Fall is the perfect season to get out last summer’s backpacking gear to clean, reassess, and repair. I look at it as a renewal and a time to look ahead to upcoming trips. It is an opportunity to look for options to shave off a bit of weight, change out gear that really didn’t work, repair, update your gear list, and make a wish list for upcoming purchases. In my case, the wish list becomes a gift list for Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or any other special holiday I can think of. Here are some ideas to start losing the weight.
1. Get a good digital kitchen scale
If you don’t already own a kitchen scale to weigh your gear, buy or borrow an inexpensive digital scale. I like a scale with a bowl option that can be removed. It is handy for balancing larger items and containing small ones.
2. Inventory, to-do list & repair
Get all the gear and clothing out in one place. Examine for holes, wear spots, or zippers that need to be fixed or sewn. Discard items that no longer work and need to be replaced. For example: old water filter bag, pack liner, OP Sak, or zip-locks. Now start making a list of needed replacement purchases and repairs. This is important. I tend to forget if I wait until next spring that I had a tiny hole in my tent or that my OP Sak no longer sealed. Now is the time to actually repair, replace, or write needed actions down.
3. Wash & refill
Wash or wipe off all gear and clothing as needed including down sleeping bag, down jacket, and backpack. I like ReviveX Down Cleaner in my washing machine to renew and refresh the down. Next, refill all items that are expendable. For example: toothpaste, soap, fuel canister, sunscreen, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
4. Weigh everything
Weigh every piece of gear you carry. Every thing. This step can be quite revealing and alarming, but so necessary. Look for ways to carry 1 item that can be used for many things. Here are a couple videos from hikelight.com that offer 200 possibilities for lightening your load: Ultralight Backpacking Tips Part 1, Part 2. In addition, Swami at The Hiking Life is a valuable resource for going light. Some of the ideas are pretty radical in my book, but others took years of backpacking for me to discover.
Keep track of your gear and total weight by recording individual gear weight on a dynamic Google Sheet. Here is a very simple sheet I use. If you love very detailed to the gram statistics, LighterPack has the list generator just for you. Not only is this a great wake-up call, but also an effective packing list for your next hike.
My target base weight total, without food and water, with every little thing is 11 pounds. Someday, I hope that total will be 10 pounds. All hikers are different in health, skill, fitness, priorities, and tolerated discomfort. Find your target weight and make that happen.
5. Organize & store
Now is the time to find one place to store your gear. In our home, we have multiple hikers, so we have shelves with gear bins. This step is a real time saver when the next trip comes up. Just grab and go. Be sure and follow manufacturers long-term storage directions for items like summer down sleeping bag and water filters.
Below is my standard 3 season gear list for backpacking and long-distance hiking, after my lose the weight shake down. It is always an ongoing process for me to lighten the load without ruining the experience or being unsafe by going too light.
Depending on the trail I hike, I may substitute, eliminate or add gear to accommodate the conditions and elements that are expected. The added categories at the bottom of the list feature gear for different hiking conditions.
|Backpack||Gossamer Gear Gorilla||25||lightweight, supportive, comfortable|
|Pack Liner||1||fits nicely in pack|
|Shelter||ZPacks Solplex Tent||17||NEW this year!|
|Polycryo Ground Cloth||1||lightweight and does the job|
|Sleeping||Zpacks 10 degree with Draft Tube||23||NEW this year! Buy one size longer than your height|
|Neo Air Regular||13||luxury comfort|
|Kitchen/Food||Jet Boil Sol Ti||9||fast boiling, small canister = 22 boils|
|Cook-N-Coozy Solo||1||a little oven|
|Long Handled Spork||0.5||long handle is perfect for zip-lock bags|
|Open Country Cup||1||handy measuring marks|
|O.P. Sak (Odor Proof)||2||love the 12 X 20 size|
|Hydration||Sawyer Mini Filter||3||the best filter I have ever used|
|Sawyer Pouch - 2 liter||buy a 2 liter bag for longer trips|
|2 Smart Water Bottles||2||fits on Sawyer Squeeze|
|First-aid/Hygiene||First-aid kit||5||*see content below|
|Tolietries||7||*see content below|
|Potty bag||2.5||*see content below|
|lavender, peppermint, melaleuca||0.5||multi-use powerful meds|
|Swiss Army Classic||1||twizzers actually work|
|Duece of Spades trowel||0.5||get the brightest color|
|Diva Cup||0.5||for women, highly recommended|
|Clothes in Pack||Marmot Essence Jacket||5||beads up nicely with long sleeves, great colors|
|Houdini Wind Jacket||3.5||essential for layering|
|PossumDown Gloves||1||NEW this year!|
|MH Ghost Whisperer||7||warm and very light, love the hood for sleeping and cold days|
|Icebreaker Dart Half Zip||5||NEW this year!|
|TNF flash tight||4|
|Injinji Midweight Crew Toesocks||1.5||no toe blisters and wear a very long time|
|Patagonia Active Hipster||1||dries quickly, fit great|
|Misc.||Rite in Rain Journal||2||waterproof, great size|
|Tikka 2 Headlamp||3||bright for night hiking|
|maps w/data pages in ziploc||3|
|sit pad cut from foam pad||1||DIY essential|
|Lumix LX7 Camera||11||love the wide angle|
|FlashAir WiFi card||transfer pics from camera to phone|
|iPhone 6||5||navigation, blogging, video, phone|
|Otter Box Case||1||durable and slim|
|Mini Tripod||1||small, lightweight|
|StickPic||0.5||easy, simple pole mount|
|Power - New Trent||8||packs 5 charges, no longer sold|
|Umbrella||8||sun and precipitation protection|
|Sea to Summit Bug Net||0.5||NEW this year!|
|Weight Summary||BASEWEIGHT (oz)||189.5|
|w/o food & water||BASEWEIGHT (lbs)||11.5|
|Items Worn||OR Echo Hoody||I own every color|
|Prana Convertible Pant||durable, fit great, offered in lengths|
|Dirty Girl Gaiters||great dirt and sand protection|
|Columbia Sun Gloves||easy to get on and off, don't show dirt|
|La Sportiva Bushido Shoes||buy at least a size up, love them!|
|Insoles - Custom|
|Injinji Midweight Crew Toesocks||no toe blisters and wear a very long time|
|Buff Scarf||sun scarf, headband, beanie|
|Patagonia Active Hipster||favorite for years|
|Fizan Poles||11||compact, strong, lightweight|
|Extra Gear/Snow||Kahtoola MICROspikes||13||always in my pack during winter hikes|
|CAMP Corsa Ice Axe||7||lightweight, sharp, easy to handle, buy longer size|
|Extra Gear/Bear||Bearvault solo||32|
|Ursack S29||9||bear protection for non-regulated areas|
|Ursack Minor||3||great for critter protection|
|Zpacks Bear Bag Kit Rectangle||3||doubles as a waterproof ditty bag|
|Extra Clothing/Cold||R1 hoody||11||warm fleece for hiking and camp|
|Marmot Minimalist Jacket||13||Gore tex, great for wet, cold weather|
|Marmot Minimalist Pant||9||Gore tex, great for wet, cold weather|
|Purple Rain Skirt||4||comfortable waist band, flattering|
|2 Person Shelter||ZPacks Duplex Tent||24||absolute favorite tent for 2|
Below are visual lists of items that go in my first-aid, toiletries, potty, and electronics kits with a bonus Lady on a Rock discount.
Lady on a Rock Reader Exclusive!
In addition to my favorite pack, the Gorilla, many small items I carry and love can be purchased at Gossamer Gear. It is like a one-stop-shop for lightweight gear. Here is a 15% discount code for a one time purchase. Have fun!
Now is your turn. It is always fun to go lighter.