Updated: Dec 12, 2020
By Stu H
Whether you are hiking, biking or boating – packing light has many advantages. Carrying less can make your trip more enjoyable; less to lug up hills and easier progress when you’re on the trail. You will be able to cover more distance and it takes less toll on the body. Read on for 10 tips to avoid being a packhorse on your next trip.
Firstly, its worth mentioning that travelling light does not mean just carrying less and taking risks with key safety gear. The aim is to carry just what you need and nothing more. The skill is understanding what you need and what you can do without. Anyone can do this, but it takes a bit of planning so try not to start the night before you depart!
1). Understand the likely conditions
If you know the likely conditions, you can plan your gear accordingly. What time of year is it? Will you be at altitude where it's colder (approx 1 degree Celcius for every 100m you ascend)? It is sensible to check weather forecasts to understand temperatures and the likelihood of heat, rain, snow etc. The MWIS website (Mountain Weather Information Service) is worth checking if you’re heading to the hills in the UK.
2). Decide what's essential vs nice to have
Build a list/pile of what gear you cannot do without; think absolute survival necessities first and build up from there. Everything else should be on the ‘maybe’ or 'luxury' list. Organise things into categories so you don’t forget anything e.g: Shelter, clothing, rain gear, cooking etc.
3). Get the scales out
You will be surprised just how heavy or light some items are. It’s a useful way to decide if something really is essential and potentially to plan upgrades to your gear.
4). Beware of too many cases and bags
Whilst useful to keep your kit organised, the little things can really add up. Reusable Zip-loc bags are generally much lighter and will also keep things dry. Are your tent pegs in a bag that are in your tent bag that’s in a dry bag that’s in your rucksack under a rain cover? Do you need your whole wallet/purse or will a bank card and a £20 note or two do they job? If you like dry bags, you can get lighter-weight versions such as these.
5). Weight v bulk
Depending on the type of trip, weight or bulk could be more important. Often the two go hand in hand but on a kayaking or biking trip for example, space could be very limited and more critical than weight.
6). Don’t buy a bag that’s too large
If you buy a big rucksack there is a huge temptation to fill it with stuff you don’t need. You may find it useful to buy your gear first and your bag last. Or buy a sensible sized bag that will naturally limit the kit you can take. If you’re looking for recommendations and volume sizes, Osprey backpacks are not the cheapest but they are excellent pieces of kit if you have the budget. I have a 26 litre pack for day trips, and a 70 litre for camping. You can find them here:
7). Consider multi-function gear
It’s worth looking at your kit and considering what other roles it can perform. For example, some tents and tarps use hiking poles to create your shelter as seen here. Consider sun-cream that’s also got insect repellent in it such as this. There are trousers that zip off above the knee to double as shorts ( see Men’s / Women’s versions). A life jacket is a necessity on a kayaking trip and can also be comfortable to sit on in the evening rather than carrying a chair. Will your spare clothing bag double as a pillow?
8). Plan clothing carefully
As well as what you are wearing you will have spares in your pack for a multi-day trip. As a minimum, a change of clothes is a good idea so that you have something dry to change into. But do you really need 7 sets of clothing for that week long hike? Can you wear items for two days? Can you just take 2 sets; wear one and wash one? Can you have one set of wet gear (daytime) and one set of dry gear (evenings)? If you’re hiking in the summer, can you wear shorts, take waterproof trousers and leave the outdoor trousers at home?
Synthetics are light, but do not wear well for more than 1 day. On longer trips merino wool is a good choice that can be worn for multiple days without smelling too bad. Here is a merino wool t-shirt for under £20: Men’s / Women’s.
9). Do not to carry more food and water than you need
You have worked hard to plan your gear and get the weight down and then many will add 2 or 3 litres of water and enough food for the full trip. Water is an essential but look closely at options to refill on your route. A portable filter such as this Sawyer filter or some water purification tablets may be a great addition to your kit to allow you to refill from almost any source of water. Unless in very remote areas, there is usually options to purchase food along the way.
10). Share gear if you can
If you’ll be sharing you adventure with others, see what gear you can share too. Perhaps one stove between two is enough, or you can share the spare fuel bottle instead of having one each. You may have one emergency shelter or first aid kit for the group instead of everyone taking one. Maybe you can share a tent? Don't have adventure friends? Come on an Adventure Break and make some - if you're new to the outdoors we'd recommend Camping for Beginners, otherwise come and play on and around Lake Windermere with us!
Hopefully this has given you some useful tips to pack better for your next trip. Enjoy experimenting, stay safe and have a great trip!
Here are 6 free and easy ways to pack lighter;
Watch this short video on What to pack for Wild Camping;
Fancy a challenge of your own? Join our Yorkshire 3 Peaks (and Cheese) Challenge;
Know someone getting married? We offer Hen and Stag weekends.
Watch Gun Runners, a documentary about two former cattle theives in Kenya who trade in their knives for trainers;
Save 15% at Cotswold Outdoor when you join the mailing list.
Discover these Inspirational Films available on Netflix.
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