I pack heavy.  Even when I travel on a plane, I tend to pack way too much stuff.  I just don’t like being somewhere away from home and not having options.  The same rings true with camping unfortunately.   This because quite apparent on my last 3 day backpacking trip in November when I lugged around a 68lb (!!!) pack up and down the mountains of the Shenandoah.   Getting ready for my Dolly Sods backpacking trip this weekend, I didn’t want to repeat that experience.

Now, I’m not an ultralight backpacker.  I’ll never be one of those guys who can go out for a week with a hammock, some granola bars and a headlamp.   But I tried to use some of the tenements of ultralight backpacking where I could to lighten my load a little bit.  Here’s five things I did make my pack a little less heavy:

  1. Eliminate extravagant creature comforts – Last time I went backpacking I took a campfire percolator for making coffee for me and the 5 other guys I went with.  The damn thing weighed over 2lbs!  Sure, the coffee was amazing, but add that to the 1lb of coffee, creamer and sugar I lugged around too, and it wasn’t really worth it.   So on this trip the coffee will be coming in the form of Starbucks Via packets which barely weigh ounce.  Weight saved: 48oz
  2. Swap out heavier stuff – I dropped a lot of weight by swapping out some my heavy, more comfortable gear for lighter weight stuff.  Over the winter, I kept my eye on the internet discount sites for opportunities to inexpensively upgrade to lighter stuff on the cheap.   I managed to pick up a few items that will help out immensely.  For instance, I’ll not be packing my self-inflating sleep pad, which is super comfy but weights in at a hefty 37oz, and will instead be using a foam roll (only $9 on REI’s deal of the day site) that isn’t quite as nice but tips the scales at only 16oz.   I’m also packing a lighter bowl (2.5oz saved), a smaller camp pillow (3oz lighter) and a lighter weight saw (4oz saved).  Weight saved: 29.5oz
  3. Pack less redundancies –  It sucks not having any of these, but I don’t need TWO Nalgene bottles, a bowl AND a plate, or 2 extra shirts.  I also probably don’t need to bring TWO EXTRA canisters of fuel for the JetBoil. Weight saved: 18oz
  4. Don’t bring a buffet of food – I love to eat.  I didn’t get to be my size by missing a lot of meals.  But then again, I don’t really need to haul the old country buffet with me in my backpack.  Last time I brought enough food for a week (including over 1lb of bacon, which was AMAZING), but I ending packing half of it back out with me.  This time I carefully planned out each meal and packed a few high calorie snacks, just in case I need a little something extra.  I also packed only lightweight, dried foods that weigh much less.   Variety is nice when it comes to food, but saving pounds off the pack weight is nice too.  Weight saved: 28oz
  5. Bring less – I know it seems intuitive, but I really focused on overall just packing less stuff.  I did this by bringing smaller amounts of things like bug spray (3oz saved), soap (2oz lighter) and sunscreen (5oz).  Not all of these are available in smaller bottles, so I just picked up a few empty travel bottles from REI and filled them up.  I also eliminated other stuff that I just plain don’t need like spices for food, deodorant (who’s going to be smelling me on this trip, besides bears?) and other toiletries.  I’ll still pack my toothbrush, toothpaste and some soap, but I’m not going out for a night on the town right?  Weight saved: 36oz

Total weight saved?  159.5oz (or about 10lbs)

There you go.  Now, it seems like there’s a lot of common sense stuff on this list, but believe me it can be hard to make decisions about all the things you’ll need or want to have when you are miles away from civilization in the middle of the woods.


Seen here:

-75L Pack
-3L camelbak
-2 large stuff sacks
-1 medium stuff sack
-1 small stuff sack
-1 compression sack
-2 freeze dried dinners
-1 indian heat and eat side
-3 packages spicey ramen
-1 package tuna
-4 packages oatmeal/grits
-various snacks
-Nalegene bottle
-MSR Mini waterfilter
-JetBoil Stove with extra fuel
-Plastic dish/bowl with spork
-Camp soap
-3 person REI Half Dome tent
-Lafuma 40 degree+ bag w/ liner
-Camp pillow
-Alite Monarch camp chair
-LED lantern
-Alps Mountaineering foam sleep pad
-Flask of whiskey (mandatory)
-Firestarter (aka dryer lint and chapstick)
-First Aid kit with asprin, Moleskin (for blisters), bandaids, neosporin
-Bug spray
-Toilet tissue
-Trash bag
-550 cord
-Misc carabiners
-Tick puller