While I’m not concerned about losing any body fat, I recently started to be more careful about the weight I carry in my backpack. When you walk a lot with a backpack on and it’s too heavy for your body, you will eventually start getting pain. This can simply be inconvenient or in the worst case lead to an injury.
Especially here in Sweden, people do bring really heavy stuff on their trips, that’s my perspective at least. When I asked for advice in one of the big outdoor shops, I was always recommended huge and heavy gear. A backpack for a week long hike? Sure, bring this 3 kg Fjällräven pack that has an enormous volume… And you’ll need all that volume, because they will also recommend you a surprisingly heavy tent, a huge sleeping bag, a gas kitchen that’s a kilo, cotton clothes that are not only heavy but also not waterproof and really, really big, heavy boots (cause you need stability for your ankles, carrying so much weight).
Don’t get me wrong, Sweden has a great outdoors culture, but when I first came here as a tourist, I just bought all my gear from swedish brands, without giving it a second thought. Now I’m a bit more critical and I think that it doesn’t just have to be classic 70’s inspired gear by Fjällräven, Lundhags and Trangia. (But I do have stuff from those brands and I love it).
For me, the turning point was a hike in Lapland last year, where I just couldn’t enjoy the trail because I was so sweaty and exhausted all the time. Fair enough, I was carrying snowshoes, a snow shovel and food for 10 days – things that were absolutely necessary. There were other things I carried around though that were not that crucial, and those were the real guilty ones, to lead to the final weight of almost 20 kg (44 lbs).
Then I realized: When I bring a lot of things in my pack, I do eventually have to carry all of them. I will walk slow, be tired, sweaty, feel irritated and eventually miss out on a lot of pleasant moments on the trip. Is that worth it: no. But do I want to live like a monk while I’m travelling? No.
I don’t want to recommend any weight for your backpack, which is right or wrong. Your body is different from mine, you can be taller, stronger or have a different perception about what is ‘too much’. I believe that there is always a feeling of “ufff, that’s heavy” when you put on your backpack, just before doing the first steps of your hike. The important point is, if it’s a weight your body can adapt to, you will feel stronger and walking with ease after a few days on the trail, or if it is a weight that is so heavy, that it will simply make you feel worse and worse. Maybe your knees will start hurting as you walk, the downhills will ache, or maybe getting up in the morning is hard, cause your back is so stiff.
After feeling uncomfortable with my pack weight on some hikes, I decided to swap some of my gear. I sold a lot of things online and it worked surprisingly well, it went fast and I got a decent amount of money out of my equipment.
To give you an overview over how easy it is to save some weight by making some changes, here’s a list of the basic hiking gear I swapped for a lighter version (without losing any comfort).
So, there we already have 3,4 kg less, which is a lot, even if it doesn’t sound like it at first. Just go to the kitchen and pick stuff that’s that weight from the fridge or the pantry. It is a lot.
Then there are other changes I made, which do not consist in buying new equipment but in reconsidering what I really need to bring. The biggest factor here is clothes (at least for me). For instance: in winter 2015 i brought five different shirts – which was way more than I needed for a one week hike on skis.
By now, I have simply started to question every item that I consider bringing. Do I really need it? Isn’t it just some kind of useless stuff that I could need, eventually?
I stopped bringing so many different pieces of kitchen utensils. In most cases, eating from the pot is just fine. And I’m not talking about situations where you cook in a big group, but when you eat by yourself or share a pot of noodles with your travel companion. So I dropped that food bowl and that extra mug. Important is cutlery that I can rely on, so aluminum alloy cutlery instead of these plastic sporks, that already break if you look at them too hard.
Another step is to try and bring smaller, lighter bottles of sunscreen, shampoo, mosquito protection and toothpaste. I stopped bringing a heavy second pair of shoes; no more four different fire starters (I used to have two lighters, a box of matches and a fire steel); no more heavy pouches and extra bags for my gear.
This is how my packing list looks for my longer trips up in the north, this summer. Note that clothes I will wear as a default are not included in the picture. Here’s a list of what you can see in the picture.
It’s all together (wothout food and water) somwhere between 7 and 8 kilos, which I’m pretty satisfied with, especially considering I have a heavy duty Hilleberg tent of 1,6 kg. By no means I want to claim that I have reached perfection when it comes to chosing my gear and I will always change some gear forth and back, but it definitely seems like a step in the right direction to me. I still bring all the things I need and want for my comfort, I simply put a lot of time and effort into chosing lighter items and selecting out gear that had no purpose at all.
Here’s how it all together looks on my back: