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I also looked for other solutions for base layers, and settled on trading up a few pieces so that I could wear the same shirt and shorts for nearly 30 days. I used just one super light Arc’Teryx’s Phase SL Crew ultralight base layer and one button down long sleeve synthetic shirt, in addition to quick-drying convertible pants. I was able to do “laundry” just three times on the trip, but that was enough. Besides, if you think clothes are heavy—try soap!

This was obviously a pretty extreme scenario—I don’t always agonize over every little thing I’m bringing on a trip. The Grand Canyon is a pretty extreme environment, though, and this might have been my most ambitious adventure ever. Fundamentally re-working systems is generally something I try to avoid, but sometimes it’s necessary.

The good news is that there has literally never been a better time to be a backpacker than right now. There are so many options, so many people manufacturing high-quality gear and figuring out how to continually do more with less stuff. I find it inspiring, but I understand that it can also be daunting if you’re just getting going.

If you’re just starting to learn how to pack light for backpacking, you don’t necessarily have to go to the extremes I did. The underlying methodology is what’s really important: Plan, organize, weigh, assess, re-consider, repeat until you’re satisfied that with the resources you have available, you’re going to have the best trip possible.

One thing is for sure: the more you work at it, the more optimized you, your gear and your trips will get.

That said, here are five quick steps anyone with any level of experience in the outdoors can take to lighten their load. Wherever you’re starting from, these tips are guaranteed to save some weight. If you like results, and have more fun on your next hike as a result, consider taking the next step and investing in further shaving off some weight. I may be biased, but a really lightweight weight pack that fits great is an excellent next step!

Five Things You Can Drop Right Now to Get Started

Nylon Stuff Sacks: Pull that sleeping pad out of the sack it came with and forget about it! Instead of rolling your pad up oh-so-tight and cramming it down into that thing (while your companions stand around and wait), you can just fold it up to the size of the back panel of your pack and slip down between you and your gear for extra cushioning. Same goes for awkwardly cramming your tent in that tight, tiny little stuff sack, especially on those cold, wet mornings when your fingers don’t want to work. Just ball it up and stash it at the bottom of your pack. It will not only lighten your load, but it will fill in empty spaces to make your pack feel more compact and push the rest of the bulk of the weight a little higher on your back, which is a good thing.

For scenarios where organization is critical and you can’t just leave a stuff sack at home, consider trading up to an ultralight stuff sack or two. Years ago, I dropped a pound by swapping out my roll-top and dry bag style sacks for my (then) homemade Cuben Fiber stuff sacks. Now, I like to use our Pods for my food, typically dividing meals into type (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to make things easier at the end of the day when I’m hungry and tired, and fill in the rest of my organizational needs with our standard stuff sacks.

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