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How to Lighten Your Pack

Ready to take the leap and lighten your pack? Follow the below steps, and think of it as a 6-step withdrawal program for overweight packs.

Ultralighters are often called "ounce counters," for good reason.  Though this is often demonstrated by somewhat ridiculous examples of cutting off the handle of a toothbrush or the straps of a backpack, the ounces do count.  Look over other lists and compare your gear's weight versus other ultralighters (visit some of my Ultralight Friends gear lists from the Links page). You'll realize which items are taking up a few more ounces than expected.  Ounces add to pounds.  Look over each item and decide whether the weight equals the purpose. Ignore the fact that you spent good money on a piece of heavy gear, you can always take it car camping :).

(Go ultralight at your own risk, and make sure you have everything necessary to survive an emergency or unexpected weather. However, for those of you that want to "be prepared" as an excuse as to why their pack is heavy as sin, forget it! If I wanted to be over prepared -- 0 degree bag, 4 season tent, and waterproof/breathable rain gear -- I could still have my base weight under 20 pounds. )

1) Eliminate ultra-comfort items: That means no puffy pillows, therm-a-rest chair kits, etc. Be very picky.

2) Take out duplicates: For example, if you carry a headlamp, extra flashlight, candle lantern, and light sticks, take a mini flashlight and a couple extra batteries.

3) Rid the extras: By now you got the hang of this lightening thing. This is where the little gear goes. That means no gadgets, just the essentials. If you don't NEED it, toss it. You can also do the opposite of this by separating the gear you would need to simply survive a night in the woods (sleeping bag, jacket, lighter) and slowly add in each piece of gear as you see fit (stove, chapstick, sleeping pad).

4) Replace: Now this is the step that might take some investing. A cook kit to a metal cup/pot, a bomb-proof stove to can stove, a 5500 cu in. pack to a 3000 one.

5) Weigh: It's time to reward yourself. Go to the post office and weigh your fully loaded pack (minus food and water). If you're not satisfied, go back and pare down with even more scrutiny.

6) Take a hike: Yeah! That's right! Stop looking at the computer screen and go backpacking with that beautiful ultralight pack. Take a notepad with you and make notes of what you don't use, or things you feel you could do without.