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Learning to Learn How to Pack Light For Backpacking

When it comes to a gear list for a given trip, I carefully plan everything out to address the climate, time of year and all the different types of terrain. I make an excel spreadsheet and list out everything I think I’ll need. I then calculate the weights of everything and the calories per day I’ll need to carry that weight (and to stay warm and energized for the long miles we’ll be hiking).

That gets complicated pretty quickly, especially on longer, self-supported and or multi-discipline trips.  On a recent section hike in the Grand Canyon, I knew I’d need to carry eight to ten days of food between resupply caches, plus at least 12 lbs. of backpacking gear, my camera, plus six lbs. of technical gear that my partner, Clay, and I would share. That would put us at 30 lbs. each. Throw the four to six liters of water we’d be require at any given time on top of that, and it looked like our packs would fluctuate between 25 and 50lbs throughout the duration of the trip. (If you’re interested in what the final gear list looked like, you can read more here: Long-Distance, Lightweight Thru Hiking Gear List (for the Grand Canyon).

Knowing that is half the battle. The 50-pound mark is a daunting one, especially in a harsh, technical environment where extreme temperatures are common.  That’s why the next step is almost the most critical: We needed to shakedown our gear list to see if we could achieve any weight savings.

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