There is no universal blueprint as to how you should backpack.
We all have our own motivations, needs and levels of experience.
That being said, one thing upon which everyone can agree is that hiking is substantially easier and more enjoyable, if your pack doesn’t weigh the proverbial tonne. My five basic principles of Going Lighter in the wilderness are as follows:
1. Safety First
Going lighter should be a gradual process, which ideally should parallel a corresponding improvement of a hiker’s backcountry skillset. When starting out, it is better to err on the side of caution by taking a little more than the bare necessities. Time spent in various types of environments, will gradually teach you what you can and can’t do without.
2. Leave Behind the Non-Essentials
Review each and every article in your pack and ask yourself two questions: Do I really need it? What will happen if I don’t have it? Hikers are often amazed at the amount of redundant items they have been carrying out of habit rather than necessity.
3. Downsize the Essentials
Lighter materials and innovative designs mean that it is easier than ever before to lower your pack weight simply by using lighter versions of essential items (e.g. shelter, sleeping bag, backpack, sleeping mat). Avoid overcompensating on your next hiking trip by: A. Thoroughly researching what types of conditions you are likely to encounter, and; B. Figuring out what you need to be safe and comfortable whilst hiking in those conditions. For example, chances are you don’t need a sleeping bag rated to -17° celsius if you are hiking in the middle of summer.
4. Emphasise multi-purpose items
Necessity is the mother of invention. Many items in your backpacking kit, such as sleeping mat, hiking poles and cooking pot can serve more than one purpose. By emphasising multi-function equipment, you can eliminate redundant or duplicate items and thereby decrease overall pack weight. See Double Duty for suggestions.
There is nothing new under the sun. For millennia, indigenous peoples around the globe, including the native inhabitants of Australia, the Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa, were all covering vast distances without the aid of fancy shelters, packs and footwear. They did so in an unencumbered lightweight fashion, which emphasised practicality and necessity over superfluous luxuries. By choosing to “go lighter” you are essentially making a conscious decision to adopt a similarly uncluttered approach to your time out in the wilderness.
The essence of backpacking lightly has little to do with gear minutiae and base weight. They’re just tangible barometers. What it really comes down to is embracing simplicity, whilst simultaneously accumulating the knowledge and skills to hike safely and happily in your chosen environment(s).