Top Ten Tips for Camping/Backpacking Light

Backpacking can be a fun activity. You pick a trail, find a good campsite on a map, suit up and start walking. You get to see nature in a way you miss while driving. The sounds of animals in the trees, the feel of the dirt crunching beneath your feet, the warmth of the sun on your face and the smell of trees fills your soul with a spiritual refreshment only found off the beaten path.

But then you remember the 60 pounds of gear you've brought with you for your 2 day hike and things start to feel gloomy and weighted down. What was once refreshing is now crushing. You labor for each step and your brow drips with sweat. This wasn't supposed to be a workout but it has become a grueling death march.

This doesn't have to be you however. You could have packed light. You could have trimmed your 60 pound pack down into 30. You could feel light on your feet and happy in the knowledge that you are experiencing the world the way it was meant to be.

This list is about pairing down your possessions for backpacking or camping light. Follow these guidelines and you'll cut your pack weight, suffer fewer injuries, and generally enjoy your experience more.
The Top Ten
1 Bring only the clothes you need

Wool socks are great for camping or backpacking. Not only are they warm (even when wet), they are also resistant to odor. Bring one pair of socks for every 3 days you'll be gone and rotate between them every other day. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry on the days you aren't wearing them.

2 Keep your water bottle empty

Know where your water sources R. If you will have regular access to fresh water then just refill your bottle and drink it back to empty. If there will be water but not fresh, try to bring a compact water-filtration system to clean your water as you come across it. You might need to carry all your water with you but if possible hike empty.

3 Cut down your toiletries

Literally. Cut your toothbrush in half. Bring the smallest bar of soap you can manage - or don't bring any at all since you're in the wilderness. Do you REALLY need that deodorant or is it ok to smell till you get home? You probably don't need that hair comb (let it go wild or braid it if it's long. )

4 Pack your backpack smartly

Get rid of stuffsacks for your items and instead put tings in your pack wisely. Stuff your sleeping bag at the bottom, wrap your sleeping pad around the inside circumference of your bag (or on the outside) to provide shape to your pack. Stuff trailmix or other snack items inside ziplock bags into your empty water bottle (you'll probably want food and water at the same time on your hike anyway. ) Pack things in the order you'll need them with the most likely needed items on the top or outside to avoid constantly repacking your bag.

5 Pack for the weather

If it isn't supposed to be too cold and the bugs won't be bad, maybe just bring your tent's rainfly and poles instead of the whole thing. Maybe don't bring a tent at all but only a small tarp in case you get a sudden downpour or want something to put your sleeping bag on. Bring as few clothes as possible and try to think of your clothes as multi-use. Maybe you can swim, shower, and hike in the same pair of shorts.

6 Trim down your backpack

Consider taking out the rigid form inside your backpack. If you pack your bag wisely then it will keep form by itself without needing that extra 2 pounds of plastic and metal. If you don't need the extra straps and hood, take them off. It may only seem like a few ounces but they add up as well as provide unnecessary features to your experience.

7 Know your first-aid kid

If you aren't going to be hiking where there are snakes then you can probably take out that snakebite kit. Same with the bee sting ointment. Maybe bandaids are enough. If you wear the right clothes and a hat you might not need that extra sunscreen. It's nice to have medications and bandages for every conceivable occasion but if you don't know how to use the equipment or won't need it, take it out. You'll have the advantage of less weight and faster response to an emergency with only the items you'll need.

8 Wear what you can and carry what you can’t.

You can either stuff everything into your backpack, then lug that pack onto your shoulders and waist, or you can more evenly load your frame by wearing items. Maybe you hike with your headlamp on your head instead of in your pack. Maybe you keep your pocketknife in your pocket instead of that small flap buried inside your pack. You'll be more evenly weighted and have your items closer at hand in case you need them.

9 Think multi-use

If you like to hike with poles then perhaps those same poles can become your shelter (when combined with a tarp) or the frames for clotheslines. Your water bottles can be used to store your bags of food. Your cord can be used to both hang your pack of food at night as well as your clothes to dry. Your toothbrush handle can be used as a place to wrap your duct-tape or dental floss around. Almost anything you have can also serve an outside-the-box purpose. Start being creative.

10 Use a multi-purpose knife
The Contenders
11 Lighten the big 3: sleeping bag, backpack, and shelter
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