The fresh air of the morning dew on little leaves brings a smile to your face. Life is a lot easier when you have less weight holding you down. This article, 10 Packing Tips for Lightweight Solo Backpacking, will give you advice to lighten your load to the max. There are undoubtedly packing techniques you could be doing better. If you are alone, you need to do your best with what you have.
Let’s get started.
1. Start with the 10 Essentials
You’re going by yourself, so you will be carrying everything. When you pack the bare essentials, you save weight and reduce your stress. Many people, in fact, bring more than they need. You do not want to pack more than you need. Slim down your load and gear list instead. The ten essentials are navigation, sun protection, insulation, lighting, first aid, fire, tools, food, water, and shelter. I do not have an article dedicated to the ten essentials, but I plan to put one up.
Less means more on a backpacking trip.
2. Pack the Heavy Gear Close to Your Back
The closer something is to your body, the more it becomes a part of your body. As a result, the item often has less leverage and strain on your back. If I put a heavy instant cook stove far away near the outer edge of my pack, then it has more leverage on me.
Also, you will be accessing your heavier items at the end of the day, not throughout the day. They can be buried deeper in your pack and not have easy accessibility. Those items will be just fine.
3. Group Items by Frequency of Use
Items which you use at the end of the day go at the bottom like your sleeping bag and pad. Heavier items, like I said in the previous tip, go near your back. Lighter, frequently used items go near the perimeter and top of your backpack. If you think you will need the item at some point throughout the day, then you need to keep it within easy access.
How you organize your items needs to make sense to you.
4. Lay Out All Your Gear Before You Pack it All In
When you follow this tip, you get a bird’s eye view of everything you are bringing with you. This is like looking at a map. You get the big picture idea of everything.
Not only does this enable a bird’s eye view, but you can also get rid of items you do not need. Unnecessary items have a tendency to wiggle their way into the deep recesses of your backpack when you do not look at them, only springing forth when you bring them to the surface.
5. Roll Up Your Clothes Tight to Minimize Space
When it comes to clothes, not folding, but rolling is the best way to minimize space. That was one of the first mistakes I made with my backpack. I folded all my clothes. You do not want to do the same. Rolling is your best bet to minimize air pockets.
6. Pack for the Area You’re Backpacking In
Your packing list for Big Sur will differ from that of Death Valley. You cannot prepare for everything, but you can prepare for what you can expect from where you are going. Do not prepare for everything even though people often do.
Backpacking is about minimalism. Only pack what you need.
7. The ABC’s Aren’t Just for Elementary School Kids
There is an acronym to help you prioritize your essentials and minimize your stress. This is a new one for me. I found it quite helpful. The nice thing about the ABC’s is they are catchy to remember. You won’t forget this one.
A – Accessibility
If you expect to need the item while you are hiking, then pack it within easy reach. This means placing the piece of gear in pockets and near perimeter portions of your backpack.
B – Balance
You do not want to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame do you? (I’m sorry Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I thought it would be a good joke :)). If I have my GPS in my left side pocket which weighs 1.1 lbs (bare with me for a moment), then I want to balance it out with another item which needs easy access and weighs about 1.1 lbs on the other side.
Most of the time, you are unlikely to have items which are perfect weight matches for each other and are also of equal frequency. Packing is a juggling act of different items. You try your best, but sometimes you will fail. It’s alright.
C – Compression
Like I said with the clothes earlier, you want to roll up as much as you can. Anything rolled up has minimized the space it takes up. This includes your sleeping bag.
D – Dry
Most backpacks do not come with an internal, waterproof liner to keep your gear dry. You are going to have to get that yourself. I recommend you bring along some trash bags to keep your gear dry, only a minimal amount of course. Some items can be sacrificed to the whims of rain.
E – Everything Inside
It might seem nice to hang gear on the outside of your pack to dry or to free up space inside, but you also run the risk of losing your gear. It can also throw you off balance.
8. Keep a Smaller Pack or Bag for Lunch and Snacks
I get hungry, especially when backpacking. It burns a lot of calories. So when it comes to lunchtime, I am ravenous by then. I do not want to rummage through my pack trying to get past the stove and clothes to find my sandwich squished to smithereens. A small bag or something of the like in one of the outer pockets works well.
9. Extra Space Is Not Necessarily a Bad Thing
My backpack is big, 105 L. On my first trip with it, I filled the puppy tight to the brim. It bit me in the butt on the way back home. The backpack was really heavy by the end of the journey. I had plenty of gear, but man o man was my back sore. It took a toll to say the least.
Just because you have extra space doesn’t necessarily mean you should fill up everything. Just as Politics abhors a vacuum, most backpackers abhor empty space. Do not be like those others backpackers. Rise above the rest.
10. Always Pack Your Items the Same Way
You can more easily find what you are looking for when you know where everything is without even thinking about it. You also reduce your stress. If you know the spot of everything, you reduce the time it takes to find what you are looking for so you can focus on what really matters, the journey and the surrounding beauty.
Are You Looking for a Backpack?
A backpacker is only as good as the pack they carry. If you are looking for your first backpack, want to upgrade, or are just curious, then you are bound to benefit from one of my previous articles, The Best Backpacking Backpacks of 2019 (do not fret if it is 2024 and it still reads 2019 here; I update ‘best of’ articles on an annual basis :)). You are sure to win. I know I did. If you are planning a birthday present or want to get in shape, you are bound to benefit from the piece. Check it out!
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!