How to Pack Light for Long-Distance Hiking

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How to Pack Light for Long-Distance Hiking

If you are planning a long day trek, or a multi-day trek, then you are going to have to carry some kit with you.

How you pack for your trek can make a huge difference to how enjoyable it is.

A heavy backpack can be a nuisance, leaving you to labour under the strain rather than taking in your surroundings.

This is where the art of packing light can make a real difference!

Here are some ways to pack light, so you feel at one with your backpack and your trek a fun one.

Only Bring What You Need

Your backpacking kits should consist of some basic essentials.

Then you can add to this with other items depending on where you are going and how long for.

Make a list and gather all the things you want to take with you for your trip.

When you see it all in front of you, look for items that are not really necessities.

Aim to reduce as many items as you can to slim down your backpack.

Your Basic Essentials

While there are essentials that you will need, you can cut down on the space and weight they take up in your backpack.

Here’s a list of essentials you should take on a long hike, and how to reduce the bulk.

  • Mini First Aid Kit

Rather than buying a first aid kit off the shelf that often has excess items, instead choose a small tub and fill it with things you really need. Blister care, painkillers, stomach medicine, antiseptic cream, hand-sanitizer.

These are the basic first aid essentials you need. If you have any regular medicines, then you need to pack these too.

Remove all excess packaging from products, you don’t need the outer cardboard box your antiseptic cream came in! Choose mini-sizes rather than large-sized products, as often a little will go a long way.

  • Navigation Equipment

Maps, compass and GPS are all essential equipment for all hikes.

  • Power Banks & Portable Chargers

If you have electronic devices, such as GS equipment and a phone, leave the heavy portable re-chargers at home.

Go for a super-light solar option that you can use instead.

These power banks and portable chargers are a great way to ensure that you never run out of juice, when you need it most!

  • Sun Protection

Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are essentials for any hiking trip, so don’t skimp on these in an effort to save weight.

For skin, sun protection in the form of oils are lighter than creams and lotions.

  • Headtorches

A simple head torch is ideal for hiking as well as around the camp. Use one with lithium batteries.

The batteries last a long time and they are small and lightweight.

  • Toiletries

To pack light, only take mini-travel sized toiletries with you, and only what you really need.

A child’s sized toothbrush is smaller than an adult’s but does just as good a job.

  • Pop-up Tents

Tents can be heavy.

There are ultralight tents that you can buy, but the lighter they are the more expensive they become.

One alternative if you are hiking in moderate climates is a simple piece of tarpaulin you can use as a groundsheet or rain cover, and a bivvy bag.

This is essentially a waterproof bag that you put your sleeping bag inside.

Some come with heavy duty rings, so you can create a hammock if you prefer.

If you prefer the feeling of security you get from a tent, do some research and go for the lightest you can find.

A pop-up tent is usually a good option.

  • Repair Kit

Roll a couple of layers of duct tape around you water bottle instead of taking a whole roll. Or wrap around hiking poles if you use them.

Travel sewing kits are a useful investment, giving you just enough to get by on the road.

  • Water

Water is heavy, so unless you are hiking in super-hot climates, only bring what you need.

Running out of water though is also a problem.

Bring purification tablets or filtration equipment so you can replenish supplies along the way.

Once you are at a water source, drink as much as you can so you are well-hydrated for longer on your hike.

It is also a good idea to study maps of the area so you know where possible sources of water might be.

Re-usable water bottles are a good idea and prevent you littering, or carrying un-necessary weight on your trip.

  • Food

Being out on the trail for days mean you need to take plenty of food with you that is high in calories and protein.

To keep a light backpack, choose dried packet items such as instant noodles, dehydrated meals, cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts.

  • Your Backpack

Some hiking backpacks are much heavier than others.

It can be so easy to get excited about all the cool pockets and features, that sometimes we overlook the weight of the product.

It’s important to get a backpack suited to the demands of your route, but also which sits well on you.


Make sure all your clothing is made of lightweight synthetics. Avoid cotton. It simply soaks up moisture that can then make you feel cold, and is heavier.

  • Socks

Take three pairs of socks, rather than a pair for every day of your hike. Wear one pair, then after your day’s hike you can wash with a little soap and rinse with water.

The next day wear a fresh pair, but tie the damp pair to your backpack to dry out as you hike. You will have the third pair to wear in case your feet get soaked by puddles or streams and you need to change.

Rotate these three pairs of socks for the duration of your hike.

  • Underwear

Just like your socks, underwear can be washed and rotated.

  • Base Layers

Lightweight, moisture-wicking t-shirt or vest.

For long treks, pack two.

Base layers are easy to rinse and quick to dry.



  • Mid-Layers

1 x long sleeved jumper, synthetic or wool.

1 x fleece or wool jacket.



  • Outer Layers

A down-filled waterproof coat.



  • Hiking Trousers

Ideally get hiking trousers which zip off to make shorts.

This gives you two piece of clothing in one.



  • Hat

One warm hat for cold weather or for sleeping in to keep warm at night.

A bandana can double up as a sunhat, a scarf and water filter.

  • Waterproof Gear

A waterproof jacket is an essential piece of clothing for men and women.

If it pours down with rain, you also need to keep your pack dry. You can do this simply by using a bin liner to line your backpack and keep the contents from getting wet.

Or, you can put all you things that must stay dry inside the bin liner. You can also use ziplock bags for smaller items. This is a less bulky option than waterproof pack covers.




Having more than one use for the items you bring also saves weight.

  • Investing in a stainless steel or titanium mug means you can also use it on your stove as a cooking pot. That means less washing up too!
  • Keep your unworn clothing layers in a ziplock back, trap a little air in it and this can be used instead of a camping pillow, as well as keeping your clothes dry. This saves space and weight in your backpack.
  • A small pot of Vaseline will moisturise chapped skin, yet also doubles as a firelighter when wiped onto cotton wool.

It is amazing how much weight you can shave off of your backpack, just by thinking carefully about what you need to take and reducing the size of items where you can.

If you are camping overnight, having sleeping bags, stoves and other equipment adds weight to your backpack.

To make your hike easier, share the load between you and your partner or group, and try to invest in buying equipment that is as lightweight as it can be.

Packing light means that you can get on and enjoy the trail without your backpack being a burden.

However, you should not neglect to take essential kit that will keep you safe.

Saving a little weight on items might not seem like much, but when you aim to reduce it on most items in your backpack, those small reductions add up.

This means more fun enjoying the great outdoors, and a great sense of achievement in carrying everything you need to survive out on the trail.

Last update on 2021-01-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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