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How can I reduce the weight of my rucksack when hiking?

Hiking is an activity that allows you to reconnect with nature, but a too-heavy backpack can quickly turn this experience into a real ordeal. Reducing the weight of your backpack is essential to fully enjoy the adventure. This article gives you the keys to lighten your pack, improve your comfort, and preserve your health.

The Importance of Reducing Backpack Weight

A lighter backpack offers numerous health benefits. By reducing the pressure on your knees, hips, and back, it can prevent long-term injuries. Walking with a heavy pack puts more strain on your muscles and joints, increasing the risk of pain and injury. A lighter pack helps protect your body from stress and overload, providing a more pleasant and safer hiking experience.

Additionally, lightening your backpack significantly improves endurance and comfort during the hike. By reducing the weight, you can walk longer with less fatigue. You will feel freer and more agile, making your hiking experience much more enjoyable. A lighter pack allows you to fully enjoy each stage of the journey without being burdened by unnecessary weight.

There is nothing more unpleasant than putting on your backpack after a long day of walking, especially when you have soreness in your shoulders, trapezius, and back. These pains are often caused by a too-heavy pack.

Explore our selection of hiking backpacks to find the model suited to your adventures.

Planning and Selecting Equipment

Creating a list of essential gear is the first crucial step in lightening your backpack. Take the time to make a precise list of everything you really need, eliminating non-essential items. This list should include only the essentials for your comfort. Consider the duration of your hike: a few-day outing requires less gear than a multi-week expedition. Weather conditions also play an important role. Plan for clothing and gear suited to the expected weather, whether it's heat, cold, rain, or wind. Finally, know that a gear list is subjective. Items deemed superfluous by some may be necessary for others. With experience, you will know what gear you cannot do without and vice versa.

The terrain you will be hiking on should also be considered. For example, a mountain hike requires specific equipment like trekking poles and appropriate shoes, while a plain hike may allow you to reduce some of this gear. The key is to find a balance between comfort and lightness. Each item should be carefully evaluated for its usefulness and weight.

It can be helpful to distinguish between absolutely necessary items and those that are simply useful or comfortable. For example, a lightweight tent and a compact sleeping bag are essential for nights in the wild, but an inflatable pillow might be considered a luxury by some. Prioritize multifunctional gear that can serve multiple purposes, like a jacket that is both windproof and waterproof, or a multifunctional knife.

Once your list is established, review it several times. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this item?" This approach will help you reduce the weight of your pack and carry only what is truly necessary, optimizing your comfort and endurance on the trails.

Optimizing Meals and Hydration

Choosing freeze-dried meals is an excellent strategy for reducing the weight of your backpack. Freeze-dried meals have several advantages that make them an ideal choice for hikers. Firstly, their lightness is a major asset. Unlike fresh or canned foods, freeze-dried meals are much lighter because the water has been removed. This allows you to carry enough food without unnecessarily weighing down your pack.

Secondly, freeze-dried meals have a long shelf life. They can be stored for several months, even years, without requiring refrigeration. This allows you to plan long hikes without worrying about food expiration. Their ease of preparation is also a significant advantage. Usually, you just need to add hot water to rehydrate the meals, greatly simplifying cooking in the wild. Finally, freeze-dried meals are nutritious. The freeze-drying process preserves almost all the macronutrients. Perfect for keeping your energy levels up!

At Freeze Dried & Co, you can find a wide range of freeze-dried meals to suit all tastes and needs. Here are some suggestions of available freeze-dried meals:

In addition to choosing lightweight food, it is crucial to optimize how you carry and consume water. Carrying large amounts of water can quickly weigh down your pack, so it's important to know some effective techniques for managing your water supply.

The first is to use a portable water filter or purification tablets. These accessories allow you to treat the water you find along the way, whether in rivers, lakes, or springs. This way, you don't need to carry all the water you'll need, but only the amount necessary until the next water source. Then, bring a lightweight water bottle or a CamelBak-type hydration bladder. These containers are practical and take up little space. Once empty, hydration bladders fold up and take up very little space in your pack. The third technique is to map out water sources along your route. Before you set off, find out about the available water points on your itinerary. Knowing the location of springs, rivers, and lakes will allow you to plan your water resupply effectively and carry just what you need between each water point.

By adopting these techniques and choosing your food and water wisely, you can significantly lighten your backpack, improving your comfort and endurance throughout your hike.

Clothing and Layers

Opting for technical and lightweight clothing is essential to optimizing the weight of your backpack while ensuring your comfort and protection during the hike. Technical materials like merino wool and lightweight synthetics are particularly recommended for their lightness, quick-drying capability, and performance in regulating body temperature.

The Importance of Technical Materials

Merino wool is a favored choice for hikers. It is not only lightweight but also extremely effective at regulating body temperature. In winter, it retains heat, while in summer, it allows the skin to breathe. Another advantage of merino wool is that it does not retain odors, allowing you to wear the same clothes for several days without discomfort.

Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are also excellent for hiking. They are very lightweight and dry quickly, which is crucial for staying comfortable and avoiding hypothermia in case of rain or excessive sweating. Moreover, they are often more affordable than merino wool, which can be a determining factor for hikers on a budget.

Layering Strategy

Adopting the layering system is a proven strategy for adapting to changing weather conditions. This system typically consists of three layers:

  • The base layer: It should be made of synthetic material or merino wool. This layer is in direct contact with the skin and serves to wick away sweat, keeping you dry.
  • The middle layer: Its purpose is to insulate and retain body heat. Fleece garments are perfect for this function as they are lightweight, warm, and breathable.
  • The outer layer: This layer should be waterproof and windproof to protect you from the elements. Choose a lightweight but sturdy jacket capable of withstanding rain and wind while allowing good ventilation.

Reducing Spare Clothing

To lighten your pack, it is crucial to minimize the amount of spare clothing. Bring versatile and quick-drying clothes. For example, a merino wool shirt can be worn for several days without smelling bad thanks to its natural anti-odor properties. Similarly, technical underwear and socks can be washed and dried quickly, reducing the need to carry multiple pairs.

Techniques for Washing Clothes on the Go

During long hikes, it is often necessary to wash your clothes along the way. Here are some techniques to do it effectively:

  • Washing in rivers or lakes: If you have access to a natural water source, wash your clothes using biodegradable soap. Be sure to move away from the drinking water source to avoid contamination.
  • Using wet wipes: For a quick and waterless clean, use biodegradable wet wipes. They are handy for cleaning key areas without having to remove your clothes.
  • Drying clothes: Once washed, hang your clothes on your backpack or an improvised clothesline. Technical materials dry quickly, especially when exposed to sun and wind.

By adopting these strategies, you can significantly reduce the weight of your pack while staying clean, comfortable, and well-protected against the elements. A lighter backpack improves your endurance and comfort, making each hike more enjoyable and less tiring.

Optimizing Your Backpack

Choosing a suitable and lightweight backpack is a fundamental step for any successful hike. The capacity and structure of the pack must be carefully selected based on the duration and type of hike you are planning. A well-chosen pack contributes not only to your comfort but also to the efficiency of your walk.

The capacity of the backpack is crucial. A pack that is too large will encourage you to take more than necessary, unnecessarily increasing the weight you need to carry. This can not only tire you out faster but also cause unnecessary pain. On the other hand, a pack that is too small can be uncomfortable and difficult to organize, as it will not be able to hold all the essential items you need. For a day hike, a 10 to 30-liter pack is sufficient. For a weekend, depending on the gear you have, a 20 to 40L pack is adequate. For week-long hikes, a 30 to 50-liter backpack is ideal, depending on whether you sleep in shelters or tents. Finally, for long treks or backpacking trips, a minimum 50-liter backpack is the norm. 

The structure of the pack is just as important. A pack with a good structure provides adequate support and allows for better weight distribution. Packs with internal or external frames can help transfer the weight from your shoulders to your hips, reducing fatigue and back pain. Additionally, well-padded shoulder straps and hip belts add to the overall comfort of carrying. Ultra-lightweight hiking enthusiasts opt for frameless packs to save weight. This type of structure is not recommended if you are a beginner or if you have a backpack weighing more than 8 kg.

Next, balanced weight distribution in your pack is essential to avoid pain and improve your stability. Place the heaviest items close to your back and in the middle of the pack. This helps keep the center of gravity close to your body, reducing strain on your back and shoulders. Lighter items can be placed at the top and sides of the pack to maintain good balance. For more information, check out our tips on how to organize your backpack.

Compression sacks are extremely useful for reducing the volume of clothing and sleeping bags, helping you save space in your pack. By compressing bulky items, you can optimize space and maintain efficient organization. Compression sacks can be used for clothes, sleeping bags, and even some camping gear.

Tips and Tricks for Reducing Weight

To further lighten your backpack, there are several simple but effective techniques. One of the first tips is to invest in ultra-light trekking gear. Using sleeping bags with high-quality down (instead of synthetic) or tents made of Dyneema can make a big difference in the total weight of your pack.

Minimizing hygiene and first aid products is also a key technique for reducing the weight of your pack. This is a mistake that most beginners make: bringing a full bottle of shower gel, shaving foam, a whole tube of toothpaste, and a plethora of bandages and tools for minor injuries. The goal is not to eliminate everything but to find the right balance between lightness and safety. Bring sample-sized hygiene products instead of full-size ones and opt for a minimalist but complete first aid kit. Choose multi-use products, like a cream that serves both as a moisturizer and sunscreen. This will allow you to carry fewer products while retaining all the necessary functionalities.

As a bonus, here are some extreme ULH (ultra-light hiking) tips. Cut off the tags and excess cords from your clothes and gear. Every gram counts when you're trying to reduce the total weight of your pack. By eliminating unnecessary tags and cords, you reduce the weight without sacrificing the functionality of your gear. It may seem trivial, and it certainly is, but everyone has their own ways of reducing pack weight. These weight reduction techniques, although seemingly minor for some of them, can add up to make a big difference. 

Finally, you can set off on your adventure with a lightweight backpack, ready to enjoy your treks without suffering from the load you carry!