– is king! Before I did my thru-hike, I kept reading this lightweight-mantra and quickly frowned upon it, almost in an arrogant manner: “Whatever, I can handle it, these lightweight geeks are freaks”. But it really is important: For your enjoyment, for your safety… and maybe even for your mind.
If you’re thru-hiking you’re likely looking at walking somewhere around a marathon a day and that’s why you need to pack super light. Personally, I would recommend that you pack light for whatever kind of hiking you’re doing, even short-distance day trips, since it makes the experience so much more enjoyable and decreases your risk/severity of an injury as your feet have less load and your balance is much better. It’s so much more comfortable to be light. Why carry 30lbs when you can carry 15lbs? And why haul all these material things with you, when you are entering the wilderness to leave “that world” behind you?
A typical thru-hiker is carrying a base-weight around 14 lbs, 17lbs is heavy and 11lbs is light. Base-weight is the weight of your entire pack, including the pack itself but without food and water. Use the “heaviest possible” clothing situation, meaning that the base-weight will be with you wearing your minimal walking clothes for hot days: shorts and t-shirt; all the heavy cold-weather clothes should be included in your base-weight: jacket, gloves, beanie, pants, thermals etc.
Granted, to get the absolute newest ultra-light equipment can sometimes be a financial hurdle, as the last 10% weight-shave will double the price. So, if you’re on a budget, go for the lightweight-gear from last season and not the newest extreme-space-material-frontline-tech-option. Most “normal” lightweight gear is not necessarily more expensive than its heavier car-camping alternative.
The drawback of lightweight gear? It’s vulnerable, delicate, thin and easily gets torn or damaged. So have patience, treat it gently and with respect: like women and fine art.
Throw all your stuff on your kitchen-scale, one by one, and punch the numbers into a spread-sheet, it takes 20 minutes and gives you a great overview of your equipment list while revealing some of the “not-so-bads”. Because the “not-so-bads” do add up. Unless you’re “allergic” to computers, it’s actually a fun little exercise.
Here is my spreadsheet, feel free to use it however you like.
There is also something nearly philosophical about packing lightweight: You’re in the outdoors and are there to enjoy the surroundings, connect with nature and maybe even yourself. To live with limited materials, back to basics and all that. It’s seriously a humbling feeling to know that all the items on your back are strictly needed and that you don’t carry any excess materials which you haven’t double-considered the use and need of. Simplicity they call it. Or maybe even detachment.
It’s normal to cut off any excessively long straps on your backpack or useless tags on your clothes: it might save you 2 Oz (50g) and often these excess pieces of straps are only in your way and straight-out annoying. Though the clothes that you’re wearing isn’t counting towards your base-weight, it should still be scrutinized. Nothing is holy. I used a 0.2 Oz (6g) long shoe-lace for a belt and it worked just fine.
When you’ve brutally shaved all excess weight off your pack and got rid of each single item that you don’t desperately need, you can maybe allow yourself to back-step an item or two, for luxury. I love to read and are mesmerized by photography, so I brought a Kindle and packed a mid-sized camera. Still, my base-weight was around 14 lbs.