You’re more inclined to be faster and less likely to get tired if you pack light when hiking and backpacking. Back in 2010, the University of Wollongong in Australia conducted an experiment wherein they measured how a backpack’s weight affects the posture, subjective responses, and heart rate of females who do recreational hiking.
The experiment yielded the following results: a backpack weighing +10% of a body’s weight will cause increasing discomfort in the upper back, neck, and shoulder areas. It also showed that hikers who carry backpacks weighing 40% of their body’s weight were 15% slower and their heart rate 8% higher than a hiker without a backpack. It’s worth noting that the subjects of the experiment were tested on a considerably flat trail. You can only imagine how different the results will have been if they were tested on a sharp terrain.
Being in pain and continually struggling for your breath take the fun out of hiking. Hence, packing lightly is crucial when you’re hiking. This article will provide helpful tips to guide you when packing your backpack lightly so you’ll enjoy your outdoor adventures to the hilt.
Invest in First-Rate Hiking Apparel and Gear
As you scour the aisles of outdoor trek stores, you have probably noticed how most high-quality outdoor gear and clothing are labeled “lightweight”. This is manufacturers’ way of assuring consumers that while their products are light in weight, these are durable enough to withstand outdoor elements. Hence, hikers will not be burdened with unnecessary weight while hiking, thereby eliminating performance risks. In your case, investing in top-of-the-line hiking gear and apparel will mean significant weight decrease on your shoulders when you go on winter treks or multi-day hikes.
During wintertime, you will need to wear insulated clothing to protect you from harsh elements, and surprisingly, there’s a world of difference between ordinary insulated clothing and insulated clothing made specifically for hiking. A hiking down jacket usually just weighs 280g or 8 ounces while a casual insulated jacket can weigh as much as 1500g or three pounds.
If you go on multi-day backpacking trips, you’ll do well to realize that among all the stuff you carry in your backpack, the heaviest is your sleeping equipment. So, it will be logical for you to choose sleeping equipment that’s lightweight but durable. Ordinarily, a tent that can fit two persons weighs around 6 pounds. However, if you choose carefully, you can find something like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 2 backpacking tent, which weighs only 2 pounds and 9 ounces but is sturdy enough to fit two persons.
Since first-rate hiking gear doesn’t cost much, it’s highly recommended that you replace the heaviest stuff first depending on the frequency of use. The heaviest among your hiking gear is your sleeping bag followed by your tent, your sleeping pad, and finally, your insulated clothing.
How Much Water Is Enough?
Where there’s plenty of physical exertion, water is essential. However, a gallon of water can weigh close to 8 pounds, a burden you can do without when hiking. How do you remedy that without risking dehydration? There are two ways to solve this conundrum.
First, check for water sources along the trail such as lakes, mountain huts, streams, and others. You can do that by studying a trail map or using online forums like Reddit to connect with other hikers. Do keep in mind, though, that peddlers selling bottled water in mountain huts can charge exorbitantly and that some water sources may be unsafe, thereby warranting a water filter. Second, calculate how much water you’ll need during the hike taking into consideration the fact that there’s a 30% decrease in your performance when you shed 5% of your body’s weight in fluids. There is an article on how much water to bring on a hiking trip that provides a scientific approach to determining your hydration requirement when you hike.
Pack Calorie-Dense Foods When You Hike
You can burn up to 14.000 kilocalories when you go on a three-day hiking trip, which means you need to consume at least 8.000 kilocalories’ worth of food. The 6.000 kilocalories difference spread over a three-day period will not necessarily impact your performance, so you should be good to go. Consider packing calorie-dense foods or foods with high caloric content per 100g. If you pack calorie-dense foods, you only need close to 3kg of food to provide the 8.000 kilocalories you need. On the contrary, you will need around 15kg of apples, which are low in calories, to reach the 8.000 kilocalories threshold. This source, National Nutrient Database, is helpful if you want to find out the caloric content of certain foods.
An article on how to choose food for a hiking trip will help you determine what to pack on your next trip. As a tip, make sure to pack your foods in plastic bags and use plastic or wooden cutlery to further reduce the weight.
Invest in the Right Backpack
Travel backpacks are typically heavier than hiking backpacks like the Osprey Exos 58-liter backpack that weighs a measly 1090g or two pounds and six ounces. Moreover, you don’t need an overly large backpack when you’re heading out for a day hike. If you pack light and make sure to bring only the essentials, you will make do with a small hiking daypack, which is significantly lighter than a big one.
Aside from choosing a lightweight backpack, you likewise need to make sure it fits your body to a T since a snug-fitting backpack can dramatically make a heavy load featherweight. Conversely, a backpack that fits you poorly will be uncomfortable even if it is packed lightly. You can read an article on how to fit a backpack for a comprehensive guide in choosing a well-fitting bag.
Only Bring the Essentials
There is stuff you must bring when hiking, but on the other hand, there are things you can do without. House keys, a case for your sunglasses, or even your wallet are things you don’t need to take with you when you hike. Repack stuff in smaller containers or receptacles to reduce their weight. Better yet, leave the nonessential stuff in your car or at home. For example, a day hike will only require a small amount of sunscreen lotion. So instead of carrying a 200ml bottle, fill a smaller bottle with sunscreen and bring that instead.