I’m a lightweight hiker. As I’ve said before:
I’m more of a hiker than a camper. Even though hikers camp and campers hike, the best part of backpacking for me is the walking. I don’t blog most of my backpacking trips because I start walking when the sun comes up and I make camp when the sun sets. Then I eat and go to bed. At dawn, I pack up and walk until the sun sets. I make camp, eat, and go to bed. Rinse and repeat. It makes for boring reading.
I take a relatively minimalist approach to backpacking. There are “ultralighters” out there who carry less, but I’m definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum in terms of gear and pack weight.
Changes from my normal pack list
I have to use a bear canister on this trail and I’m not happy about it. I understand why it’s required, but I loathe the idea of carrying a 41 ounce piece of tupperware on my back. Combine that weight with 6.5 days worth of food, and I’m looking at around 14 pounds of food weight when I pick up my resupply at Muir Trail Ranch. That more than doubles the weight of my pack when I carry a bear bag rather than a canister. I’m not used to carrying that much weight.
In order to offset some of the weight from my bear canister and food, I’ve cut some items from my normal, weekend pack list. This assumes cold weather at night and in the mornings.
- I usually carry 2 pairs of Darn Tough socks and 1 pair of wool sleep socks. I’ve cut the wool socks for this trip and will plan to dry out wet socks on the back of my pack every day.
- I usually take a camp T-shirt. On this trip, I will only carry an active shirt and a sleep shirt (thermal layer).
- I usually carry a homemade gravity-fed water filtration system. On this trip, I will simply attach the Sawyer Squeeze to one of my water bottles.
- I’m mailing myself a second 10,000 mAh Anker battery pack for the last 100 miles and will recharge my devices at Red’s Meadow and Muir Trail Ranch.
There are a several obvious places I could save more weight.
- Cold weather gear—People often share their fears about ticks, bears, water crossings, and ledge walking, but the only thing that has ever scared me about being alone in the wilderness is the threat of hypothermia—specifically paradoxical undressing. I could wear the extra pair of socks as gloves and simply use the hood on my thermal shirt, but I’m going to err on the side of caution here and rely on my cold weather layering system.
- Electronics—My phone is my camera, GPS, and entertainment. I unapologetically listen to audiobooks while I hike and camp. My headlamp is rechargeable. I refuse to be without power and will adjust my walking speed around my remaining battery.
- Cook kit—I’ve experimented with no-cook and did not enjoy it. I look forward to a hot dinner every night and a hot tea or miso soup most mornings. I’ve played around with alcohol stoves and found them to be more trouble than the weight savings are worth. This is my preferred cook kit. That said, I’ll happily set my pot on hot coals if someone already has a fire going to save fuel on longer trips.
- Sleeping pad—I’m what is referred to as a rotisserie sleeper. Despite my tossing and turning, I’m pretty comfortable on a 3/4 length foam pad. When this inflatable pad fills with mildew, I may make the switch. For now, I consider this (along with my electronics) to be a luxury item.
I’m not entirely comfortable with this gear list. It’s fairly minimal, but I don’t feel as though I’m dropping enough weight to offset the unusually heavy consumables. My caloric density is not as high as most hikers because I don’t like sweets such as chocolate and peanut butter (learn more about my meal prep). I’ll just have to make a point to eat the heavier food earlier rather than later to lighten my load as time progresses.
It might not make sense to carry both a rain jacket and a wind jacket, but the wind jacket is a key piece of my layering system. I’m more tempted to leave the rain jacket at home than the wind jacket.
I don’t normally carry camp shoes, but I typically don’t stop walking until an hour before bed. If I stick to my hiking schedule, I’ll have my afternoons free at camp. Wet shoes will make that time less enjoyable. Are flip flops worth the added weight?
What do you think? Do you have any advice for me?