How to Avoid Overpacking for a Backpacking Trip

You’ve got your itinerary mapped out, a compass in hand, and water filtration system in tow. With just a few days to go before you embark on your backpacking trip, it’s finally time to pack.

Whether you’re traveling to a foreign country or down the street, we’ve all made the mistake of overpacking for trips—whether it’s too much water or an extra sweater for night. These additions may seem small, however they can add up and make your pack heavier than necessary.

Follow these tips to avoid overpacking for your next backpacking trip.

Make a Checklist

A checklist helps ensure you are only taking what is absolutely necessary. It will also help you see visually the items you plan to take. Write your checklist a few days before your backpacking trip and glance it over a few times. This way you will have time to remember little things you may have missed.

Break your checklist into categories: clothes, hygiene, electronics, first aid, medication, and GPS. Under each category write the necessities. Remember you only have one pack to carry all of your essentials and that pack will be on your back the entire trip. Less is more.

Lay it Out

Your first instinct may be to throw all your items into your backpack as you begin your packing process. Instead, lay your items out on your floor. This will allow you to visually confirm you have everything you need and can help you better organize your gear.

Use your checklist and compare it with the items you’ve laid out. This will help you lessen the chance of leaving something behind. After you’ve compared and contrasted, it’s time to get to packing!

Utilize Space

It’s no secret that backpacks are small. Make efficient use of the space you are given by utilizing every nook and cranny. This may mean stuffing pairs of socks in your pots or rolling your clothes rather than folding them.

Keep in mind that your bigger items should go at the bottom of your backpack to keep weight low and centered. Items that can leak should also be placed at the bottom of your backpack in the event of a leak.

 Be Strategic With Your Clothing

A backpacking trip isn’t a fashion show. While on other trips it may be ideal to have matching outfits for each day, on a backpacking trip you’re roughing it in the wilderness. First, pick base layers that can provide breathability and warmth. These are your essential clothing items, aside from wicking underwear and synthetic or wool socks.

Avoid bringing too many sweaters and larger clothing items. One insulting jacket and pants should be sufficient for outer layers, unless backpacking in a wet environment. If this is the case, bring a rain jacket and rain pants.

Be Strategic With Water

The average hiker drinks about 3 liters of water a day. This can vary depending on weather, length of hike, and your fitness level. If you are taking a 5-day backpack trip, it is simply impossible to bring 10-15-liters of water in your backpack. Yet, when partaking in strenuous backpacking, especially at higher elevations, it is essential to stay well hydrated.

If you will be hiking where you are 100% certain there will be a water resource, bring a water filtration system to eliminate weight in your backpack. This also entails determining exactly where this water resource will be on your trip. For example, if you won’t be able to reach it until the second day, it is important to bring enough water to tide you through your trip until you reach a destination with water supply. Start by checking a USGS topography map for the area you are looking to backpack in (you can download them for uses.gov for free) and see if there are any water sources nearby. Next, get in contact with the local park office or ranger office to ensure the water source is reliable.

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