Keeping pack weight down. Decisions. Decisions.

I’m not yet to the point of cutting off tags and breaking my toothbrush in half, but I am trying to pay attention to pack weight. Even though I’m not going the ultra-light route, that doesn’t mean I want to end up with a herniated disc on day 3 (maybe day 4 or 5…but definitely not day 3).

mmm, pie in the sky

As has been recommended over and over again, I’m trying to keep my base weight (everything minus water and food) down below 20 pounds. Since I’m not weighing everything down to my skivvies, this is a bit of a pie in the sky goal. Generally, I’ve just been forcing myself to assess if I’m really going to need an item before I put it in the “to pack” pile.

So far, I’ve made some significant concessions. I know this sounds silly, but the devil being in the (little) details, doing without the following items is a pretty big deal to me.

Edward Scissorhands: he was a thinker. Maybe I’ll try his approach.

1. My nail maintenance kit. This includes fingernail clippers, toenail clippers, cuticle cutters, tweezers, and an under-fingernail cleaner. I am in no way, shape, or form a fan of manicures and pedicures, as my mom and sisters will attest. I think I’ve finally convinced them to stop asking me to join on their beautifying outings.

However, I have the weakest nails and cuticles on the face of the earth (the earth, I tell you!), and they crack, peel, and bleed if I don’t keep them trim and tidy. I’ve decided though that my small Swiss Army knife can do double…triple…no, quadruple duty as a cuticle clipper, fingernail filer, splinter remover, toothpick-er (as long as all the words are ending in “er”), and screwdriver…and maybe a scalpel too (er, but hopefully not).

2. Water filter. I hear that fresh spring water tastes pretty amazing compared to treated tap water. So the idea of bringing along a water filter or Steripen to indulge in the simple pleasure of fresh water sounded pretty appealing. But it occurred to me that I’d have to bring along water tablets anyway in case the filter or Steripen failed. And, for that matter, would I really be able to enjoy the water if I were always nervous about product failure? So Aqua Mira it will be. I understand it tinges the water with a chlorine undertone, but it’s better than having the extra weight.

Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.

3. My Camelpak water bladder. This is more a factor of logistics and pack volume than it is of weight. Someone pointed out to me that a water bladder takes up space in a pack and also requires shifting around the other contents of the pack every time the water needs to be replaced. I’ve heard that many hikers end up using Glaceau Smart Water bottles because they fit easily into a pack’s side pouch, are much lighter than a Nalgene-type bottle, and are easily replaceable. In addition, they’re available in 1 liter bottles, which is the quantity necessary for measuring out the “doses” of Aqua Mira drops.

I’m just saying…I may end up this hairy.

I think that’s a pretty decent list for the time being. I’m guessing a lot of the decision making will come down to the wire when I’m trying to fit everything from a deck of cards to a set of badminton racquets into my pack pre-departure. And when it comes down to it, the fewer razors and less shampoo I bring, the more room for almond butter and beef jerky. Eyes on the prize.

Meandering on,



6 thoughts on “Keeping pack weight down. Decisions. Decisions.

  1. 20lbs? My pack with my camera gear would take about half of that alone. Doesn’t look like I’ll be attempting this trail any time soon. May I suggest a harmonica for entertainment? It doesn’t matter if you know how to play. By the time you get to Maine, you’d be able to start a Blues Traveler tribute band.

    • I could give a hoot about camera gear, but actually I’ve heard of people packing heavy camera gear and giving up (many) other luxuries instead. All about priorities. Oh! A harmonica sounds fun, but I’d surely torture my fellow hikers.

  2. Although I have never taken on a thru hike like the AT, I have been working on getting my pack weight down. You might want to target 10 or 15lbs as your base weight. I have been tracking the weight of everything I pack with a spreadsheet. And, unless you do this, you will find yourself adding lbs very quickly. I know it sounds a bit intense, but its the best way to keep youself in check. For most things I use the weight that is advertised, for some things I weight with a small culinary digital scale. Best of luck!

    • Thanks for the comment. My pack, sleeping bag/pad, and tent are over 9 pounds, so the “ultralight” thing isn’t happening for me. All things considered, I think 20 pounds is a good base weight goal.

  3. You’re off to a good start on keeping your pack weight down! The only suggestion I could add is to save a few bucks and use Gatorade/Powerade bottles instead of a Glaceau. I did my section hike using Gatorade bottles and it worked out well, I just swapped them out for fresh bottles whenever I went into town. Going with Aqua Mira is a great idea too, that saves you nearly a pound right off the bat!

    • Aw, thanks for the encouragement! I’m wringing my hands over here about my pack weight…hearing that Aqua Mira saves a pound is really validating. One thing down.

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