Packing Light: The Basic Principles

Packing Light: The Basic Principles

This is a guest post and is one that I love the topic of – packing light! I say to people that it’s a method that exists but honestly, I have no idea how to manage it myself. While I have no immediate plans to go backpacking, I think this post will help me pack lighter for all my trips away.


When backpacking, there’s no one right way to pack. Everyone is at a different level of experience and has different goals. Sometimes, you simply need to pack more to ensure a safe, comfortable journey. Regardless, we can all agree that hiking is much easier if you have a lighter pack!

Before you can go lighter with your pack, you need to understand your own limits and the limits of the trail you’ve chosen. A lot of your packing might also depend on whether you’re going on a solo expedition or if you’re travelling with a group. Going lighter simply means adjusting the weight of your gear that you carry with you on your hike. You obviously want to avoid looking like a newbie who just bought the entire sporting goods section, but you always want to be prepared. Here are the basic principles of going lighter to keep in mind as you plan your next trip and keep improving your skills.

Safety is always first.

When it comes to packing for an expedition, the first thing to consider is your safety, always. Remember it’s important to go at your own pace. You are not racing with anyone other than yourself, and you need to be sure your load is something you can physically carry. Learn the way your body reacts to different environments and conditions so you know how to safely prepare a pack that works for you every time.

Know your essentials.

Once you’ve researched the area you’ll be hiking, it’s time to decide on the essentials. If you’re travelling overnight, for instance, your essentials might include a sleeping bag designed for your environment and a decent supply of food and water. Your essentials will not be the same every time. If you’re trekking in a warm month, you likely won’t need an extra layer of warmth. Similarly, if your area experiences frequent unexpected rain, you might need a sleeping mat to separate your body from a cold, damp ground. These essentials should form the basis for your packing.

Always pack twice.

You should pack your bag once with everything you think you’ll need, and then unpack and do it all again. The second time you pack, question everything. Do you really need more than one pot? Or can that single pot also double as a bowl? Should you bring an extra washcloth when you can just use your bandana? Find things that have more than one use, and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Wear the right gear.

The gear you choose to wear and pack is just as important as what’s in your backpack. The right gear can empower you to push yourself further for longer, while the wrong gear can weigh you down and strain your body. You need to do your research on the best pants, boots, and jackets for your environment and time of year. If you’re new to hiking, it’s better to be conservative with your choices. For instance, it’s always best to wear thick, sturdy hiking boots than to end up needing them half-way through your trek.

Shed weight as you go.

While you won’t be able to ditch all of your weight as you go, you can certainly get rid of consumables. Snacks, candy and other one-time use items can be heavy, and you should always consume the most cumbersome ones first to free yourself of weight. When packing, keep these items in an easy to reach place for easy access as you hike.

Travel in a group to spread the weight.

Solo expeditions can be a great way to learn more about yourself, but they come with a lot of drawbacks. One of the biggest advantages of travelling in a group is that you can easily distribute the weight between hikers. With a larger group, you can share the heavier items amongst yourselves to keep the overall weight load lower. Hiking in a group can also bring additional skill sets that might contribute to lowering the weight as less gear is needed.

Adjust your mindset.

Finally, the most important step in going lighter is adjusting your mindset. You need to always be thinking smarter, and learn to look for ways to shed unnecessary weight. Along with that comes the need to be judicious and logical regarding your own skills and safety. Stay open-minded about trying new things. Learn new skills to help improve your own reliance on the land around you. With the right mindset, you can do anything.

Packing lighter means going farther.

Packing lighter comes with experience. If you’re new to hiking, don’t expect to lighten your load overnight. Allow yourself to slowly recognize what you truly need and don’t need, and stay open-minded to new opportunities. Hiking is an amazing way to learn more about yourself and the world around you. Remember, your load doesn’t matter nearly as much as your experience!

Do you think this post will help you with packing light?

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