Tips from a “Not lightweight” PCT Hiker on How To Be Lightweight

I have not considered myself an ultra-lightweight hiker as I tend to carry a few more things for my own comfort, but they all add up and make the bag quite heavy when there is a five-day food supply in my backpack.

Over the five months of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I experimented with different bits of gear and decided to eliminate some items altogether for some sections. Here are my top tips that I now use for planning if I want to get the miles in and have a lighter pack:

Taking a break, wearing my spare top and socks while my sweaty one dried.

1. You don’t need the amount of clothes you have packed.
1 pair of underwear and 2 pairs of socks is 100% fine. Get rid of the rest!
Try to utilise clothes for multiple purposes as much as possible eg sleep clothes can be base layers.

2. You don’t need those gadgets like tripod and selfie sticks.
Complete waste of weight. When you are thru-hiking and on a mission to get from A to B fastpacking you will not have time to set up a tripod.
Further more if you want to take a camera, choose one for it’s weight as it makes a big difference.

3. Minimise toiletries and first aid.
I didn’t use any creams, lotions or potions for my body for most of the trail. I ditched most of the extra things I was carrying but deet and SPF are essential.
On the PCT, you’re rarely more than a day away from civilisation so the only first aid I had was painkillers which again, didn’t get used. No need for that scalpel or sewing kit either.

4. Get smart with water carries.
Why are you carrying 4 liters when there is a water source in 5 miles?
The weight of water will slow you down.
Obviously there is a need for big water carries on those long 20+ miles with no water.

This beast of a sub lasted me three days. Not sure it was worth the weight, though.

5. Most of the weight comes from food.
Food was the heaviest component in my pack, I also liked to carry fruit. For short trips lots of sugary candy does help boost energy levels but this is not sustainable, there is no alternative to real food.
If you can walk faster between towns and therefore hiking for less days at a time, you will carry less food overall!
If you can plan to eat on trail rather than carry meals, even better.

6. Pay attention to the weight of the big 3.
Tent, sleeping bag and backpack are the big 3 items that can seriously knock off weight on your back if you have bought lightweight.
I had selected a Sea to Summit Flame 3 bag, Tarptent Notchli tent and an Osprey 36L Kyte backpack. All are considered lightweight although the bag had a frame so was a bit heavier than the average but provides extra comfort when it had a heavy load.
I was 100% happy with my choice and would use again.

My kitchen and dining room.

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 3

  • MummyToes : Oct 19th

    Much thanks for blogging your PCT hike!
    Greatly enjoyed following your progress.
    Congrats on your epic adventure!

  • Don : Oct 20th

    Great article. I like your choices and recommendations.


What Do You Think?