Hike New Hampshire

How To Save Weight

Day Hike

Since most people who hike tend towards the day hike, it seems sensible to start here. Since one of the most difficult things for people to handle is the addition of a pack to their own body weight, the reduction of the weight in that pack becomes very important. Unfortunately, with a daypack there are few weight-saving measures that can be taken while maintaining your safety. However, the backpack review team has put together a few ideas. Consider the following:

  • Trim down your first aid kit to the bare essentials: gauze, tape, 3 or 4 band-aids®, disinfectant, matches, blister kit, and a triangle bandage.
  • If you're SURE there is water along your planned route, bring two to three quart size water bottles and a filter. Water is typically the heaviest item in your pack (fresh water weighs 8 lb. per gallon!)
  • Bring dried fruits versus fresh - again, water=weight.
  • Remove as much packaging from your food as possible. Take bags instead of boxes.
  • Control your portions. Don't take that entire box of Wheat Thins®, take a plastic bag full of them. (Remember to always take more food than you think you'll need, in case you get stuck on the mountain overnight.)
  • Take a lightweight fleece and wind/waterproof shell instead of an insulated shell. You can then control your temperature as well as save weight.
  • Wear wicking clothing. Cotton clothes collect and hold moisture, allowing you to get cold AND carry more weight (damn water!).

If you can implement all of these measures, you can save yourself anywhere from 1 oz. to 10 or more pounds. But remember, when trying to save weight, do not forego important pieces of equipment such as a good knife, waterproof matches, maps, water, food, and a compass (as long as you know how to use it!) Sacrificing your safety to save weight is not smart!

Overnight Hike

The overnight hike is where the most potential lies for saving weight. Typically, people pack way too much equipment for their planned hike, and aside from spending thousands of dollars on the latest high-tech gear, a little planning is the best way to save weight. Check out these ideas:

  • Share as much as possible. You should be hiking with a partner, someone you hopefully like, and chances are you're carrying duplicate gear. Take one stove, one water filter, one first-aid kit, and a two-person tent; share the weight, split the kitchen accessories, and divide food.
  • Create multiple uses for specific gear. For example, your wool socks can be used as mittens (as long as you haven't worn them yet!). Your rain poncho can be used as a ground cloth for your tent. Extra clothes can be used as a pillow in your sleeping bag's stuff sack. Your sleeping pad can be a camp chair.
  • Reuse plastic bags. Take a bag you brought your food in and use it for garbage.
  • Take along one tool. We recommend the Leatherman® or Gerber Scout® multipurpose tool since they can perform a variety of functions with relatively low weight (about 8 oz.).
  • Choose a lightweight sleeping pad and camp chair. A closed cell foam pad and chair can weigh less than an inflatable pad alone. You may sacrifice a little comfort, but you save weight.
  • Plan your clothing appropriately. Put some serious thought into what you will be wearing, and estimate as closely as possible. Remember that you don't need different clothes to sleep in than what you will be wearing the next day.

We've all been guilty of over-packing when traveling, but doing so when hiking can ruin a trip. Take the time to do a little planning ahead of time. Do you really need that little camp stool that you thought was so neat at EMS? Are you really going to use that fourth pair of socks? Do you really need that bar of gold bouillon?

Extended Overnight Hike

If you've gotten this far, we're assuming you have some hiking experience under your belt. Of course you can do silly things like leave the tent at home, or forego water, but you'll very likely die by doing things like this. Our recommendation for long hikes is to follow all of the suggestions we've outlined above, and then bite the bullet and spend some cash. The only real way we can see to save weight on a long trip that goes above and beyond what we've already listed is to start buying lightweight gear. Look for the $90 Titanium cook spoon, buy the $450 single wall Northface tent, and drop the $250 for magnesium hiking poles. Oh yeah, and don't forget to drill those holes in your toothbrush!

As always, feel free to e-mail us with questions: webmasters@hike-nh.com


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Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy