Peg Leg: 7 Gear Items I Ditched To Cut My Base Weight in Half

A lot of people think that the key to being an “ultralight” backpacker is having the most expensive, lightest gear on the market. But I’m here to tell you that the key to going ultralight isn’t about the gear you’re taking. It’s about all of the gear that you AREN’T taking on your hike.

In 2017 when I went on my first thru-hike, I had all the heaviest gear on the market. My pack probably weighed 45+ pounds, and it was really uncomfortable lugging it around. When I embarked on another thru-hike in 2022, I decided I wanted a lighter pack.

I bought all sorts of ultralight gear and managed to get my base weight down to about 20 pounds. Which, for me, was a major improvement at the time! But it’s only after making some major gear changes over the last year that I’ve managed to get my base weight down to about 10.5 pounds. And I didn’t buy any new gear or make any “major” changes to my pack to do it.

All I did was make some critical choices to eliminate unnecessary gear and weight from my kit.

Last year I hiked 5,500 miles across North America on the Eastern Continental Trail. My base weight was about 20 pounds to start; by the end of the trail I had cut that almost in half, dropping nearly 10 pounds from my pack. Working with ultralight hikers along the way played a crucial role in my finally understanding what I was doing wrong and what changes I needed to make.

Here are the items I stopped using last year to get my pack significantly lighter.

1. Camp Shoes

Camp shoes used to be my ultimate comfort item. On the Appalachian Trail, it was common to walk in the rain for an entire day at a time and be soggy and uncomfortable. I used to love the luxury of being able to take my shoes off at the end of the day and walk around camp in my Tevas, which weighed less than a pound.

But as I spent more time on trail, I realized that camp shoes were not worth the weight. They may “only weigh a pound,” but that mentality is what was stopping me from being an ultralight hiker. Every little piece of gear “only” weighs a small amount. But it’s the combination of all of those things that prevents you from dropping pack weight.

When I decided to stop carrying camp shoes, it became easier for me to make other strategic choices. In the end I have no regrets. There was only ever a day or two on trail when I missed my camp shoes. I learned not to mind taking my shoes and socks off at the end of the day and simply wearing my wet shoes around when necessary. 


2. Extra Clothing

The shirt I’m wearing in this photo was a town shirt I used briefly in Florida, because it was from a bar called Peg Leg Pete’s!

Eliminating extra clothing is the best possible way to lighten your base weight. I spent most of the Appalachian Trail carrying far too much clothing. Most of it wasn’t even necessarily for weather or emergencies; it was just for comfort.

When I finally decided I wanted to lighten my pack, I was advised to look at my clothes bag first. I was carrying a sleep shirt, sleep pants, sleep socks, a town shirt, and town shorts. These items not only took up a lot of space in my bag, but together they also weighed around two pounds!

It wasn’t until I got rid of them all that I realized how infrequently I was using them. In summertime it’s typically way too hot in the evenings to be wearing a long-sleeve top or bottom to bed. Plus, on a lot of trails, town clothes are a bit redundant. On the AT, PCT, and many others, you will have access to “loaner clothes” or “town clothes” at many hostels.

But even if you don’t, there are other alternatives that I now prefer.  Now when I get to town, I either wear my rain pants and shirt while I do my laundry or I use a neck gaiter/buff as a shirt if it is too hot to wear rain gear.

Laundry is generally a fairly quick process, so it isn’t a huge deal to not have spare clothes. The idea of carrying a set of clothes across the entire country just to use it once a week while you wash your laundry is a bit crazy. I certainly don’t miss the weight and haven’t found myself missing these items.

Now my clothing bag is just down to the basics. I still carry base layers in case of cold weather and other emergencies. But I swapped them for a set of Senchi Alpha 60 top and bottoms. They are relatively affordable and only weigh about five ounces together.

I also carry a puffy in case it’s extremely cold. My puffy is by Montbell and is on the higher end of the price range, but it weighs under 5oz. If it’s radically cold, I wear my rain pants and rain gear over my other layers. Rain gear is very insulating and does a good job of keeping you warm in an emergency.

I also always carry a beanie, a set of gloves, one extra pair of socks, and one or two buffs/neck gaiters. A buff is one of the most versatile pieces of gear. You can wear it on your face if it is windy and cold, or around your neck to protect yourself from the sun, and even as a top when you’re walking around town or doing laundry.

An example of a better ultralight pack towel. This lightweight puck unfolds into a reusable towel.

3. A Multitool

I used to love my multitool and I carried it on all my thru-hikes for over 8,000 miles. For the most part, I only ever used it for the knife, but I liked the comfort of knowing that I had it for many other uses too. But I never used it for anything other than the knife!

One day a hiker showed me what they used for a knife instead. They carried a small, foldable box cutter that weighed less than an ounce. It was perfect for cutting the occasional thing like tags, tape, or cheese. In contrast, my multitool weighed over five ounces and was hardly ever used.

I had never even considered getting rid of it because it “only weighed five ounces.” But after I realized there was a lighter alternative and eliminated it from my kit, I realized how infrequently I’d been using it.

4. Pack Cover

When I first got into thru-hiking, I thought that the most important thing on trail was keeping your backpack and gear dry. I figured a pack cover would be incredibly effective at keeping my backpack dry. It wasn’t until I was out on trail in a torrential downpour that I realized it wasn’t as waterproof as I’d imagined.

So I decided to ditch the rain cover altogether and go with a much lighter, practically weightless, option. Now I use a polycro bag inside of my pack to keep my gear dry. It works just like a trash bag and I’ve never had a failure yet. You could use a trash bag as well if you don’t have access to gear shops or aren’t able to have something shipped to you.

With all of your gear inside a liner bag in your pack, you don’t have to worry about getting rained on. I always know my stuff is safe and sound in my pack, and most importantly, that it’s all dry!

Views from Massachusetts as I’m training for the Continental Divide Trail.

5. Tyvek Groundsheet

During my preparations for the PCT in 2022, I heard about Tyvek and how hikers use it as a groundsheet for their tents. It tends to be much more durable than a standard groundsheet and weighs even less.

My piece of Tyvek weighed somewhere between four and five ounces and was the perfect size for cowboy camping. I carried it around for most of the year but didn’t cowboy camp very frequently on the AT.

When I did sleep in shelters or cowboy camp, it was great to have a sheet to protect my gear from the ground. However, I began to contemplate eliminating the groundsheet altogether because of how infrequently I was using it.

In the end, I compromised with myself. I swapped my Tyvek for a polycro groundsheet. It’s a much lighter alternative, weighing hardly an ounce. That means that I can use it as frequently or infrequently as I want and don’t have to feel as guilty for carrying it around. 

6. Camp Stove and Cup

Last year when I finished the first 4,000 miles of the Eastern Continental Trail, I decided to make a lot of changes to my kit. Ultralight hikers had been telling me for months to get rid of my stove. Because I was heading into warmer weather in Alabama and Florida, I decided to give it a try.

Going stoveless can be a fantastic way to drop pack weight! You no longer have to carry the stove, cup, and fuel canister. That can shave well over a pound from your pack.

When I was hiking the Florida Trail, I didn’t miss my stove at all. There were enough stores and gas stations nearby the trail that I could get hot food frequently. I had no regrets about eliminating my stove for this segment of the trail.

That being said, for certain long hikes I would personally use a stove again. I plan to bring a stove when I embark on the Continental Divide Trail this summer, for instance. I struggle to eat calorically dense foods while on trail, and eating a large hot dinner helps me to offset that.

Still, if you don’t mind going without hot meals from time to time, eliminating your stove system is a fantastic way to drop a pound off of your base weight.

A happy hiker who loves being “ultralight.”

7. Small, Seemingly “Weightless” Items

The main way that I dropped nearly 10 pounds from my base weight over the past year was not by eliminating any one or two big items. Sure, getting rid of pounds of clothing, shoes, pack cover, a heavy knife, and my stove, certainly didn’t hurt.

But it was actually the smaller items that added up to make the largest difference in my pack weight.

Tent Stakes

At one point, I was carrying around 10-12 tent stakes for “emergencies,” when in reality my tent only requires 6 stakes to be set up properly. Now I only carry 7-8 at a time. This still accounts for emergencies but is a bit less radical. Tent stakes might not seem very heavy, but each one is around 0.3oz, so it adds up to get rid of a few.

Hygiene and First Aid

I also went through my personal care items and first aid and kept only what was truly essential. One major area of elimination for me was my first aid kit. I had always been so worried about getting injured on trail and not having the necessary tools to mend myself.

But with time, I realized that you either need a few small items to bandage yourself, or you need to press the SOS button and receive major help. Now my first aid kit consists of a small roll of sports tape, a small gauze bandage, and a packet of Neosporin.

I always carry a small pill bottle with an array of essential medications. For me that means allergy medication, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Excedrin, and iodine. On previous thru-hikes, I might have carried a whole lot of all of those things. But now I just carry a few of each type of medication. Just enough to get me to the next town where I could either purchase more or receive proper medical attention.

If I was in a critical emergency I could use a buff or a bandana to make a tourniquet. But if the situation was truly that dire, I would use my most critical piece of ultralight gear, my 3.5-ounce satellite communicator with its SOS feature.

There is no need to carry excess first aid while you are thru-hiking, in my opinion. All of those little bottles and items add up quickly.

One thing I no longer carry while thru-hiking is a bottle of soap. Some people will disagree with this, and everyone has their own personal preference. But I decided I didn’t need to carry around a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s anymore. I use hand wipes and sanitizer to keep myself clean on trail, and when I get to town there is always soap available to shower and do laundry.

I found that my emergency Bronner’s just took up space in my pack. It is true that washing with soap and water is the only way to kill viruses such as norovirus, but I would rather practice better cleanliness habits and avoid touching dirty surfaces in shelters and privies than carry a bottle of soap. I also don’t like to wash with soap near water sources, which is something hikers tend to do when they carry soap around.


The Anker wall block I use. The dual ports allow me to charge multiple electronics at once and I can carry fewer cords.

Some other small items eliminated from my backpack were excess charging cables. For a long time, I had extra cords, which I acquired when buying a new pair of wireless headphones or other gear. But at the end of the day, you can only charge a finite number of electronics at once.

I carry a dual-plug Anker wall plug, which allows me to charge one USB-C item and one USB-A item at a time. I also carry a small USB-C to USB-A adapter. This means that I can charge multiple significant items at once, such as my phone, power bank, or inReach Mini.

I still carry a 20000mAh power bank, which allows me to charge my phone and headphones as much as I need while on trail. I found that carrying one Anker 20000 brick is a bit simpler than carrying two Nitecore 10000s as some hikers do. That’s because I only require one port to charge my power brick, rather than needing two ports to charge them both simultaneously.

This little piece allows you to convert a USB-C cable to be used in a USB port.


There are certainly more odds and ends that I no longer carry that I am forgetting to mention here. I find that you manage to acquire all sorts of random little items over the course of a thru-hike. For thousands of miles I carried around a small cork ball that I never once used.

Every time someone asked me why I carried around one of my small trinkets, I would claim that it was because it weighed hardly anything at all. But together the dozens of small items that I was carrying around amounted to a whole lot of weight. It is hard for me to imagine that my pack once weighed nearly 10 pounds more than it does now. Especially considering the fact that I truly believe I have every single thing in my backpack now that I could possibly need on a long hike.

It’s the Little Things That Count

My pack (center) just before starting the CDT this summer

I am not incredibly ultralight by any means, but these small steps have helped me a lot.

For me, going “ultralight” wasn’t about getting the best and most expensive ultralight gear. I purchased over $1,000 of ultralight gear in 2022, and my pack was still incredibly heavy. I dropped the most pack weight when I came to understand what the true necessities are, for me, in backpacking. It took me thousands of miles walking across the country to understand what comfort items truly are and how many of them I should have.

Just because I was able to carry a heavy pack along an entire thru-hike, that didn’t mean that I should. Early on in my backpacking career, I took pride in how far I could walk with a heavy backpack. It made me feel strong. I’ve met many other thru-hikers who feel the same and carry their large pack all the way to the end.

But if you could keep your pack lighter and make your entire hike easier, then why wouldn’t you? The same pride that I used to take in my big backpack I now take in my smaller backpack. I’m proud of myself for being able to give up comfort items that I used to think I couldn’t live without.

For years I packed all of my fears into my backpack. I had an item for every possible incident that might arise, even though they rarely ever did.

Now when I hike, I feel light and free. I’m not worried about anything at all, because I know that I have truly everything that I need in my pack. Even in the most chaotic of situations, my light backpack contains what I need to survive. 

Below is a link to my entire current gear list. Most items listed are exactly what I used last year toward the end of the Eastern Continental Trail. It is also the list of gear that I plan to use on my next thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail, which I embark on in the next few weeks!

Peg Leg’s Gear List on LighterPack

Featured image: Graphic design and background photo by Zack Goldmann. Bottom right photo via Peg Leg.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 22

  • Rick "Quiet Man" : Jun 20th

    It is true that the little things do indeed add up, one ounce at a time. I am going through my gear now to look for weight savings; so, your article was very timely. I will never be ultralight as a section hiker, but I do need to take a close look at all my little things. Thanks for the thought provoking discussion.

  • Candace : Jun 20th

    Peg is on the trail again! Im looking forward to following along on your new journey. Good luck!

  • Bravefoot : Jun 20th

    Good article; smart hiker; keep on trekking. AT ’06

  • John Verkuilen : Jun 20th

    Go to it get it done

  • Ken Rex : Jun 20th

    Missed you Peg. I look forward to reading about your adventures again.

  • Rick : Jun 21st

    Enjoyed your post. Always look forward to them. Look forward to reading about your new adventure!

  • Chris Lauchner : Jun 21st

    Really well written and informative! As someone thinking about doing a longer trek this helps a lot! Don’t pack ur fears!

  • Zach Scott : Jun 21st

    I recently hiked about a week on the Benton Mackeye with probably 45 – 55lbs on my back depending on the amount of water I was carrying at the moment. I decided to stop after a week for many reasons, but one near the top of the list was definitely pack weight. This was my first long distance attempt, and I’ve always underestimated pack weight, telling myself many lies. Anyways, I may try again one day, but this was an interesting and timely read. Thanks for posting!

  • Paul Schortemeyer : Jun 21st

    Such a great post – very solid advice and information. I am of the same mind on many of your points! Here’s a radical idea to consider: replace the rain gear with a thin plastic poncho (I prefer the Amazon kind with ‘sleeves’). I carry 2 on a longer hike and will occasionally send another to a re-supply in case of damage. Two ponchos weigh under 3 oz! The weight savings are huge AND they never, ever wet out. One more: try the Swiss Army mini nail-clipper combo. Includes a knife and scissors for 1.3 oz. Satisfies my multi-tool urge!

  • Paul Schortemeyer : Jun 21st

    Such a great post – very solid advice and information. I am of the same mind on many of your points! Here’s a radical idea to consider: replace the rain gear with a thin plastic poncho (I prefer the Amazon kind with ‘sleeves’). I carry 2 on a longer hike and will occasionally send another to a re-supply in case of damage. Two ponchos weigh under 3 oz! The weight savings are huge AND they never, ever wet out. One more: try the Swiss Army mini nail-clipper combo. Includes a knife and scissors for 1.3 oz. Satisfies my multi-tool urge! Thanks again for your post.

  • Tyler k : Jun 21st

    Love all your pictures 🤙

  • TripleM : Jun 21st

    My buff as a shirt??? Ummm . . . yeah, my boobs scoff! 🤣

    But,yes, overall point taken about how too many of the “it weighs practically nothing!” items will quickly add up to real weight.

  • Eric Emerson : Jun 21st

    You are looking strong! I bet with the weight reduction you will stay healthier on the trail. Are you getting any sponsorships from all the products you are promoting? Good to see you back.

  • Mr. Friendly : Jun 21st

    Awesome article and advice! My pack starting out NOBO on the AT in 2023 was almost 50 lbs! By the time I was in Maryland I had cut my weight down to about 28lbs by getting rid of the brain of my pack and some similar items you mentioned. I think the biggest thing I learned to cut weight in the beginning was figuring out how much food I needed for the stretch between resupplies.

    I’ll be going SOBO on the CDT in June of 2025 so can’t wait to read more about your journey! Hopefully not too many spoilers 🫣

  • Alex : Jun 22nd


    Looking forward to following you on your next adventure. I enjoy reading your blogs and the life lessons you write about.

    Take care and keep on trucking.


  • jhony : Jun 22nd

    What a great, good, informative article. You have made oodles of smart suggestions that I will take to heart. Thanks so much.
    Now after all that, and the CDT coming up– is the Hayduke in your plans when you get this triple crown down?
    Thank you VERY MUCH

  • Tom : Jun 25th

    Great read. Question. So what are the minimal clothes for a thru hike that you would carry during the summer on the AT? How often do you do laundry? Thanks. Good stuff. Especially about camp shoes! They are always a fierce debate

  • Rolf Asphaug : Jun 28th

    Thanks for the great suggestions. I’ve been debating carrying my Teva-style (but lighter) sandals as camp and fording shoes for my upcoming JMT hike, but I realize that’s excess weight AND the traction in the streams isn’t as safe as my Lone Peaks. So I think I’m leaving them behind after reading your great article.

  • James Proper : Jun 29th

    I’ve hiked, canoed, skied for 4-5 years when raising our Eagle Scout son. That was 30 years ago. For 2025 I’m preparing to hike half, or all, of the AT; I will be 75. I’m reading AT Thru-Hikers’ Companion (2024) and gradually accumulating my gear.

    I have Lowa Renegade’s (save weight with lower top boots?), Gregory 70 backpack (too large & heavy?), hiking poles (needed?), sleeping bag.

    Seeking advice…

    Sleeping bag (which I have) or a quilt?

    Tent, ground cover & mat or hammock with mosquito net & rainfly above?

    Stove & fuel or save the weight & live on beefsteak sausage, cheese, crackers, etc.?

    Tips on the ideal weight for my pack?

    Percent of AT thru-hikers age 75+?

    What else should I know?

    Thanks all.

  • Daniel Gögelein : Jun 29th

    Hey pegleg,
    Love your posts. Seeing as you’re doing a gear post I thought it fitting to ask now. What sunhoody/hoody are you always wearing? I’ve been eyeing it for awhile, but can’t quite figure out, where I might be able to get it.

  • Alexandra : Jun 30th

    I enjoyed your article about cutting down on gear / weight. But one suggestion alarmed me. No stove = no coffee / tea? However hot the weather, I would find this hard. I presume that as an American (I’m a Brit) you would fimd this even harder?

  • JR : Jul 12th

    Great article, thanks. Returning to hiking after decades of away, this is very helpful.


What Do You Think?