7 Tips to Shed a Third of Your Backpacking Weight

7 Tips to Shed a Third of Your Backpacking Weight - SilverAnt Outdoors

Now that summer has arrived in Hong Kong, I've kicked off my backpacking adventures again.

My typical journey starts Friday night after work and wraps up Sunday night, giving this full-time worker a chance to soak in nature's tranquility.

Like many backpackers, I've learned the importance of lightening my load to ease the strain on my body as I go out more.

Carrying less weight means less stress, more stamina to trek, and reduces the risk of injuries, especially in tough terrain.

So after every trip, I took a look at my gear and managed to drop my pack weight from 26 lbs (11.8kg) down to 18 lbs (8.16kg), slashing it by a third.

Here's how I did it:

  • Optimize the Big Four

  • Pack Fewer Clothes

  • Simplify Your Water Setup

  • Refine Your Cooking Gear

  • Select Toiletries and First Aid Items Wisely

  • Limit Electronics

  • Review and Revise Gear After Each Trip

Excited to reduce your own backpacking weight? Let’s dive into each tip!

Optimize the Big Four

If you caught my last blog post, "Everything You Need for Your Summer Backpacking Trip," you'll remember the "Big Four" items that hog most of your gear weight: the tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and backpack.

To lighten your load, let's begin by focusing on these essentials.

Lightweight Tents

For tents, a 3-season tent is your best bet for most conditions, except for extreme winter weather. Many of these tents are ultralight.

Take my Lunar Solo Backpacking Tent from Six Moon Designs, for example.

It only weighs 1.82 lbs (0.826 kg) but offers 26 square feet (2.41 square meters) of living space.

However, if you often encounter harsh weather and need a tougher tent, there are excellent lightweight options available.

These may be a bit heavier than ultralight tents but they are more durable.

One good example is the MSR Hubba Hubba, weighing only 3.2 lbs (1.47 kg).

Streamlined Sleep Systems

When picking your sleeping bag and pad, it really depends on the temperatures you expect to face.

Sleeping bags can be heavy, so ultralight backpackers often look for alternatives.

Since it's usually hot here, I often skip the sleeping bag and use an ultralight quilt instead.

For example, the Down Blanket M from Montbell weighs only 2.12 oz (202 g).

However, quilts are only good for milder temperatures and won't keep you warm below freezing, so choose carefully.

Here are some tips for finding lightweight sleeping bags or quilts:

  • Down is generally lighter than synthetic insulation, though synthetics have improved recently.

  • Look for down with high fill power and ultralight face fabrics (20-denier or less).

You can also save weight on your sleeping pad. Just ensure it provides enough insulation (R-value) for the temperatures you'll face.

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is a classic, weighing just 13 oz (370 g).

Another popular lightweight option is the Sea to Summit Ether Light (16.6 oz/470 g).

Some ultralight hikers use durable closed-cell foam pads, but I find those uncomfortable and prefer insulated inflatable pads.

As for pillows, inflatable ones work well. Alternatively, you can make a makeshift pillow by stuffing your clothes into a pack.

Ultralight Backpack

Finally, let's talk about your backpack.

But here's the thing: if all your gear isn’t already ultralight, it won’t fit into an ultralight backpack comfortably.

Why? Because lightweight packs have lighter harnesses, they're not comfy with heavy loads.

Before jumping into an ultralight pack, make sure you've trimmed down the weight of your other gear first.

Popular ultralight packs, like the Hyperlite Southwest 55, usually weigh around 1 kg (2.2 lbs).

They use aluminum for structure, which can be removed for extra weight savings.

In conclusion, after carefully selecting your Big Four, their total weight can be reduced to about 5.3 pounds(2.4 kg).

Optimize the Big Four - SilverAnt Outdoors

Pack Fewer Clothes

Moreover, clothing is usually the second heaviest category of gear after the Big Four.

Having warm and waterproof clothing is crucial in case the weather turns bad.

At first, I used to pack extra clothing just in case. Now, I aim to bring only what I need and skip the extras.

The key to carrying less clothing for each trip is to pack according to the weather forecast.

However, city forecasts are often unreliable since outdoor weather can be very different.

That's why I use an algorithmic forecast like Spotwx to get predictions for the exact elevation where I'll be camping.

After understanding the weather better, I only bring an extra pair or two of socks and underwear, and I don’t worry about clean clothing.

Embracing the stink is part of the adventure, even for a Virgo like me.

Moreover, since it rains a lot in Hong Kong, a rain jacket is a must. I recommend lightweight options with 2.5-layer construction to minimize bulk.

That’s why I love my Mountain Hardwear Minimizer jacket with Paclite.

For insulated jackets, opt for down with high fill-power and thin-face fabrics to save weight and bulk, similar to how you choose your sleeping bags or quilts.

Although camp shoes are a luxury for minimalist backpackers but offer great comfort for tired feet.

If you bring them, you can get a cheap pair of cloth night slippers from a local department store. They’re practically weightless and might even last a whole season.

In a nutshell, the key to reducing your clothing weight is to know the weather well, skip the just-in-case clothes, and don't worry about sweat.

Pack Fewer Clothes - SilverAnt Outdoors

Simplify Your Water Setup

Water is another big weight to manage. Each liter weighs 2.2 pounds (1 kg)!

To lighten your load, the best option is to plan ahead by checking maps and trail descriptions.

This way, you can refill at water sources along the route and only carry what you need.

Another weight saver is your water bottle.

While I used to carry my heavy Hydroflask bottle everywhere in the city, it's too hefty for backpacking trips. Plastic bottles are an option, but they can be fragile.

Then I discovered titanium water bottles. They’re lightweight, saving a third of the weight compared to stainless steel bottles of the same capacity, and they’re durable.

Plus, you can boil water directly in the single-wall ones.

However, be careful when choosing titanium bottles, as cheap ones can not withstand high heat or drops, causing leaks.

For purifying water, I always stick to boiling it and adding tablets. It's lightweight and has been effective for ages.

If you want extra safety, you can use a LifeStraw® Bottle Filter Set, which weighs only 3 oz (82 g).

Combine it with a CamelBak Chute® Mag Cap (2 oz / 64 gm) and our 1500 ml/52.8 fl oz wide-mouth water bottle(9.1 oz / 258g), and you’re set to drink safe water on the go.

Simplify Your Water Setup - SilverAnt Outdoors

Refine Your Cooking Gear

After streamlining your water setup, it's time to refine your cooking gear.

The key is to pare down your cook system to one small pot and a tiny stove.

When you're on the go, the easiest way to get a balanced meal is with dehydrated food.

Since all you're doing is boiling water, you don’t need a bunch of gear.

My top pick is the Titanium Pot 750ml/25 fl oz with Lid and Bail Handle. It weighs just 4.9oz/140g but holds enough water for your meal.

Plus, with the lid on, it can save fuel while boiling.

As for the stove, I started with the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe (2.9 oz/80 g). It's super lightweight, but I soon realized the weight comes from the fuel I carry.

Initially, I'd toss a full-fuel canister into my backpack without considering how much fuel I actually needed for the trip. But that usually meant carrying extra fuel.

Later, I learned to estimate how much fuel I'd need by figuring out how much water I'd boil during the trip. Then I'd check the stove's boil time and burn time to determine how much fuel to bring.

After each trip, I'd use a kitchen scale to see how much fuel was left in the canister. This helped me gauge how much fuel I'd used.

As I gained more experience, I switched to the Titanium Multi-Fuel Stove Kit (3.45oz/95g).

I usually carry an 8oz(226g) bottle of denatured alcohol, which makes it easier to measure fuel without sacrificing effectiveness.

Plus, the stove kit can fit the Titanium Pot 750ml/25 fl oz mentioned earlier, along with some snacks, saving space.

After a meal, this combo is perfect for brewing coffee, too.

When it comes to food, always go for calorie-dense options—aim for at least 100 calories per ounce (25 g).

Remove excess packaging or cut it up to save weight and bulk. And skip unnecessary snacks or heavy luxury meals.

If you want to shave off more weight, consider packing a few stoveless options like Greenbelly Meals, but don’t go overboard.

Hot food can be a real morale booster after a long day of hiking.

Another option is to trap some meat with natural materials in areas where trapping is allowed.

To be honest, switching my gear to titanium ones is the main reason I joined SilverAnt Outdoors.

They reduce weight, but their benefits go beyond that. You'll understand more once you start using them.

Refine Your Cooking Gear - SilverAnt Outdoors

Select First Aid Items and Toiletries Wisely

Moreover, while embracing the stink is part of the adventure, staying healthy is crucial.

In the wilderness, a first aid kit is a must, but be mindful of what you include.

Many people buy a pre-made first aid kit and pack it without checking the contents.

Take a good look at your first aid kit and make sure it has everything you need and nothing extra.

For toiletries, you can skip most items. My essentials are a toothbrush, toothpaste, and sunscreen. I also carry sanitizer, moisturizer, and a couple of wet wipes.

Recently, I discovered something interesting: a trail brush. It's just a traditional brush head (0.086 oz/2.4 grams).

Paired with a long-handled spork or spoon, it works perfectly as a brush.

Select First Aid Items and Toiletries Wisely - SilverAnt Outdoors

Limit Electronics

The final part of reducing your gear weight is about electronics. In today's world, we rely on them heavily for various tasks.

But on the trail, all you really need is your phone, GPS, satellite phone, a power bank with 3-in-1 cables, and a headlamp.

Once you master using a compass and topographic maps, you can skip the GPS.

And if you have good network coverage in your area, you can also skip the satellite phone.

For the headlamp, I prefer a rechargeable one since batteries are heavy. I only use it for night travel or answering calls at night.

But if you're a fan of flashlights, consider replacing the AA alkaline batteries with AA lithium batteries.

They weigh 50% less and last about 3 times longer. They may cost a bit more upfront, but you'll save in the long run.

During your downtime, instead of using a Kindle or e-reader, why not sit by your campfire and enjoy the starry night or listen to the sounds of nature around you?

Isn't that the reason we escape the city and explore nature?

But if you really want to do something, you can jot down your journey on a few pieces of paper or do some drawings. They just add a little weight but bring a lot of fun.

And when you put them together, they become a keepsake of your lifetime adventures.

Limit Electronics - SilverAnt Outdoors

Review and Revise Gear After Each Trip

Now that you've finished cutting down the weight of your gear, it doesn’t mean your gear list is set in stone and doesn’t need any changes.

Actually, after every trip, you should take some time to go through what you packed and note anything you didn’t use.

Ask yourself why you brought it and why it wasn’t used.

Sometimes, it could simply be due to circumstances, like warmer weather than expected meaning you didn't need that extra layer.

But if you packed something out of fear or concern and didn't end up needing it, can you leave it behind next time?

It might be scary at first, but try leaving a few things at home. Even if you think it would be nice to have, you'll find that you can manage without it.

Gradually, you'll start realizing, "I don't need this," and you'll leave more things behind.

You'll be surprised at how quickly you can shave off 2-3 pounds (0.9 - 1.4 kg) from your pack just by leaving things at home.

Additionally, make a note of any equipment that isn't working for you and start a replacement list.

It doesn’t have to be for your next trip; just start thinking about what you want to replace first.

Now, you can completely reduce your backpacking weight according to your own needs and preferences.

Review and Revise Gear After Each Trip - SilverAnt Outdoors


In conclusion, shedding weight from your backpacking gear is crucial. It not only makes your journeys more enjoyable but also helps prevent potential risks.

However, this doesn’t mean compromising the quality of your adventure. It’s about making adjustments or replacements to your gear list to better suit your journey.

For instance, swap out that heavy-duty full-season tent for a lighter one meant for three seasons. In warmer weather, go for a quilt instead of a bulky sleeping bag, and pick an inflatable pad over a foam one to lighten your load.

Keep an eye on the forecast so you can leave behind any unnecessary clothes and travel lighter.

Furthermore, switching to titanium gear for your drinks and cooking can make a big difference without losing any effectiveness.

Be smart with your first aid kit and toiletries, and try to cut back on electronics to shave off some pounds.

And don't forget to reassess your gear after each trip to make sure you're carrying only what you need for your next adventure.

That way, you can keep your backpack light and tailored just for you.

With these tips, cutting a third of your backpacking weight is achievable. But take it slowly and aim to accomplish it after at least 5 trips.

How much weight have you reduced compared to your first trip? What are your strategies for reducing weight?

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments and help other outdoor enthusiasts learn from them.

To your next adventure


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