Six ways to minimize weight in your backpack


All photo credits: Luke Dusenbury

When you compare ounces to pounds in terms of weight, it sounds pretty insignificant. After all, no one says that they are going on a diet to lose a few ounces or just a pound or two. Though ounces do not seem to matter in our regular day-to-day lives, they do count on the mountain. This is especially true when looking at 20 or 30 items that we may have in our pack that weigh a few ounces or pounds more than they have to. Extra and unnecessary pounds in our pack truly matter because they go on your back and will wear down your body quicker and make your hunt harder. Here are six ways to minimize your pack weight and go on the mountain lighter so you can come out heavier.

Pack the necessities

When packing my pack before a hunting trip, it becomes easy to think about the what-if scenarios. Now, don’t get me wrong. We need to be prepared for bad situations to ensure that we get off the mountain; however, there is prepared and there is over-prepared. I remember my first western hunt to the mountains and how I overpacked and wore my body out. It was an afternoon hunt and I packed a full pack with over 50 lbs of gear. I even packed my hammock because, for some reason, I thought I was going to have time to relax on my six-mile round-trip hike. Needless to say, after that hunt, I went through my pack and decided what was necessary and what was an unnecessary luxury. I encourage you to make a list of what gear you feel is a necessity and determine why. If it truly is a need on the hunt then pack it, but if it’s not, then leave it at camp. 

If you need some gear list suggestions, be sure to check out all the great list articles here.

Replace with different options

Once you determine your necessities, then it’s time to see if any of them can be replaced or repurposed with a lighter option. For example, I own a few excellent water filtration systems, but these are unnecessary to carry on the mountain when I am doing a day hunt — no matter how light they are. I am packing my water and will bring some water purification tablets instead of my 11 oz water filter just in case I run out of water. If you bring a PocketRocket stove to the mountains, you should think about taking the smallest fuel canister they sell instead of buying the more cost-effective larger fuel canister. Find ways to replace extra items with lighter versions that perform the same function is ideal.

High quality gear

Though I am not always a brand name guy, I do believe in high quality gear. High quality backpacking gear has two things going for it: weight and durability. You can buy a tarp at Walmart, but it will weigh a couple of pounds; however, a backpacker’s tarp weighs ounces. This is because backpacker gear is made for the mountains. Get some quality gear over time and reduce the weight of your pack by pounds.

Split the gear

One thing that hunters often do not think about is splitting the gear with their hunting partner. If you are not hunting alone, there is no reason you both need stoves, tarps, backup lights and other equipment. Of course, there are some things you do need separate, but you can sit down and figure out what you might have a duplicate of and take one out. Then, it’s nice to compare the weight of each pack, so you are all equally carrying the load into the mountains. 

Stop using so many containers

Though it might seem silly to think about, we often carry many unnecessary things into the mountains. I have been known to take a lightweight coffee mug on my hunts while also packing a pot to boil water that could double as a coffee mug. I have kept my single serve supplements in their plastic container and had multiple stuff sacks for different items that didn’t need to stay dry. Though all of these items are useful, if they are not necessary, do not bring them. You can put your supplements, coffee and other items in a Ziplock bag instead of a plastic or tin container that weighs a few ounces or more. Think consolidation and you will save ounces and, eventually, pounds.

Bring the right amount of water

One of the single, heaviest items I will carry into the mountains is my water bladder system. My water bladder is a three-liter bladder, which means, if I fill it up for each hunt, I am carrying 6.6 lbs of water when I leave the trailhead. If water is scarce where you are hunting, this might be important, but, if not, do not pack so much. Either make a plan to ration your water or else plan to stop and filter some water along the way so that you have clean water to drink without sacrificing pounds of weight.

Ending thoughts

Whenever it comes to hunting in the West, we want to be fast, efficient and have fun. Nothing can ruin a hunt more than having a heavy pack on your back that makes you feel every step. Not only does it cause extra strain on your muscles, but it can also make you more prone to injury from imbalance and fatigue. It is important to pack only the necessities, consolidate gear, get high quality lightweight products, split gear with our hunting buddies, stop using extra containers and bags and pack the right amount of water for your hunt. There are some awesome packs out there, but you need to remember that you do not need to fill them up. Go lean, go light and hunt hard while only packing the necessities this year.

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