Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tips on How to Lighten Your Pack

There are thousands of articles on what you should and should not do on a hiking trip. Some that you have heard so many times you almost want to pick up the computer and throw it. Well we probably have a couple on here that you have heard before but if you will bare with us, we might have something in this article that can help you shave some weight.

Here are some of the tips and tricks that We have applied to their packs over the years and have really lightened their overall weight:

  1. Select Lighter Gear - You’re probably thinking “well that is an obvious statement” but the reason they put it here is to tell you that this is the first step. Make your gear lighter and smaller. A lot of people think to themselves, well, I have this big pack that is heavy and that must be somewhere I can cut down some weight! The truth is you can cut weight in your pack but you must reduce the size and weight of your gear in order to switch to a smaller pack. Smaller, lighter, packs are made to only carry a certain amount of weight. So the smaller the gear, the more items you can carry (especially comfortably).

    Here is the easiest gear changes that will make the biggest difference in weight:

  1. First thing that is easy for most people to cut weight is the sleeping bag. Now this is also going to be one of your more expensive upgrades in quality and downgrades in weight. The thing about the sleeping bag is that, if you treat them right, a good bag will easily last you at least 5 to 10 years. Get a goose down sleeping bag because it provides the best warmth to weight ratio on the market and will really keep you toasty in the cold.

  1. Another piece of gear a lot of people carry, that is too heavy, is a tent. We, at GaHammockBros are avid hammock campers (imagine that) and we will tell you from the time that we used to tent camp till now, our shelters have lost about 2.5 lbs in weight each! Not to mention the fact that we are warmer at night than we ever were in a tent. Look into getting a hammock and watch some of our videos and read some of our blogs to figure out how it can be one of the best nights sleep of your life.

  1. The last thing that a lot of people carry that can cut weight is their cooking system. You don't need a pot, bowl, skillet, coffee cup, etc. We had this problem for a while until we realized that if you get a quality stove with a quality pot those two things can cover just about all the needs that you will have on the trail. There will be videos, reviews, and blogs on the cooking systems that we take on the trail and each one will be able to show you why it works for us.

  1. Leave your toys at home - You would not believe what we have seen people starting thru hiking and they are carrying lamps with 6 D batteries in them and a radio with another 4 in it. YOU DON'T NEED THESE. One of us actually packed out a lantern that someone had left at one of the shelters when they realized that it was too heavy to carry all the way to Maine. We were only hiking a couple of days and we were on our way out when we saw it. If you left that behind, we thank you for your donation to the lantern fund!

    The point we want to make is you can have some comfort items without totally killing your back in order to carry it in. Mike has a radio that has 3 AAA batteries in it and weighs 3 ounces with the batteries. It also is WAY louder than it needs to be so there is no worries there. We will review this product on our trip coming up. If there are things that you absolutely think you need to take, try to find lighter versions to make it easier on you to carry.

  1. Ration out your food quantity - One of the most common problems that most people have is this idea that you have to pack in way too much food. For example if we are going out on a 3 night 4 day trip and Mike will be taking right around 4 lbs of food. Steve is taking about 5 lbs of food because he really likes to eat! Some will tell you that is not enough. We have experimented with food amounts for a while now and we have pretty much got it down to a science. Below is a list of what we taking with me this trip.

Mike’s Food List:
  1. 3 Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals
  2. 6 Clif Bars
  3. 1 8oz bag of Craisans
  4. 1 8oz bag of Beef Jerky
  5. 4 packages of Oatmeal
  6. 1 8oz bag of Cinnamon Raisin Granola
  7. 1 8oz bag of Shelled Pistachios (Guilty Pleasure)
  8. 6 individual cups of Instant Coffee

Steve’s Food List:
  1. 2 packs of oatmeal
  2. 3 packages of pop-tarts
  3. 1 pkg of Mountain House breakfast Wrap
  4. 3 tortilla shells
  5. 6 packets of coffee -instant w/sugar
  6. Beef Jerky and Pistachio nuts as snacks on the trail
  7. 6 Clif Bars
  8. 1 Mountain House Dinner
  9. 1 bag of dehydrated chicken with Rice-A-Roni packet
  10. freeze dried fruit and nuts

As you can see We have quiet a lot of food here but because we have used freeze dried and dehydrated food choices we get the nutritional value without the weight. Also with taking mostly meals that take little cooking we can cut back on fuel consumption which save weight as well. Make sure you bring enough food to be comfortable and energized but you don't have to bring 5 course meals on the trail (as shown below)

4. Try cutting back on clothes - Now this is one that is really a personal preference but a lot of people pack to many clothes worried about weather that is not likely. We are about to go on a trip in March and we packed to what we felt was usual for this time year. We did some further investigation and it appears that the weather is going to be a lot warmer than we had first predicted. That means there will be some weather gear that we are going to cut out of our packs in order to make our packs lighter. Please don't get me wrong about this, pack as light as you can on clothes but don't compromise your comfort level for cutting a little weight. Make sure to check with your favorite weather site right before you leave in case you need to make some last minute adjustments like we are having to do


5. Remember Have Fun with It! - Cutting weight and having competitions with your backpacking buddies can really make this process less tedious and a little more fun. The next time you plan a trip make a deal with a buddy and tell them that they have to buy dinner on the way back from the hike if their pack is heavier than yours. Create spreadsheets to track the weight of all the items that you have a really keep track of where the most weight can be cut. Pride in knowing that not only will you have a lighter easier hike than your buddy but also you will be getting a free meal out of the deal really sweetens it up while you are hiking. Also, the opportunity to rag your buddy the whole trip is well worth the effort. We have a standing bet with our usual stakes (dinner when we come off the mountain) on who has the lighter pack.


