A few weeks back I shared a blog - Lighten Your Load. Admittedly, the title was a bit misleading (as your comments pointed out). In that article I talked about my weight, not the weight in my backpack. In this blog I am going to share a method I used to lighten my other load (and it didn’t cost me a dime).
I have used this graphic to show how many of us went about learning to backpack.
This is what the cycle typically looks like: research gear, buy gear, take a trip, some things go well, others do not, repeat.
From day one, no matter our level of confidence, there is always some fun sprinkled in.
But simply having fun isn't enough is it?
We want to maximize our fun...by carrying a lighter load. To accomplish this we need to build more confidence.
The graphic above plays a big part in why many of us have carried (or are currently carrying) a heavy pack.
“You pack your fears”
No truer words have ever been spoken. Lack of confidence causes fears, and the one thing you can be certain about fears; they are always heavy!
What if I get cold? - Throw in an extra shirt.
Am I going to starve to death? - More food.
Will I smell funny? - Extra clothes and deodorant in the pack.
How do we overcome our fears? By gaining confidence. How do we gain confidence? Learning what gear to carry and how to use it. How do we learn what to pack and how to use it? You guessed it...experience.
See how this all works nicely together? I call it the gear experience confidence loop.
We have all been there (in the gear experience confidence loop). While I was in it, I also stumbled upon a method that had an immediate impact when it came to carrying a lighter load. Now, I get the chance to pay it forward.
Assuming that you have practiced with your gear at home, it is time to start planning your next trip. While you plan, make a detailed list of everything you are going to take with you. The list could be as simple as writing with a crayon on the back of an envelope or as intricate as an excel spreadsheet. Also, there are mobile apps or websites that are available as well. I use a spreadsheet.
Make sure you list everything! Socks, food, toilet paper, camp shoes, gloves, first-aid kit, deodorant…you get the idea.
As you make your list you could also include the weight of each item (this will allow you to track weight savings down the road if that interests you). I use a simple kitchen scale I picked up for about $10 to weigh my gear.
Now that your list is complete, pack up, go out, and enjoy your backpacking adventure. Have a blast! Make sure to take plenty of pictures and share them with us here.
What’s next? Time to build some confidence.
Once you get home, pull out your planning list and place one check mark next to a piece of gear for each time you used it during the trip. Using a cook kit as an example; let’s say we made a Mountain House meal for dinner, a hot chocolate by the fire before bed, a coffee when we first woke up, followed by oatmeal for breakfast. Four checks would be placed next to our cook kit, one for each use. Go through the remaining items, placing a check next to it each time it was used.
Take a look at your marked up list.
How many items have three or more check marks next to it? Are there any items that don’t have a single check mark next to them? Did you carry any food out of the woods?
What is the total weight of all the items with less than three check marks?
What could you do without? What items didn't help maximize your fun or keep you safe?
Continue this exercise for the next couple of trips. Use the knowledge (confidence) gained from each trip when planning your next one.
I made decisions on all items with less than three checks. This exercise helped me learn about my style and what my goals are (as Grey Gorilla pointed out in this blog last week). I learned I don't enjoy the camping as much as I do the hiking.
My extra clothes bag was almost two pounds heavier than it is now. The contents of my food bag actually get eaten on the trail. The folding saw only sees my pack when I know I am going on a camping trip, not a hiking trip. My weight saving examples go on.
Remember, the lightest piece of gear is the gear that stays home.
Is there a method that you use to help lighten your load?
Do you keep a list of all your gear with their weights?
Please share your thoughts in a comment below.
I hope to see you on the trail,
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