Tips and Advice for the Outdoors

Packing – Hauling Gear, How To Lighten Your Load

The military has a term for moving personal equipment from place to place that backpackers have adopted – humping your gear. It’s apt. There’s something about the phrase that suggests effort, and that is certainly true. Hauling personal gear for camping and hiking can be one of the less thrilling parts of the experience.

In order to minimize the downside, give some thought to what you truly need for where you’re going. A little research into the specific campsites you pick for your trip will reveal a lot of back saving information.

You’ll find out whether the campsite has running water (some do, many do not), and whether there are showers (rare, but less so as time passes). Try to get a person, either via phone or email, and ask specifically about quality. Some water suitable for bathing or cleaning dishes isn’t something you’d want to drink.

Always bring a few gallons of drinking water, just in case. But keep in mind that a gallon of water (about 4 liters) weighs about 8 lbs (3.6 kg). You don’t want to have to haul much of that on your back.

Think about the climate. Sleeping bags have gotten much lighter in recent years, but they still weigh about 4 lbs (1.8 kg) at best. Also, though they roll up to a nice tight size these days, they are still one of the bulkier items you will carry. Don’t pack a winter sleeping bag if you’re going summer camping and vice-versa.

Tents today are much lighter than their heavy canvas grandfathers. Today’s tents are made from lightweight, tough nylon. Heavy steel poles are a thing of the past. With internal frames, using aluminum or fiberglass, it’s possible to get a strong tent in a low mass package. But here again they weigh at least nearly 4 lbs and the more pole support the heavier they are.

To lighten your load select a tent that is no larger than what you actually need. If the weather is expected to be fine, trade space for weight. Gear can be left outside and in some places you can dress outside and still have plenty of privacy.

It’s essential that you pack a first aid kit, but the truly needed items can be carried in a small, lightweight package. Wrap around bandages, anti-bacterial cream (less bulk than spray), scissor/tweezer combos and a few other things can weigh under 2 lbs easily. Remember, every pound you carry in, you have to carry out. At least, in the case of first aid gear, you certainly hope so.

A backpack will add another 3 lbs (1.4 kg) and some of the gear like parachute cord (for tying up food bags and other uses), dental floss (useful for a dozen things besides dental hygiene), tooth paste, mirror (for emergency signaling) and a few other essentials will add a few more.

Twenty pounds is about the minimum, and it can reach 40 lbs before you know. It doesn’t sound like much, until you start lugging it over a trail to get to your campsite, then lugging it back to the car, moving to the next campsite. If you add a long hike, that weight becomes a significant percentage of your total body weight to haul around.

Take only the essentials and your trip will be that much more pleasant. Give careful thought to your list. You’ll be surprised how much you can do without away from home. Then when you get back, you may actually be motivated finally to clean out the garage.

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