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What’s in Your Pack?

How much gear I should pack? I don't want to bring too little, and I don't want to be overexerting myself with too much. What's in the ideal pack?

Question:

I’m an amateur hiker/backpacker and I’m wondering how much gear I should
pack. I don’t want to bring too little, and I don’t want to be overexerting myself with too much. What’s in the ideal pack?

Submitted by - Zack, Sacramento, CA

Answer:

The golden rule is this: Never carry more than 1/3 of your body weight. A common mistake among many beginners is to carry too much clothing and food. With experience, you’ll learn how to pare these items down.

For example,I never pack a clothing item that doesn’t work within my layering system. I always bring long john bottoms for chilly nights, a pair of waterproof/breathable rainpants, and I wear a pair of synthetic hiking pants. All three layers can be worn together when it gets really cold, and I strip down to just the pants during the day. Packing a second pair of clean pants is a luxury I just don’t allow myself.

As for food, the best thing to do is keep notes on how much you packed and how much you ate versus threw away. I’m a firm believer of always having a little extra, in case something happens and I get stuck out there longer than I expected, but I’ve also learned that a half pound of dried pasta is plenty for two ravenous campers to have a big dinner.

Check out our gear lists right here and watch our editor in chief Jon Dorn’s two-part video packing series for dayhikes and week-long trips here. They’ll help you figure out all the essentials, and prevent you from totally spacing out on any critical items.

1 Comment

  1. Will G

    I was a land surveyor for about a decade as a young adult. That is a professional hiker who carries either a tripod and instrument or a bag of iron rods, stakes, and sledge hammer weighing 80 to 90 lbs through rugged terrain while blazing a trail using a bush axe or machete. I weighed about 120 then.

    Now that Im 49, I have been going backpacking with my 15 year old. Our packs are about 25 to 40 lbs. I find that the pleasure of the trip is greatly enhanced by every 5 lbs you drop out of that weight. If the belt slides off your fat belly button onto your hips, it weighs too much.

    I am paying close attention to what items I am actually using and I believe that the next items to go will be dish washing stuff; extra clothing; and food.

    An easy heavy item to drop is water. Better a filter and 1 liter of water than 2 liters of water lugged down the trail unless you are in the desert. I guzzle a liter at the trailhead and then use a platypus filter that only takes a couple of minutes to drop into a stream and the water flows right thru to provide 4 liters of clean water with no pump pump pumping whatsoever. Love it.

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