Packing up for a big hiking trip can be a bit overwhelming. Once you are out on the trail, there is not going to be a convenience store to hop into to grab whatever piece of food or item you may have forgotten.
Because of this common packing worry, newer hikers often pack too much, bringing things that would have been better left at home rather than pulled around on your back for days on end. Every ounce of weight will add up.
Here is a list of items that may seem like they are necessary, but really aren’t.
Taking things that are valuable, including expensive jewelry, is not just a waste of space but could be devastating for you if the items get lost or broken along the way. Under this category, you should also find laptops. Unless you are a writer and need the keyboard, leave it at home. It would likely be damaged along the route anyway.
This is a tricky one, because in your evening downtime you probably would want to read a book. But books are heavy, especially if you are an avid reader, and they will take up a lot of space. A better alternative is to bring an e-reader, such as a Kindle or Nook, along with you. An e-reader will free up space as they can hold hundreds of books at a time and have a decent battery life.
Let’s face it: most of us already have a camera in our pocket most of the time. A smartphone’s picture quality is usually just as good as a standard digital camera, and you will have it anyway. Unless you are a professional photographer, you do not need a giant DSLR camera in your bag, taking up space.
4. Extra clothes
If you are like me, you always want to throw in just one more pair of socks in case your feet get wet. But those added pairs take up space and you really do not need them. Of course, you do need to take more than one pair of underwear and socks, but three to four pairs should keep you covered no matter how long of a hike you are venturing through.
Take underwear that is meant for quick drying, allowing you to wash them out by hand every couple of days and air dry for a few minutes. The same goes for socks. There are brands that are specifically made for travelers to free up precious space. You should also only bring one or two pairs of shoes. The second pair should be sandals or flip flops, not another pair of hiking boots.
5. Big pillow
Of course, your regular pillow may be more comfortable for you, but where are you going to pack it? A pillow takes up a ridiculous amount of space, so just forget about it. There are travel pillows for a reason, they will do their job while not taking up your entire backpack. Another good option is to simply not bring a pillow with you. You can use a rolled up shirt or pants for the extra neck support if you need it. There is also a chance that you will be too tired to care once you are ready to hit the hay.
6. Giant water bottle
Staying hydrated is essential for a backpacking trip, but that does not mean you should be carrying around 20 pounds of water throughout the day. Before you leave, you should know where you are going to be able to get water when you need it, allowing for you to plan out how much water you really need during the day before you stop to camp out at night.
You wouldn’t want to be short on water during the heat of the day, but you also do not want to be carrying around the weight of extra of water that you are never going to get to. Pacing your water consumption is also key, ensuring that you are not gulping down a day’s worth of water in an hour, which you will just urinate out anyway. Even water bladders can add up in weight, though they will take up less room in your backpack.
7. Big tent
Having some kind of shelter at night is certainly a perk, though even that is not always necessary. Regardless, you do not need a large tent, especially if it is just you. A pop-up tent for a single person is ideal, allowing you to assemble and disassemble with little trouble, but you really do not need more space than that. If you are hiking in the summer and the temperatures do not drop drastically at night, you could even leave a tent at home. If the weather is unpredictable, however, having some shelter will keep you dry and safe.
8. Elaborate first aid kit
Having some kind of bandage and basic items like aspirin or an anti-diarrheal medicine can be helpful when you are out on your own. But you do not need much more than that. You will not need a box of one hundred Band-Aids. Having the standard items to help you in the event of an allergic reaction or if you are bleeding heavily is important, but you do not need a splint or anything crazy. If you are in real trouble, you will call for help or head home.
Everything that you pack adds to the weight on your back you are walking around with all day. Whether you are packing for a weekend, a week, or a month, you do not want to be carrying around an extra twenty pounds on your back. To make sure that you are in shape to haul around a backpack, you should do some practice hikes and train ahead of time.
Just remember that every pound counts and will feel heavier the longer you carry it.
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