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Backpacking - Essentials while carrying light

Hey all!

I've recently finally got started on some real backpacking trips.

I am looking for tips on how to pack light when you have a multiday trip. Food? Layers for when it gets pretty cold at night? I have quite a bit of gear, including but not limited to; rain fly, hammock, ground cloth, inflatable sleeping pad, compactable cooking utensils/cookware, trekking poles, compactable down jacket, pack rain cover, poncho, hatchet, multipurpose knife, mylar blankets, water filter, knee braces,etc . I've done hours among hours of research for quality items that are also lightweight.

I went on my first backpacking trip this past weekend, leaving quite a few items behind, and my pack was unbelievably heavy. I didn't have room for a sleeping bag and I only brought essentials. I brought dehydrated foods and light snacks. I was miserable with how heavy my pack was. I do need to invest in a better bag that distributes weight more evenly (I got a free bag in a points exchange program through a previous employer, which I only recently discovered to be of terrible quality), but even then, it still is quite heavy.

I would really appreciate any tips you could give on gear that maybe combines several items into one, thermal gear to cut down on packing extra layers, and any other tips, hacks, or tricks you can think of that you do to keep your load light but still carry everything you need with you! I ended up having to leave my ground cloth, hatchet, and a camping blanket behind because it was too heavy and there wasn't enough room, even though I only had essentials and the bag was decently big.

Thanks a million in advance!!! 🙂 


20 Replies

I have backpacked and hiked for yearsand on nearly all trips I have never had a need for a hatchet, even when I was cooking over a campfire.  Backpacking is an exercise in safe minimalism.  Experience will help you a lot.

Without a list of specific items, it is hard to give helpfuladvice, although I am confident you can ditch the hatchet.


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We backpack in the Rockies. We didn't bring the small hatchet, but we ended up feeling like we could have used it. Where we were, there weren't any small enough logs around a large area to use for a fire. We made it work but we found quite a few large logs that would have needed to be cut in half, at least, to be built in a fire. 


I've built fires with the ends of 'too big' logs facing each other with kindling built in between - pushing the logs closer as they burn makes chopping unnecessary - just an idea.


It sounds like you have way too much stuff a hatchet? Camping blanket?.    Time to go back to square one. Start with setting up a list on Fire up youtube and google and review videos and blogs covering gear and lightweight packing. Adventure Alan and Andrew Skurka have tons of blog info. is also a wralth of knowledge

@Alpineaddict  - thanks for the suggestion!

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Here are two resources for information:

REI Ultralight Backpacking Checklist

Backpacking Advice

As you hike more, you'll "shakedown" the items that you can live without. 

As mentioned, a hatchet is not necessary and ridiculously heavy. You could shave a few ounces by getting a simple knife like an Opinel no.8 instead of a multitool. I've never needed a phillips head screwdriver in the backcountry... Worry about the reducing ounces/grams everywhere that you can and soon enough you'll be shaking off pounds.

Water is heavy. At 8 pounds per gallon, you need to consider water sources on the trail. Not sure what kind of filter you're using. I prefer a small water filter like the Sawyer Mini. It screws right onto a standard bottled water bottle (like Life Water). Those plastic bottles are inexpensive, easily replaced, and lightweight.

All cloth items should be packed in compression sacks. This will help with space. Don't pack extra clothes. Backpackers are called dirtbags for a reason. Yes, you might look dirty, and smell a little. That is part of the experience. 

A map, headlamp, and first aid are absolutely necessities. 

As you spend more time out "there"... and you will because it's addictive... you will get stronger too.

How To Train For Backpacking

HowTo Recover From A Hike

Hope that your next trip is a success!

The hatchet I have I'd actually a small, handheld one that's quite light.

But if you have tips on breaking up wood when you can't find the right size logs, id love to hear it!

Sawyer mini is also the one k use. I only fill a 2 liter bladder and then rely on water sources on the trail.

Returning my multitool and opting for a simple knife is a great idea, I will definitely look into doing that! 

What do you do for cold nights in a hammock? For layers, sleeping bags/blankets? Do you bring an underquilt? Do you have any tips?

Thank you! 

@ALTKey  #1 way to stay warm while you sleep is a hat (synthetic fleece or merino wool) and dry socks made of the same material 

Underquilt & bag - neither huge, just enough.
Underquilt beats anything else I've tried.
Need'nt be a big deal, neither needs the bag.
Socks hat in merino is super advice!