Hiking light is much more comfortable and enjoyable than hiking with a heavy backpack. Of course what is defined as light may not be light for another person. It also depends on the level of fitness and strength of the person carrying the backpack. Being fit does make your backpack feel lighter.
Choose gear that are lighter but perform the same function is the obvious solution. Or you can also choose gear that serves multiple functions.
So hiking light is about carry less equipment and lighter and smaller equipment. It's not about sacrificing essential gear for a lighter backpack.
Benefits of Lighter Load
When you carry a lighter load you feel more comfortable and happier in general. There's less stress on your shoulders, back and knees. A good backpack will distribute the weight to the different parts of the upper body and make the load feel lighter by reducing stress on the shoulders.
You can also move quicker and cover more miles in a day. In an emergency, you can move away to safety so much quicker without having to sacrifice your backpack.
Reducing Your Load
If you want to travel light by reducing the amount of gear you carry, it's better to do it in stages than to cut down to bare minimum in one go. Take note of the things that you don't need or can go without.
Take into account the weather too. You don't want to leave your raincoat on rainy day.
Five Ways to Keep Your Gear Light
1. Get rid of extra clothing, pots, boots, etc if you can. Usually one pot and one pair of boots is enough but during cold weather extra clothing may be essential.
2. If you're hiking with a partner or in a group you can share some equipment like tent, stove, cookware, first aid kit, insect repellent and more.
3. Use equipment made of lighter material. For example, use down sleeping bags instead of synthetics and use internal frame backpacks instead external frame backpacks. If available, use simple designs that functions well and minimizes weight.
4. Use equipment that can perform several functions. A poncho for example can be used as rain gear or rigged up as a tent.
5. Carry smaller portions of consumables such as sunscreen, soap, toothpaste and spices. Instead of using the original packaging, whenever possible pack in a small ziploc bag.
As a guideline, your backpack should be no heavier than 4.5 lbs, your 2 person tent should be no heavier than 5 lbs, solo tents tent no more than 2.5 lbs, your sleeping bag should be less than 2 lbs, hiking boots less than 2 lbs, rain gear less than 1.5 lbs and food no more than 2 lbs per day.
However, some hikers prefer to carry more equipment for convenience and ease of mind. It depends on how well you can go without extra equipment in return for a lighter backpack. Be sure that you reduce your load in stages so that you don't have any regrets on the field.
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