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Backpacking basics: Distributing your load for comfort and convenience

We all know packing for any trip can be daunting at times. Backpacking is no different, we sometimes go down a rabbit hole of how much gear to bring vs comfort and weight, the same old questions. What to bring? how much to bring? yaddah yaddah,it goes on and on...

As an out of condition outdoor lover, I backpack about 1/3 of what I used to. I have learned to lighten my load for multiple nights with less gear and remain comfortable in the woods. So here's some helpful tips on how to help alleviate some of the burden of carrying your house on your back.

Current gear tech is great because almost all of it is incorporating weight reducing techniques and materials. So tip number one: Go lightweight if you can afford it and it fills your needs.

High-quality high-end materials from companies like Hyperlite combine durable lightweight materials to create a series of backpacks and shelters that are incredibly light and durable for back country use.

So the main reason for this article, packing your pack for comfort! I personally do not own any Hyperlite gear, but I do have a slathering of different lightweight gear that I have used for around 2 decades. That said, no matter what you're carrying you need to be comfortable and comfort starts with how you pack that gear in your pack.

Here is my 3-day loadout that I typically carry in spring summer and fall:



The list looks like a lot listed but I carry half of this stuff on day hikes anyhow. I bring enough food for a full 3 days for me and add two extra meals in case of emergencies or I run into other people like thru-hikers that run out of food. This list is just my kit that I created over time the total weight after adding water is 26-30lbs. Now it's no ultralight setup but it works for me and what I like to do in the woods. Lighter is definitely possible with new lightweight gear but that's all up to what you choose for you.

If you go through the list, you'll see that I have necessities for comfort and safety along with survival supplies listed at #9.

You'll notice I don't carry a tent; I use a tarp top like my REI Quarter Dome SL tarp shelter, or my military poncho #14 combined with my trekking poles for tent poles makes a great lean-to or tent. I use the SOL emergency bivvy #13 for a floor and my bed roll on top of that. This combination works great spring through fall, it's light, safe and easy to deal with at any location including tent platforms. That's just one way of lightening your load, as there are many ways to drop weight and still stay safe and comfortable. I will leave that up to you to decide.

Weight distribution makes a world of difference on longer trips. The comfort of your lower back and shoulders can make or break a backpacking trip quite literally. I used to carry anywhere from 50-65lbs, the first time I ever did a multi-day trip I carried a whopping 91lbs of gear food and water, so many mistakes I learned from in just that one week of torture to myself. One of the things I learned before I went on that trip and that was distributing the weight properly and organizing my gear appropriately for ease of access and comfort. The basic rules to follow are, keep heavy things close to you, sleeping bag in the bottom and if you carry white fuel and water bottles store it outside your pack. I have had both water and fuel leak while in the pack, so it's a lesson learned well nothing worse than socks with white fuel in them. Here are a couple of graphics to illustrate the most fundamental methods for weight distribution.



​If you found this article helpful, please drop me a line, if you have any advice, I'd love to hear it!

I will be publishing more informative short articles on various topics about backpacking and back country travel.


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