How should a new backpacker lighten load

Richard Member Posts: 2

Background: I'm 52. Just lost 83 pounds after having a stroke in 2019. I'm not 100٪ on balance or stamina but trying out backpacking. First trip was 40-50 miles in Yosemite. Deuter 45+10 pack weighed 36 pounds with 3 liters of water, 5 days of food and mandatory bear vault. Comfort is important. Bag was Kelty cosmic down 20. Tent was REI half dome sl 3+. Aside from downsizing the tent and maybe carryall a little less water, where are you all saving significant weight? Or is it just trimming an ounce here or there?

Best Answer


  • Naomibro
    Naomibro Member Posts: 92

    7/11. Hi Richard!

    At my tender age, must carry lighter. ALL clothing MUST have seal-able, deep pockets; Wear your weight, buy more PRICEY, tested, UL items, If you can (it's worth it--I ditched heavy tent, cook items, and sleeping bag saving lbs.); divvy up items with mates (like, your mate carries poles; you tent n fly) ; rather than carry bulky, heavier bear vault, try a bear sack; pay attention to wt of items sold; All food dehydrated; clothes with deep pockets. Weigh pack, loaded, with plenty food, water, first aid kit; walk around. Feel loaded pack first when it does not "count". Ditch non-multipurpose item(s). There are many on-line recommendations regarding pack wt.

  • Richard
    Richard Member Posts: 2

    Thank you both. Unfortunately for the time being I'm going solo and in Yosemite where the bear vault is mandatory. But after reading the article I realized I was confusing base and total weight. I thought people had their total weight down around 10 pounds. Again, I'm new and don't have any point of reference from others so I'm not as far off as I thought I was.

    MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 317

    You're doing great, @Richard! Lots of trial and error dialing in a kit to your liking and needs, which is both rewarding, and fun! There are no hard and fast rules–a lot of the ability to float around ten pounds for a base weight is due in large part to the high-quality materials available today to build reliable and durable gear. It's an awesome time to be a backpacker!

  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 100

    Agreed. You're definitely in a great spot. After a bunch of 2-3 day trips Joshua Tree and Utah where we had to carry all of water water, my friends and I did a 5 day trip in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. I started off carrying 3L of water, which was way too much given the frequent stream crossings and access to water. That trip is what prompted me to weigh my gear, start cutting where I could, and eventually buy a HMG pack. It's a definitely pricey, but one spot you could shave at least half a pound is by buying a bearikade bear canister.

  • Danimal
    Danimal Member Posts: 17


    Buy yourself a digital kitchen scale, they will weigh up to 40 pounds and can be found for less than $20. Start weighing and documenting the weight of everything you carry (EXCEL works great for this). That way you can easily see where the worst offenders of excessive weight are before randomly throwing money at improving the problem. Most likely the pack and sleeping bag are the most overweight. Remember, ounces and even parts of ounces are important. It all adds up! The other advantage is you can sit down with your list and be able to know just how much your base weight is before even putting anything in your pack.

  • AustinHager
    AustinHager Member Posts: 35

    Hey Richard,

    Here are a few tips that I have found work great for me, and tend to not cost very much.

    -Water bottles: using a 1L Smartwater bottle saves a ton of weight over Nalgene bottles or water bladders and only cost a couple dollars a piece. I typically use 2. Also, knowing how much water to carry. Where I live it's very rare I need to ever carry over 1L as there is water frequently. Depending on the time of year in the Sierra there can be tons of water so carrying 3L at one time is simply dead weight.

    -First Aid Kit: it's pretty common to see First Aid Kits (FAKs) that have way more products in them than people actually know how to properly use, particularly on the pre-assembled ones people purchase. Everyone has individual health needs but here is what is in my FAK from weekend hikes to thru-hikes. Kit Contains: 3 standard bandages, small roll of medical tape (usually wrapped around itself so I don't need to bring the whole rol), 2 advil per day if needed, 2 Tylenol 3s for just in case, super glue, safety pin, 2 Benedryl pills.

    -Cooking equipment: keep the numbers low. I use a 1L pot, one bowl (gelato container) and a spoon. A separate cup, extra utensils, etc. is just added weight and it's necessary.

    -Clothing: I have my one set of hiking clothes (sun hoody and short/pants depending on weather), then I have one set of baselayers for sleeping in, and insulating layers (hat, puffy, warm socks, gloves) and rain protection. No reason to bring duplicates of anything other than maybe a pair of socks. It's pretty common to see way too many clothes. Just find one outfit and stick to it.

    -Knife/Tools/extras: A leatherman, roll of duct tape and other large devices are overkill. A tiny Victorinox Classic SD basically does it all. It has a very sharp knife, a file, scissors, tweezers (think FAK also), and a toothpick. Also, wrapping some duct tape around your trekking pole or water bottle is a good way to bring only what you need (say 1-2 feet).

    Hope some of this helps!