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September 22, 2020
There are so many ways to reduce your pack weight whether adventuring outdoors or travelling overseas.
The three heaviest items in your backpacking are your backpack, your sleep system and shelter - often termed the Big 3. This is often the easiest place to shed weight. But with some forethought you can optimise other often forgotten and overweight packing groups.
Tip #1 Don’t bring more than you need. Try to estimate and limit yourself to essentials. As an overview I use three criteria to determine whether to bring an item:
a) can it be multi-use
b) is it minimal impact (think Leave No Trace Principles) on the environment
c) can I share it with someone else or buy it during the journey.
Tip #2 Sun protection. Being sun smart goes beyond just wearing sunscreen. Think more holistically about the environment and the clothes you choose to bring. Wear a hat, long sleeve clothing, hood, bandana or even sun gloves. I decant a small amount of sunscreen I plan to use into a smaller bottle. Since I can reduce the amount needed by my clothing choice I often bring a fraction of what comes in a store bought bottle. Staying sun smart also means you end up needing less of other items like burn cream, aloe vera or anti-inflammatories to reduce pain.
Tip #3 Cut your toothbrush and use tooth powder (yes, it’s a thing). Before the days of toothpaste there was tooth powder. Tooth powder can be as simple as bringing baking soda, a natural store bought powder or making your own. Simply wet your brush bristles and add the powder. It will foam and act just like your standard toothpaste, it’s easy to measure and will save you lots of weight. I pack mine into a gram sized plastic bag or container. Some people like to bring a plastic finger brush. I prefer a standard toothbrush and just cut the handle down to a smaller size. If you are a daily flosser then consider a measured amount of floss and needle (which can double as a gear repair kit).
Tip #4 Multivitamins. This may seem a bit extra, but hear me out. With multivitamins you can ensure you are getting all of the nutrients you might be missing out on with alternative food you might have in camp or a foreign country. I keep these with my toiletries or food, and take them daily or per a doctor’s advice. I find with these added to my diet I can perhaps even cut weight on some of the food. As long as my macronutrients and caloric intake is good I am less worried about being low energy from any lack of nutrients. Sometimes I add electrolytes and Vitamin C powder to the first aid kit or toiletries too.
Tip #5 Should I pack the Chanel Coco Mademoiselle? Perfumes, colognes and deodorant often attract bugs when out in the bush. If travelling where they are larger animals they could even become an attractant to habituated mammals such possums or bears. If I bring anything scented I keep it with my food to avoid any unwanted visitors at night. If I must bring deodorant because I want to impress a special someone on the trail then I’d consider something like Thieves Dentarome Plus (doubles as deodorant and toothpaste) or Dr Bronners Peppermint (multiuse soap and toothpaste). Leave the aerosol cans behind if flying. And finally, accept that you may have to wear clothes more than one a day but most likely your travel companions are in the same boat.
Tip #6 Keep clean. Even if we don’t always smell like flowers when out bush it is imperative to still stay hygienic. As I mentioned before my favorite soap is Dr. Bronners. The liquid version is natural and you can even brush your teeth with it. If I’m travelling overseas on a longer trip and fearful of luggage explosions then I might opt for their bar of soap which can be used for anything including washing clothes and your hair. Another bar I am a big fan of it Australian made Dindi Naturals. In addition to soap, I always keep a bottle of hand sanitiser on me. Staying healthy will mean less logistics, first aid kit use and overall drama. Think about it- you use less when you're healthy than when you’re crook, and this means you can afford to carry less.
Tip #7 Be hardcore and consider ditching the toilet paper. If you’re spending extended time in a wilderness area then pack out all your waste. This includes your used toilet paper (ewww)! Dig a hole roughly 20cm deep, do the deed and wipe with an object that you can identify and will not be invasive or rough on your nether regions. I promise it works and saves weight. If you are open to this then you can budget 2-4 squares per day or toilet paper. If you become a true expert and master the “backcountry bidet” you can even go dunny roll free. If you think it sounds too messy or you might botch it then it’s better to leave no trace than causing a mess for someone else, and just pack out your waste.
Words by Jordan Morrison
50 DAYS Ambassador
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands we live, journey, learn and breathe. We pay our respects to their elders past and present. Always was. Always will be. Always adventure respectfully.