With the holidays fast approaching some of us are planning longer trips. Such trips are always more enjoyable if you are not overburdened from carrying too much stuff. I have never heard anyone complain that their pack is too light. Consider some of these ideas and you may be able to save your legs and shoulders a bit of extra hardship this summer.
- Versatile items are king. When considering what to take and what to leave out ask yourself whether the item in question has more than one use. For example a thin piece of cord can be used as a spare guy rope, a boot lace, or strung up inside your tent or fly as a clothesline. Therefore it is worth taking as you can leave behind the spare boot laces, extra guy ropes and any clothes line. A mug of a certain size doubles as a bowl. The uses that toilet paper can be put to are limited only by your imagination.
- A problem shared is a problem halved (or quartered – you do the math!). Some items you need a little of but not a lot so consider whether the item can be shared between 2 or more people or whether a smaller size will do. For example a small tube of toothpaste is sufficient and can be shared with others who have a passing interest in dental hygiene. Unless it is a back stabbing trip not everyone in the party requires a knife.
- Let the rivers carry the water they are more experienced and better at it. Unless you are planning a tramp in a particularly arid spot, and I’m thinking maybe Aussie or the Sahara desert here, you are going to encounter water at fairly regular intervals. This means you do not need to carry 3, 2 or even 1 litre of it. This is particularly the case if your route takes you up a river valley. Scoop up water as you go using your hand or clip your mug to the outside of your pack. You do not want to get dehydrated but nor do you want to be a walking water well.
- Food packaging belongs in the recycling bin. Before you head into the hills discard all unnecessary food packaging and transfer items into plastic bags or other light weight containers. Not only does this reduce the chances of you inadvertently littering our National Parks it will also reduce the amount of space your food takes up in your pack. This might not save heaps of weight but every little bit helps. If you are planning on having fires then a bit of paper is ok although see tip 1 (toilet paper).
- Consider taking dehydrated food. The lightest option which also uses the least fuel thus saving you the weight of both food and fuel, is the commercial dehydrated food made by Backcountry cuisine. If you order in bulk through the club this food is good value for money. The nutritional quality and taste of this stuff is getting better all the time – try it when you are hungry you’ll be pleasantly surprised! The next best option from a weight perspective is to dehydrate your own food. This way you get to tailor make your meals although they do take a little bit of cooking so you need a bit more fuel.
- Pack covers are useful. Pack covers are light, cheap and take up little room. A pack cover should be put on your pack if rain threatens. It will keep your pack dry. A rain soaked pack weighs more than a dry pack, surprisingly more. Also a pack liner has many uses see tip 1 (groundsheet).
- Do not think like a squirrel. You do not need to stockpile enough food and gear to last all season. You need gear and food appropriate for the type and length of your trip plus some emergency food rations. Food should be carefully calculated based on past experience. On this note, here is a hint, if your trip leader tells you to bring 300g of couscous bring 300g rather than the whole 500g packet. If you took too much stuff on a per day basis last trip then you know, all other things being equal, you can take a bit less next time.
- Is there a substitute? Yes bread is nice for lunch but crackers are lighter and easier to keep in one piece. They also deliver more calories per gram which is what you are after on longer trips. A towel may be desirable but not your plus size, super fluffy beach towel. Try one of those travelling towels that is super light, small and super absorbent. Do you need a spoon and a fork?
- Where will you sleep? If you are travelling below the bush line where there are huts supplied by DoC then a fly or even a bivy bag may be all you need. Tents keep out sand flies but they are relatively bulky and heavy and more appropriate for alpine travel in areas without huts.
- Is your pack the right size? Your pack should be the right size for your frame. If you are short and slight of frame then you need a smaller pack than someone who is tall and, shall we say, more generously proportioned. If your pack is too big for you, you will end up carrying too much stuff because it is human nature to fill the available space, plus others in your party will generously offer you some of their gear to carry.