Guide to packing lighter

How I reduced my pack weight

I often receive emails from readers asking about gear preferences, what I would recommend and how to reduce pack weight etc. I have written this guide below to answer these questions.

Step One – The big three

Step one is to reduce the weight of the heaviest gear first. Once this is done then you can move on to step two. The big three are the pack, shelter and sleeping system. I use the three for three (343) principle (refer Jörgen Johansson a Swedish “Smarter Backpacking guru”), which requires that the big three do not weigh more than three kilograms in total. These three are the heaviest gear so you need to reduce the weight of these items before moving on to all the other bits of kit in your pack in step two. This means that your pack could weigh 900 grams, shelter 900 grams and sleeping system 1.2 kg. So long as the total weight is not exceeded then the separate items don’t necessarily have to be lightweight.

In the late spring, summer and early fall months my big three could look like this:

  • Pack – Hyberg Bandit (40 ltr) ultralight pack less hip belt 361 g
  • Shelter – Tarptent Notch Li 2020 model DCF tent with solid interior 561 g + 6 MSR carbon core 6″ stakes 36 g = 597 g
  • Sleeping system
    • Cumulus Quilt (May 2018 model) 250 fill 850 cuin 505 g
    • Therm-A-Rest Neoair Uberlite – Regular R-value 2 / 244 g

Total weight = 1.707 kg

In the early spring and late fall seasons my big three can look like this:

  • Pack – Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 Pack (40 ltr) 799 g
  • Shelter – Tarptent Notch Li 2020 model DCF tent with solid interior 561 g + 6 MSR carbon core 6″ stakes 36 g = 597 g
  • Sleeping system
    • custom made As Tucas Foratata Quilt 450g 900 cuin down with custom collar Regular L / 690g
    • Therm-A-Rest Neoair XLite – Regular R-value 3.2 / 341 g

Total weight = 2.427 kg

As Tucas Foratata Quilt 450g 900 cuin down custom collar Regular L 690g

When the winter season arrives then I adjust my sleeping system. In Scandinavia the temperatures drop to below freezing. My big three might consists of the following:

  • Pack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 model 2021 (60 ltr) including SitLight pad / size: medium 850 g
  • Shelter – Tarptent Notch Li 2020 model DCF tent with solid interior 561 g + 6 MSR carbon core 6″ stakes 36 g = 597 g
  • Sleeping system
    • custom made Cumulus Panyam 600 / 850 hydrophobic cuin / fill 690 g / ⅔ zip right side / 1066 g
    • Therm-A-Rest Neoair XTherm Regular R-value 5.7 / 437 g

Total weight = 2.950 kg

The above sleeping bag is rated with a comfort temperature of minus 9℃. The down is hydrophobic which means that it is treated so that it absorbs much less moisture than down that is not treated. The outer fabric is Pertex Quantum Pro 36 g which also is more resistant to moisture than a lighter fabric.

The sleeping pad has a R-Value of 5.7 which is high. I’ve slept with this pad down to minus 13℃ and I felt no cold from the ground. R-Value is a measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material.

Step Two – Weigh all your gear

The next step is to weigh and record all your gear. I use a worksheet in Apple Numbers which is the equivalent to Microsoft Excel. On-line versions like LighterPack are popular but I prefer my own. Below is an Excel example of my spreadsheet gear list that you may download and use if you wish. I use drop-down menus in column C and choose the items that I want every time I prepare my next hike. I have omitted my own drop-down menus. You will have to customize it to suit your own needs.


Base Weight, Pack Weight and Skin Out Weight

  • Base weight is all gear but NOT including clothes & items worn or consumables
  • Pack weight is all gear & consumables (food, fuel & water) but NOT including clothes and items worn
  • Skin out weight is everything (pack weight plus clothes and items worn)

Base weight is an important measurement when going lighter. You will see this term everywhere in the lightweight and ultra-lightweight community. The idea is to reduce your base weight to the minimum without compromising safety and comfort. Once you have weighed all your gear then you can start to replace the heaviest of the items that are not one of the big three because you have already regulated these bits of kit in step one. When I preformed these tasks I replaced all my gear. I don’t have any of my original gear; everything was changed.

