Stated and unstated, we've all got goals and aspirations for 2019. While many new years resolutions focus on fitness, diet, and weight loss, many backpackers have continuous resolutions to reduce a different type of weight: base weight and total weight. While there are hundreds of different tricks and tips for those looking to lighten their packs in 2019, this list consists of 10 incredibly cheap and easy things you can do ASAP to shave ounces and pounds. While replacing heavy gear with light gear is an exceptionally effective method for lightening your load, it's also expensive. Regardless of what gear you're rocking, these tips and tricks will help!!
1. Don't carry excess water weight
Water is an obvious essential for keeping yourself hydrated and fueled while hiking. However, it is also one of the heaviest items you can carry (1L of water weights 2.2lbs). Proper planning and awareness of water sources can help you to reduce the amount of water you are needlessly carrying. Try hydrating as much as possible at the water sources themselves, and carry only as much water as you think you'll need to get to the next source. While it's always better to carry a bit more water than too little, general awareness of water sources will keep you from lugging around excessive amounts of H20.
2. Don't pack redundant clothing
When planning a trip, it's easy to overpack your amount of clothing. While additional clothing certainly adds some extra comfort, it's rarely actually necessary. By all means be very intentional and methodical about the clothes you do pack, but the fact is that you probably don't need duplicate items of anything other than socks (and maybe underwear). Being stinky is natural, getting soaking wet can be avoided (most of the time), and clothing itself will very rarely become so dysfunctional it demands an immediate replacement.
3. Cut stuff off that you don't need
If your gear has extra straps, chords, toggles, or logos that aren't performing a particular function, cut them off! Sure it might just save you a couple extra ounces, but it's simple, effective, and puts you in the mindset of critically analyzing the utility and function of all your gear. Yes, cutting the handle off your toothbrush is a classic and yes, burning pages of books as you read is also a thing some people do.
4. Ditch the pillow
Some people need a pillow to go to sleep. If you aren't one of those people, consider just using your puffy instead. Sure it might have a little funk to it, but if you jam it in a stuff sack, you'll hardly notice. While going ultralight doesn't necessitate the elimination of all luxury items, you've certainly got to be selective!
5. See ya later camp shoes
While this has been discussed and debated in pretty much every backpacking forum ever, an easy way to cut weight is to leave your camp shoes at home. Is it more comfortable to have a dry and ventilating shoe for mulling around camp? Sure! Is it essential? No. Obviously (like with all of these tips), it comes down to the question: what are you willing to put up with in order to lighten your load? Not willing to commit to a lack of camp shoes? Look for a lightweight and minimal sandal/flip-flop instead. If you do choose to go without camp shoes, added foot intentionality is needed to ensure the health and sustainability of your feet.
6. Pack your own first aid kit
While the premade medkits are incredibly convenient, many have more items than you'll probably use. Additionally, some will undoubtedly have some items you'll never use. Grab the items you think you'll need, repackage them in a ziplock bag, and save yourself a couple additional ounces.
7. Switch out your knife for a razor blade
While there is a certain mystic surrounding the outdoors and overly large or needlessly complicated knives, in reality, the vast majority of campsite tasks can be done with a very light, and very affordable alternative. Sure it won't work for everything, but its sharp, efficient, and tiny.
8. Leave your technology at home
While documenting your trips can be a great way to relive the experience later on, phones, cameras (and the corresponding gear), chargers, and e-readers can be the source of a lot of extra weight. Communication and safety equipment can be important parts of your kit when traveling in certain areas, but most electronics are rarely essential.
9. Try going stoveless
While there are many little things that you can do to cut weight, getting rid of your stove and your fuel bottle is a big weight saver. While switching from a canister/bottle set up to an alcohol stove can certainly save a bunch of weight, if you are really trying to take the UL plunge, ditch the stove entirely. Pack meals that don't require cooking, and like many stoveless hikers, consider the ever-expanding world of cold soaking!
10. Analyze everything you bring
This last tip is painfully obvious, but it is also perhaps the best suggestion for those starting to go ultralight. As you pack for your next trip, question the utility of everything you are packing. Is it essential? Is it a luxury item? Is it something I need for my safety or is it something I can try to go without? Going ultralight is a process of trial and error, and that process starts with a critical analysis of how you currently pack.
Have your own suggestions for those looking to go UL in 2019? Share in the comments section below!