10 life-changing packing tips for your next wilderness adventure – USA Today 10Best | Gmx Pharm

Carrying a Light Load on the Colorado Trail — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

The backpack industry has seen a revolution over the past decade that is truly reaching some fabulous new heights. Gone are the days of miserably lugging 50 pounds of gear over a mountain pass. With today’s new innovations, you can move faster for longer and reduce your suffering quotient by at least 50%, giving you a lot more time to smell the roses. Here are 10 tips and products to consider when planning your next backpacking adventure.

1. Switch to a lighter backpack

Lightweight nylon backpacks lighten the days – photo courtesy of Six Moon Designs

Old school backpacks typically weighed 4-5 pounds. By carrying lighter gear overall, you no longer need such a large or heavy backpack. An entire industry of backpacks made from super light nylon (Robic, Cordura, Dyneema) has dropped the weight to 1.5 to 2.5 pounds.

Check out something like the Minimalist V2 from Six Moon Designs, which even comes with a vest harness that features a unique six-point connection between the pack and your body that transfers weight to your core and eliminates wobble. Packs like this or Gossamer Gear’s Gorilla weigh around 2 pounds, which means you’ve already saved 3 pounds over your old pack.

2. Decide on a down sleeping bag, preferably a quilt

While expensive, down gives you an incredible warmth-to-weight ratio and packs down into almost nothing. The old adage was not to bring it to wet places (as it will clump up and lose insulation when wet), but today’s shelters keep things dry, and most good bags are made with a water-resistant outer shell.

Hikers are going even a step further and are now opting for quilts over sleeping bags, as quilts do away with zippers and hoods and instead focus heat on the areas of your body most likely to cool down. Katabatic Gear makes a 22° quilt from 900-fill goose down that weighs a minimal 21 ounces. Considering that older model sleeping bags weighed 3-5 pounds, you’ve shaved a few pounds off your gear.

3. Brighten up your shelter

Featherweight tent and sleeping systemFeatherweight Tent and Sleeping System — Photo courtesy of Six Moon Designs

A tent is usually the heaviest item in a trekker’s backpack. Most two-person tents weigh around 5-6 pounds. At least before. Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) revolutionized the tent industry. This laminate is stronger than steel and is used to make sails for yacht racing competitions. It’s fully waterproof and you can now find tents that weigh less than 2 pounds.

If you’re willing to forgo a liner or floor, it can get even easier. The two-person Wild Owyhee by Six Moon Design can be set up with your trekking poles and weighs 16 ounces total. Some hikers now only wear a Dyneema poncho, which doubles as rainwear and can be hung up as a shelter.

4. New air mattresses do not sacrifice comfort

Most hikers are familiar with Therm-a-Rest products. In the ’90s, one of those comfy air mattresses made for a good night’s sleep, but weighed several pounds. Today, the company’s NeoAir XLite weighs just 12.5 ounces, further reducing your load.

5. Watch your base weight

Reduce your base weight to 15 pounds or lessDrop your base weight to 15 pounds or less — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

Base weight refers to the weight of everything in your backpack except for consumables like food, water, and fuel. While super-ultralight hikers are now aiming for a base weight of under 10 pounds, that means they’re sacrificing comfort and sometimes safety. However, if you’re aiming for 15 pounds, you can be comfortable, secure, and have room for extras.

If your “big 4” tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and backpack together weigh around 2.5 to 3.5 kg, you still have another 7 to 8 kg to cover all your other essentials. With a base weight of 15 pounds, you can carry a few gallons of water and five days of food and still be under 30 pounds, which is both a nice weight and doesn’t push the comfort limits of the new lightweight backpacks.

6. Strive for multipurpose items

Down offers the best warmth-to-weight ratioDown offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio — Photo courtesy of Raquel Mogado

Instead of wearing a wind shirt/jacket and rain jacket, your rain jacket should be both. Speaking of rain gear, it may not be for everyone, but many hikers swear by rain kilts, which are far more comfortable and breathable than traditional pants. ULA Equipment makes one that weighs only 3 ounces.

7. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and reach for Merino

Shorts and merino tights also work in the snow!Shorts and merino tights also work in the snow! — Photo courtesy of Raquel Mogado

Merino wool is very popular with today’s ultralight hikers. It offers an excellent warmth ratio, breathes well, keeps you insulated when wet and perhaps its most endearing feature is that it doesn’t smell. For someone who only wears a spare pair of clothes, not to mention rarely taking a backcountry shower, that’s pretty cute — and your significant other will thank you.

Smaller cottage industry players like Voormi make premium merino shirts and also hoodies, which have become popular base or second layers, eliminating the need to wear a hat.

8. Choose your layers carefully

Carbon fiber umbrellas repel rain and sunCarbon fiber umbrellas repel rain and sun — Photo courtesy of Raquel Mogado

There is a wide variety of fabrics and products to choose from to keep you dry, warm and protected from the elements. Most hikers wear a cotton-free base layer next to their skin (cotton doesn’t insulate when wet) made of either merino or polypropylene that wicks moisture, or a sun shirt or something else to keep the bugs out in the height of summer.

This is followed by a second insulation layer for running in the cold. Try some of the new Polartec Alpha fleece jackets, which are lighter than traditional fleece and breathable yet warm. You can also find lightweight down jackets to use as the last layer of insulation. Cerium by Arc’teryx weighs just 330g yet is perfect for braving the cold on three season adventures.

Finally, don’t forget your raincoat to top it all off; They can be as light as 5 ounces these days. Or maybe opt for an umbrella. Six Moon Designs makes a 5.5-oz. Carbon fiber that can even be attached to your backpack so you can go hands-free.

9. Consider kicking off your boots

Trail runners allow you to run longer and faster than bootsTrail runners let you run longer and faster than boots — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

Carrying that 50-pound pack meant more ankle support and padding was needed, but most of today’s long-distance hikers wear trail runners. That’s because running long miles in heavy shoes takes twice as much effort, and also because trail running shoes now come with grippy Vibram soles and are suited to a variety of trail conditions.

The other benefit is that when “waterproof” boots get wet, they take forever to dry out, leaving you freezing and prone to blisters and trench coats, while trail runners usually dry in a day.

10. Don’t skimp on security

Tackle the hike with a light loadEmbracing the trek with a lighter burden — Photo courtesy of Six Moon Designs

When choosing your gear, make sure to have a basic first aid kit in your backpack. It’s the one thing you’ll be carrying that you hope you won’t have to use. Make sure you have navigation tools like a GPS or a phone app like Gaia. Better yet, carry a map/compass and the knowledge how to use it as electronic devices can and will fail.

Even if you lighten your load, make sure you have the so-called “10 essentials” in your kit: navigation, headlamp, first aid, knife, fire starter, sunscreen, shelter and extra food, water and clothing). Enjoy the easy adventure!

Leave a Comment