away from home. Then when you get back, you may actually be motivated finally to clean out the garage.