Learning to do without the superfluous is essential when you decide to set out for a multi-day trek in the mountains or along the Via Francigena.
You know how tiring it can be to walk a path for 6-7 hours a day with a very heavy backpack , which barely makes you stand upright. In certain situations you lack all the fun of the excursion .
Those who face a long distance on foot for the first time tend to load excessive weight on their shoulders, without realizing that a heavy backpack significantly increases fatigue , and above all the strain on the back , joints and feet.
The problem is usually noticed after a few days of walking, sometimes when it is too late to avoid the typical problems of excess weight: back pain, inflammation of the joints, blisters on the feet. If you want to leave ultralight, here’s how.
What is the maximum weight?
If you have the patience to take care of the weight of the backpack at an almost maniacal level, you can reach an ambitious goal: to stay below 10 kg . The ideal solution provides that the backpack does not exceed 10% of the hiker’s body weight; it seems incredible, but it is technically possible, without having to give up too much comfort.
The goal can be achieved if you choose a high-quality, lightweight backpack with a volume of 35-45 liters. And, again, if you avoid the use of cotton and natural fibers, and use synthetic technical clothing. If you choose a very light and very compact sleeping bag and if you use a microfiber trekking towel.
Experience will teach you how to identify unnecessary weight and equipment you simply can’t (and shouldn’t) do without. Fortunately, a little research and planning ahead of your trip can put you on the right path to becoming an expert super light backpacker.
How to Reduce the Backpack weight?
1. Reduce the packaging of food and personal effects
Who uses a whole tube of sunscreen or new toothpaste for a three day trip? Shampoo, shower gel, detergents, cosmetics must be kept to a minimum: a small piece of Marseille soap can be used to wash yourself and your clothes, and the shampoo must be poured into a small container.
The same goes for food. Make calibrated portions and put them in resealable bags, letting the air out. The same goes for your water bottle . Carry a flexible bottle that can be compacted as you drink.
2. Optimize insulation with a minimal amount of materials
A sleeping bag is the most efficient way to warm up, when you put it in relation to its weight and its compressibility. You could opt for a down sleeping bag that is more compact and warmer than a comparable synthetic model.
But it is not always necessary to bring the warmest sleeping bag ever. In fact, if you are hiking in the warmer months and are planning to bring a protective and windproof jacket (if it is not too cold) you may be able to reduce the weight even more and opt for a lighter sleeping bag, wearing the jacket. insulation for warm sleeping.
However, remember to bring the mattress, a mat or inflatable, to isolate the sleeping bag from the ground.
3. Secure the tent with trekking poles
If you are already hiking with trekking poles you do not need to bring the tent poles which alone already weigh more than 1 kg. And if you are super minimalist, lighten up the structure further. The tent offers you two walls: an external one for shelter and an internal one to avoid the bother of insects.
As a shelter you only need the outer sheet that you will fix to the ground with trekking poles and with stones. And for insects you can use a mosquito net to put on the face: the rest of the body will be covered by your sleeping bag.
4. Limit your wardrobe
Most of those who travel ultralights know that body odor isn’t worth worrying much about. The smell is a fact: that’s all. So, unless you plan on going on a very long trip and plan to wash full gear (and you can’t just wear your rain gear while you do your laundry), or you think you might need a dry set of clothes to swap to stay warm, you can probably avoid carrying a whole extra change of clothes.
Aside from two pairs of socks, you don’t need much more. Your clothes also have a strategic time and place to wear: you put on your short-sleeved hiking clothes when you walk and sweat, and you put on your long-sleeved camping clothes that stay clean and scented.
Do not use cotton garments but choose synthetic technical materials that are much lighter. Not only do synthetics weigh less, they are also more water resistant than their traditional counterparts.
5. Make a list of what you don’t use every time you leave
And then think carefully about taking them with you next time. Some things – like an emergency lighter and a few yards of duct tape – should always be available in your backpack, with the hope of never having to use them.
But if you’ve packed a pair of gaiters in your last three commutes and you’ve never bothered to wear them, it might be time to drop them off next time. This will save you the trouble of carrying items you can actually do without.
6. Never put books in your backpack
No books , not even guides. Instead, take a picture of the pages that interest you with your smartphone and view them when you need them: you can always zoom in on the screen. And if you enjoy reading when tucked into your sleeping bag at night, use the Kindle app instead of weighing yourself down with a paperback.
You can carry an entire library on your small device that you can take with you without a problem. If you are concerned about battery life, make sure you turn your phone on in “airplane mode” or just keep the phone off unless you absolutely need it.
Bring a spare battery or charger with you – it will take up less space than a guidebook or novel. Also consider getting a solar charger to hang from your backpack while you walk.
7. Plan your water consumption in advance and ration your supply
If you know that where you are headed you will find abundant streams, or are sure you will find a fountain with drinking water along the way, calculate how much water you need to get there, and then use a purifying filter instead of carrying all the water you will need to the whole trip.
Take a look at the map to see how far the various streams are apart: in this way you will be able to transport only the quantity necessary to have autonomy between one refueling and another. If you’re just going for a walk or a short hike, drinking plenty of water before you leave can make all the difference.
8. Carry only flexible bottles
Don’t bring hard plastic water bottles but instead use a bladder system that takes up less space and that you can connect with straws to drink and hydrate as you walk .
9. Prepare hiding places
Of course, if your end point is where you intend to prepare all your food, this may not work very well.
But for a multi-day trip where you’ll retrace your steps, if you manage to hide food or water along the way, you’ll lighten your load a little for most of the journey.
The only thing to worry about is that they are real hiding places, even for all those animals that may be interested in your food.
10. Eat from the container
Plates and cups are certainly very practical when camping. But when walking around, consider eating straight from the jar and leave your camping dishes in the car. By the way, you’ll only have one container to clean.
Don’t bring it all!
Traveling with friends? Then divide the weights without bringing unnecessary duplication. You probably don’t need two gas burners and two curtains. Spend some time distributing and sharing your weight evenly among group members.
Weigh each object
It is important to evaluate the lightest solution for every single object you want to take with you, from the toothbrush to the t-shirt.
For this purpose it is a good practice to weigh each individual object with a small digital kitchen scale, for example to compare two pairs of pants and choose the lightest one, or two undershirts, bearing in mind that the sum of small differences will make a big difference. .
Do you really need a camera?
Particular attention should be paid to some devices such as the camera or mobile phone, which require the use of battery chargers. Many smartphones allow you to take good photographs, so you need to consider bringing only one multifunctional object with you.
Once the backpack has been lightened, it must then be worn correctly. A backpack should not place too much weight on the shoulders, but especially on the pelvis.