What NOT to Pack Hiking: 9 Things to Leave Behind
Gear is obviously on our mind when we are getting ready for a longer hike. We don’t want to carry too much but also don’t want to miss something essential. From every side, we are bombarded with tips and gear lists but also ads and store’s suggestions of “necessities”.
If you are anything like me, you try to lighten up your load to make you hiking easier and safer. If you don't - you either are lucky to start already with a pretty low load or you just don't know how much better your hiking will get once you cut a few pounds off your backpack.
But how can you determine which pieces of gear are really needed and which ones you can safely leave at home (or better yet – at the store)? Well, I have nine things you really don’t have to take with you to ease your load and help your wallet.
1. Too many pieces of cooking ware.
Depending on if you are going by yourself or with a group of friends, you might need just one pot or a few divided between all of you. As I am a solo hiker, I generally advise for solo hikers, too.
By yourself you need just one pot of about 750ml or 1l – to boil water for your tea/coffee and oatmeal or dinner. No need for plates, bowls, additional pans and so on. You may want to have a small cooker like MSR pocket rocket or the very fast Jetboil style cookers.
The same goes with utensils – no need to have a whole set of cutlery. One good spoon (or spork if that’s your preference) and one good pocket knife is enough. And ignore the temptation to grab weird gadgets like collapsible camping whisk or camping chopsticks.
2. Jewelry and Make-up
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with small and simple earrings, a ring or pendant. But anything bigger can be problematic. First of all, bigger pieces can catch on things and hurt you. It’s easy to lose them and finding something in woods is hard. Leave the nice things back home – losing them would take all the fun from your hike.
Another thing is make-up. I know we are flooded with photos of perfect models on top of the mountains… but believe me, no actual hikers look that way. It’s ok to be sweaty, a bit wild-looking and messy.
It really adds to the charm and cuteness of your photos. I was actually surprised how much I liked my photos from hikes. Probably, because instead of the work-ready make-up my face was filled with joy and happiness of the moment. Much prettier than any make-up.
And seriously, leave to perfume/cologne at home.
I don’t say you shouldn’t read during your long-term hike or that guide books are not useful. But anything bigger than a thin and light brochure is not worth taking. I personally love and suggest taking Kindle for long hiking – perfect to pack a few different books on it, guide book, trail descriptions, insurance papers and so on. It’s a way to go especially if you read fast and need a few books for your hike.
You may also copy just the pages you need - guidebooks very often have a lot of useless information, so grab only what describes your hikes.
4. Too many extra clothes
You must have a set of dry clothes – but you don’t need a shirt for every day of the week. I am not an ultra-light hiker so I do have more than one hiking tee, but there really is no sense to take three pairs of pants, five pieces of a top layer, three fleeces… you get the point. Merino wool is awesome in that it can be worn for many days in a row without much of a funk.
5. Too many spare things
Yes, you need an extra set of batteries for your headlamp. But two sets are overkill. Two sources of fire are also good – but three? Excessive. You are probably not going for a wild trip cut off months at a time from any civilization.
Most of the time even during long-term hikes or thru-hikes we are no more than 3-4 days from civilization (and stores). The longest hike I had with no visit to a village or town was 9 days but typically it was max. 3 or 4. Plan for those periods – you can buy extra batteries or food in the villages you pass through.
6. Huge dSLR camera
I love taking photos so I really understand the wish to take your beloved and high-tech camera. But it’s huge, weighs a ton and is a nightmare to use while hiking.
Unless you take a day hike with the sole purpose of taking nature photos, leave it behind. Take photos with your phone or a small but high-quality compact camera you can keep in your hip belt’s pocket.
I have a dSLR but I leave it behind and instead take my Sony rx100 m3 that I really like. It fits perfectly in my hip belt’s pocket and is easy to take out no matter how difficult is the trail I hike on.
7. Serious survival tools
Unless you are going for month-long survival trip (but then you probably wouldn’t be reading my blog) you don’t need an ax, a complex multi-tool devices, shovels or pocket chainsaws. You are probably going to use well-prepared trails, cook with your camp stove and sleep in your tent or a hammock. You don't need to chop your own wood or make your own shelter out of fallen trees and branches.
8. Folding chair
I won’t deny it – it does sound nice. But they are heavy. The ultralight folding chairs are crazy expensive and I don’t think they are worth it. During breaks, I either seat on a nicely-looking ground, on my backpack (best chair ever) or on a small foam piece of a seat to place on dirty or wet surfaces. Back support would be nice, but unless you have serious back issues - you probably can deal with a few days of improvised sitting arrangments.
9. Winter-grade gear for a light hike
I know it’s hard to have separate pieces of gear for every season and sometimes we have no choice but grab the only sleeping bag we have which might be too warm for the conditions. But if you only go for summer hiking, why buy a really warm (and heavy) sleeping bag?
Try to be prepared for the conditions you might encounter – take a rainproof jacket, a warmer layer and dry clothes for a change. But don’t take all that “just in case” stuff that’s really extremely improbable to be needed. Be prepared but don’t go crazy packing items for every possible (or impossible) situation.
What should I take instead?
I'm glad you asked :) I have some help for you here: