By Laura Waters
Stop Overpacking !!!
When it comes to hiking, simplicity is best. Unless you’re stepping out with a yak/camel/sherpa etc, everything you choose to take is going to end up on your back so you want every piece of kit to really earn its place in your pack. Here are some ideas for what you can leave at home.
Cull unnecessary stuff
It feels like just about everything we buy these days comes in its own stuff sack but that doesn’t mean you need to take it with you on the trail. Line your pack with a dedicated pack liner and then just stuff everything in there. Not only will you save weight but space too – you’ll avoid a load of cylinders – plus its quicker to pack up in the morning. By all means keep one or two stuff sacks for separating clothes and food, for example, but keep them loose rather than jammed tight so that they can find their own nooks and crannies. “Just in case” or “nice to have” items can stay at home. If you’re not definitely going to need/use it, don’t bring it.
The minimal ‘kitchen’
There are plenty of gadgets out there, from foldable chopping boards to mini frying pans and coffee makers (okay, some will see this last one as a necessity), but really, just one small and lightweight sharp knife, a spork and a cooking pot will do. Fancy Swiss Army Knife-type survival tools have a lot of extra features that are mostly not worth the weight. Eat dinner straight from the cooking pot and you won’t need to carry plates and bowls. When it comes to food, remove all unnecessary packaging before you hit the trail and leave heavy canned food at home.
Take only what you need
It sounds obvious but only carry what you need for the length of trip you’re doing. Clearly, if you’re going away for a three-day trip, you’ll only want to carry food for three days (plus a little extra for contingency) but precious grams can be saved by being strict on this. For example, you might be satisfied with carrying a small jar of peanut butter but even better is portioning out half that amount (or whatever you think you’ll need) into a smaller container. Count your crackers – if you only need ¾ pack don’t take an entire one. Every gram counts.
The same goes for cooking gas. Avoid carrying a large or brand new cannister when one a half-full one might do the trick. You’ll probably find yourself accumulating leftover cannisters with varying amounts of fuel in them. A good idea is to measure how many trail days you can get out of a 230g cannister, for example, and then weigh leftover cans to get an idea of how many days-worth of fuel remain in them. When it comes to toiletries, only take the absolutely necessary (eg, toothpaste, toothbrush, eco-friendly soap) and use mini sizes. Rather than carry an entire guidebook, photocopy just the pages you need or save them on your phone. If you’re travelling in a group, see if there are any items you can share. Trim, trim, trim.
Tech & gadgets
For some it’s a necessity, for others a luxury, but tech is a space that is worth considering trimming. We’re probably not going to escape the need for a phone (for photos, mapping apps or emergency comms) but do you really need a solar charger or spare power bank? Hiking in the wilds is a golden opportunity to switch off and disconnect with the world. Embrace it. Unless you’re heading out with the sole focus of capturing high quality images, leave the DSLR camera/tripod/drone at home. Phones take pretty amazing pics these days or pack a compact camera (avoid image playback and your battery should easily last a week).
Don’t get carried away with clothes. All you need is “a wear and a spare”. That means wearing one outfit on the trail and having something dry to change into at night (perhaps comfy thermal leggings and another t-shirt to supplement your trail wear). Two sets of underwear should suffice – one to wear and another that can be washed daily. Quick-drying, odour resistant and moisture-wicking are not cotton’s strong points so leave anything made from it at home.
It’s up to you whether the benefit of luxuries outweigh their additional load but consider the options. Folding chairs are great but you can save weight and space by swapping out with a small foam pad sit pad or a plastic bag to sit on – granted, not as comfy but they will keep your bum dry. Long afternoons or evenings in a tent can be infinitely more enjoyable with something to read but if you’re going to take a book, go for something small and light rather than a tome like War and Peace. Kindles are heavier than a thin paperback but you can get a lot of content on there, including your trip notes or guidebooks.
Keep it simple
Choose kit that can multi-task if possible. Unless the terrain is super gnarly, hiking shoes/runners will work for the trail and in camp too, negating the need for camp shoes. Make-up, mirrors, jewellery, shavers, etc, are best left at home.
Leave the world at home
Heading out into the wilds is a rare and precious opportunity to leave your world behind. There’s no TV or news out there, no advertising, no familiar relationships, no stress, drama, expectations or obligations. Embrace this and resist dragging your ‘normal world’ on the trail with you. Turn off the tech, have moments without the chatter and let your mind be still. Tune in to your surroundings and revel in the peace it creates. It might not lighten your pack but it’ll definitely lighten your load.