Pack Light and Hike Strong

Ideal pack weight varies from person to person

You're ready to backpack the Appalachian Trail, or maybe the Pacific Crest Trail. Either way, you might be hiking 12 miles a day or more, so your backpack must be carefully packed so it doesn't weigh you down.

Know How Much Weight You Can Carry


Keep in mind there is no exact formula for figuring out an ideal weight. Each individual must experiment with different weights. If someone carries a load 15 pounds too heavy for them, their trip will be spent struggling to heave the pack.

First you have to calculate your ideal carrying weight. Your physical condition is one of the most defining factors.

"Someone who weighs 100 pounds will not carry the same as someone who weighs 200 pounds," said Pete Linkroum, an admissions advisor for Outward Bound.

And likewise, someone who is 200 pounds and in superior physical condition will be able to carry more than a 200-pound person in poor physical condition.

The climate of the area is also a component in how much to carry.

"Know the terrain you will be in," Linkroum said. Hot, humid weather will make carrying a heavy load harder, whereas cool, dry weather will make carrying a pack of the same weight easier to handle.

Linkroum also believes that not only is the climate important, but how a person moves in that climate is a factor. Constantly drinking water, dressing appropriately, moving deliberately and not wasting excess energy are a few tips he gives for maneuvering through any terrain.

Know How to Pack Light


Using the "pack light philosophy," a creed developed by Charles Lindsey, author of Backpack Lightly, people must first "scrutinize packing habits in order to fine-tune minimum packing needs and second, aggressively seek out the smallest, lightest-weight, highest-quality gear solutions available."

Linkroum agreed, adding, "Pack only what you absolutely need."

To start the process of packing, Lindsey said, "Select the items of gear that are absolutely necessary and have unduplicated functionality, then start your search for its smallest and lightest manifestation."

Using all "lightweight" or "ultra-light" gear is not enough when trying to lighten your load.

One way to save more room in your pack is to look for "multiple functionality" in gear. Some of these items include:


  • parachute cord/clothesline
  • securing splints
  • Swiss army knife
  • scissors
  • saw
  • duct tape/bandage wrap
  • gear repair
  • sleeping bags/emergency stretcher
  • hiking poles/avalanche probe
  • splints
  • stuff sacks/pillow
  • candles/light
  • wax as fire starter
  • dental floss/sewing thread
  • ties
  • tent pegs-piercing tools
  • skewers to cook food
  • Ziploc bags/carrying containers
  • bowls

    By using these items that can serve several different purposes, you can leave other equipment at home.

    There are at least a dozen more ways to shave off weight in your backpack. Here is a quick list of weight-saving tips:


  • Find a 3-pound pack, 2-pound sleeping bag, and 3-pound tent.
  • Use titanium for pots, stoves, tent pegs, or anything else metal.
  • Carry only the amount of water you need because water is very heavy.
  • Fill your stuff sack with extra clothing for a pillow.
  • Mete out appropriate portions of bug spray, medicines and stove fuel.
  • Use sand as a scouring pad for pans.
  • Use lightweight water shoes for camp shoes.
  • Use lighter candle or oil lamps instead of batteries.
  • Replace heavy alkaline batteries with lithium batteries.
  • Use multi-functional gear.
  • Use ultra-light lexan utensils.
  • Blacken cooking pots to absorb heat faster.
  • Bring sugarless drinks sugar is heavy.
  • Eat heavy foods first.

    Both Lindsey and Linkroum stress the importance of considering what the ideal packing weight is for each individual. What might be the right weight for one person for seven days might be too much for someone of a smaller size and in less superior physical condition.

    Carrying too heavy of a load can lead to backaches. Once you determine how much you can carry, the trip will be much more enjoyable. Instead of worrying about the load on your back, you can concentrate on what's most important: the sights around you.


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