I have continually adjusted and added gear. Through time new lighter and smarter equipment is manufactured. Only your wallet determines the limits. However I have gradually fine tuned my kit so that I am satisfied now with the result. If I’m purchasing new items now days then it is to replace faulty or worn out gear and not buying just for the sake of buying. In this day and age one should think about not buying more than one needs, CO2 emissions etc.

Step Three – gear choices and considerations

Another subject to consider is gear with two uses. Multiple use items also contribute to reducing your weight. For example my trekking poles are also my tent poles.  They are not carried in my pack and are not included in the base weight. They are already used for walking sticks so I double use them to hold up my shelter. Therefore they are not part of my big three in the shelter weight calculation. Another example is my Hyperlite Mountain Gear stuff sack for my puffy jacket which is also a pillow.

Footwear is also another consideration. For three season use I do not like to use heavy hiking boots but rather I prefer to wear trail shoes. They are lighter and dry out much faster. Over the years manufactures and suppliers have been telling us that we need to use our hard-earned cash on heavy, expensive hiking boots. With a lightweight pack, I have found that it is not necessary to wear a heavy pair of hiking boots. My footwear system with toe socks and trail shoes has proven over time to be a winner. I never experience blisters when I wear these two items in combination. This subject needs to be covered in another publication and one which I will not discuss further here, but you get the picture. Advertising from large companies dictate what the main stream buy. Instead, I advise you to listen to the people using and testing gear like bloggers, YouTubers and discussions on forums for example.

Price should not be the key to gear purchases but rather quality, weight and multi-use considerations instead. Find out what others are saying about the gear that you are interested in buying. You can do that through blogs like mine, social media and forums just to name a few. Honest gear reviews are gold when buying new bits of kit. On blogs and forums you can ask the writer questions and receive honest feedback.

As a rule I don’t buy items with too many zips and pockets and fancy functions (nice to have things); keep it simple, keep it light. Think about waterproofing your pack too. I use some Hyperlite Mountain Gear packing PODS as a weatherproof packing system. See my review here. But I also use a ZPacks pack liner on occasion or you can use a trash compactor bag if you wish. The later is not my choice though.

Lightweight kitchens are another favourite subject of mine. I have written several articles about windshields, pots and stoves here. There are many grams to shred without compromising functionality. My windshields are also pot stands; once again two uses. I prefer using alcohol fuel stoves over gas. Other than that a spoon and cup is all you need. Using the pot as a cup is even better and here the two uses principle is practiced again. For a knife I use a little Swiss army knife including scissors & tweezers weighing 21 g.

For clothing considerations the basic rule is to dress in layers. Dressing using the three layer principle you should be able to have all your clothes on at one time. Start with a base layer, I prefer wool than synthetics, then a middle warm layer and finish with the shell layer. Synthetics tend to smell already after the first day on trail. Wool will feel pleasant against the skin and doesn’t begin to smell nasty like synthetics do. I use lightweight wind jackets 60 g and wind pants 67 g for the shell. Furthermore I pack lightweight rain clothes with a total weight of 175 g for the pants and jacket.

The below YouTube video shows in more detail the gear that I packed for my Swedish Lapland hike in 2018. Base weight 5.9 kg,  Pack Weight 10 kg and Skin Out Weight 12.5 kg for 5 days and 114 km.

This YouTube video shows in more detail the gear that I packed for my Swedish Lapland hike in 2018

These last three manufactures are based in the USA. Import duties and taxes apply if you live outside the USA. If you live in the EU and you buy from Backpackinglight in Sweden or Outdoorline, who stock several bits of gear from the USA, then the duties and taxes have already been applied. Buying from the EU is my preference although it is not always possible when special lightweight gear is required. I am not affiliated in any way with any of the above and I receive no compensation for publishing their names here.

Product(s) discussed in this article were purchased by myself from a retailer or manufacturer. I do not accept compensation or donated product in exchange for guaranteed media placement or product review coverage without clearly denoting such coverage as an “ADVERTISEMENT” or “SPONSORED CONTENT.”

2 Replies to “Guide to packing lighter”

  1. I thought that it was about time that I attempted to document the process that I went through. Maybe someone will find this useful.

    I talked at a small private group session last Monday and this is also a reference for that.

    The books are a good reference and I’ll read some of them again, that’s for sure.

    Thank you for commenting.


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