6. Cull unused items - Culling unused items is one of the easiest steps in the process of lightening your load. It is the easiest because you take this step as soon as you get back from a trip.
You may have seen us discuss our packs in a video. What we do when we get to our camping spot is lay out the ground cloth and unload the gear from our pack. We do this so we can get organized and set up our hammocks and get ready for dinner.

When we get back home after a trip, we do the same thing. We lay out our ground cloth and unload our pack so we can store our gear properly. (for example, you do not store a down sleeping bag in the stuff sack. you keep it in a larger bag to allow the bag to maintain its “loft”) So, while we are unpacking our gear, we make three piles.

In pile A, we place the items that we used every day:
Hammock - Sleeping Bag - Rain Fly - Stove... you get the idea.

In Pile B, we place the items that we seldom used or could have managed just fine without the item:
That extra fleece jacket - the extra flash light (for the “Just-In-Case” situation) -  all the left over food - I-Pod - one of the two extra pair of socks...

In Pile C, -and this is the easy pile- we place all the items that we did not use at all:
Snake bite kit - small pocket knife - extra canister of fuel...

Now, take Pile A and store the gear, wash the clothes, and remove all batteries from headlamps. This is the stuff that you will take next time.

From Pile B, you make a personal decision on which items to cull from the list for next time. Only you can make this decision since you will have to carry the weight next time. Just ask yourself -Is it really worth carrying the weight even though I seldom used the item?”  Once you answer the question, cull the item and store the other items with the items from Pile A.

For the items in Pile C, put them back and make a note that you did not use the items and will not take them again.

It is also a good idea to complete this process with someone that you went on the trial with on that particular trip. You can both keep each other in check on what you did and didn’t use. We know that we both have issues with certain items that we hold high even though we don't use them as much as we perceive we do. Doing this with a partner will keep you honest and help you eliminate some items you might not think can be eliminated.

Eventually, the more trips you take, you will be able to get your pack down to a pack that is light while still having the items you NEED, and the items that make the trip enjoyable. One thing that has remained constant for Steve, is he takes too much food. But he is okay with carrying the extra weight because not only do we need to eat on the trail, Steve eats tasty food and snacks which makes his trip enjoyable. For Mike, he likes to have a radio on the trip and also his down booties. These are both comfort items but he is able to get them both in his pack for less than 12 ounces.

The bottom line is since you have to carry the weight, you make the decisions on which items to cull, but hopefully this culling process will help with you lighten your load.


We will be putting up gear reviews on our blog, Youtube channel, and the website that we are still working on. So don't for get to subscribe to both the blog and the Youtube channel for tips, tricks, and product reviews that can make you more efficient and lighten your pack! Always remember “Plan right and Pack light!”


  1. Nice article. I tried getting by with about 1.25 lbs per day with food but I was very hungry in the middle of each night. I adhere to the 2 lbs per food per day and I have a lot of variety in Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. I try not to have a repeat in my main meals as I get appetite fatigue rather quickly.

    My best,

    (Water Monkey)

    1. Thanks brother! Yeah I drink alot of water and I make sure that my food differential is usually switching Breakfasts from Mountain House to Oatmeal and I do multiple instances of the oatmeal (apple cinnamon, brown sugar, oatmeal rasin, etc) Also my Mountain House dinners get switced up nightly and I make sure I have a spread of Clif bars in all their flavors because they have a great product. Thanks alot for the comment!

      Mike and Steve

    2. I've actually stopped using MH meals. I'm really becoming a big fan of DIY dehydrated meals. I seem to be more full after the meal. With MH meals I was hungry an hour later. Check out mrbabelfish5 on youtube he shows some great recipes. I also order from as I really like their dinners too.

      Keep up the good work!


  2. I never thought of doing the 'pile' thing AFTER the trip.
    My dad always had us make two piles before a trip: #1 everything you know you need #2 everything you think you need.
    Toss all of pile #2 and 1/2 of pile #1.
    I am a victim of gadget-creep. Oooh, that'd be cool! Do I need it? Not really. Does it duplicate something I already have? Probably. Will I take it anyway? Here's hoping not! I need a 12 step gear-program!

    1. Thanks for reading Liz. The reason that we like to do it after a trip is because it really is fresh in your mind on what you used and didnt use. We do not have a 12 step program here (per say) but that would be a great series to run on the blog. If you will subscribe we can probably take that idea and do a series on the 12 step program to culling gear that seems to be glued to your bag. Once again thanks for commenting and I hope you will subscribe to the blog. We will be having drawings for give aways for people that subscribe. Remember Plan right and Pack light!

    2. Thanks for commenting, Liz. I love the idea on the 12-step program. Like Mike said we may develop it into a program. Would you sign up for the program if we did? Keep making those hard decisions on what to cut from your pack and if you plan right, you will be able to pack light.