Backpacking Gear Tips

*Professional wilderness home setup, with tips for the ladies

Hiking versus Backpacking: What’s the Difference?

You might think that if you like hiking, you will like backpacking… but carrying weight on your back and making the wilderness your home is a very different process.
Here are some things to think about

Hiking is much faster but…

If you’re used to trekking 10 miles a day with a daypack, don’t count on even half that speed with a packload for an overnight stay. Even if you can get your pack down to 30 pounds, all kinds of factors you won’t experience as a dayhiker will slow you down:

Your Body is Working Differently

You might be able to trail run or climb or crossfit for hours, but weirdly, none of that prepares you for lumbering along under a backpack. You might feel wobbly, uncoordinated, and sometimes unable to enjoy the scenery due to the weight on your back. This plays a big game on your head… you might even beat yourself up for not being more in shape or more on your game. Welcome to the humbling word of backpacking. Be Gentle with yo bad self.

Your Mindset is Shifting

When you’re only there for the day and rushing back to the car, you’ll still be partway in your other life, that one with the roofs and air conditioning and traffic. This means that whatever happens, it is more temporary and you *might be OK without that first aid kit, lunch, water, etc.

When you’re planning on staying overnight, you pay a bigger price for leaving essentials out of your pack, and mentally, you are committing more fully to whatever the weather brings, animal encounters, and the people with whom you pack in. This means you start thinking hard about what it means if you lose your last bandaid, haven’t seen a stream in a while, hate the pace of a companion, or have to run from a moose.

It Is NOT the Destination

Your normal attachment to reaching a set destination is not going to help you, it may actually hurt you. Bagging the peak, swimming in the perfect lake, or seeing the wild goats… all of these are still possible, but you will more likely release these attachments and settle for a nice campsite when they are too far, too hard, or just not the right spot. You can usually rearrange your hike so that you see these destination points some other time or after a good night’s sleep. Because of all these new factors, don’t commit yourself to being back in civilization at a set time.

Saving Weight

You might be looking at that extra pair of pants and thinking “it only weighs 6 ounces.” But if you add 20 things to your bag that weigh 6 ounces, that’s 7.5 pounds. Now take into account your total body weight. According to studies conducted on runners, strapping that much weight to your waist increases the energy cost by a whopping 22 percent. Consider these points when buying, borrowing, sharing, and packing your gear.

(Especially for the ladies, every ounce counts. Men seem to haul loads give-or-take a few pounds with more ease, probably because they tend to have more upper body strength and more experience picking up heavy things. As much as we ladies would love to do everything better, this is one we might just have to do a little more carefully than men.)

Tent (<3.5 lbs)

Sharing a tent with someone usually shaves the most weight.

Backpack (<4 lbs)

The fancier the backpack, the more it weighs.

Sleeping System (<4 lbs pad and bag)

Your sleeping bag, pad and pillow can really add up. Here are a couple ways to save weight:

Cooking and Food (<.5 lbs cookware, <2.5lbs food)

Here are some ways to cut ounces on the most important part of your setup:

Tip: check out Primus and Optimus brands, avoid MSR and JetBoil (which push you to spend a lot more money and carry a lot more ounces for group-cooking versatility).


Bringing too much clothing is usually where many careful packers go astray (this is where you mare prone to add 10 6oz things).

Aside from the items below, try to eliminate everything else:

When in doubt, use a postage scale. It is crazy how much one piece of clothing weighs.

Ladies, you can toss in a light little skirt and wear it over your long johns for a break from the pants.

The 12 Essentials

Don’t Hit the Trail Without: