The Exceptions to “Every Ounce Counts”

Every diehard ultralight backpacker has “every ounce counts” tattooed on his or her wrist. Every single one of them. No exceptions. That’s because “every ounce counts” is more than just a mantra to live by. It’s a way of life. People who don’t count ounces just don’t understand. Ever heard the saying, “the straw that broke the camels back”? Do you even know how many ounces a piece of straw is?

There’s nothing wrong with trying to lighten you pack weight, but counting ounces is a slippery slope. If you one day find yourself peeling apart two-ply toilet paper to save weight, just remember there are some exceptions to the “every ounce counts” rule.


You don’t have to carry all of the water you need. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. A portable hiking water filter or water purification drops can provide all the water you need without adding much weight. That is, assuming you have a source of water. However, it’s extremely risky to altogether ditch packing water and rely on finding a stream, lake, or puddle. Dehydration on the trail can be serious, so always pack some drinking water.


Many backpackers like to carry an extra day’s worth of food, or at least a couple of meal bars or an instant backpacking meal. Injury, getting lost, overestimating your hiking pace, etc. can keep you on the trail longer than expected. Backpacking requires a lot of calories, so you don’t want to find yourself struggling to keep moving because you ran out of food.


There’s a fine line between toughing cold temperatures and being at risk for hypothermia. It’s especially important to pack adequate insulation when precipitation is in the forecast. You don’t need to over pack, but you do need adequate insulation whether that means a warm wool base layer or a synthetic fleece mid layer.


You need protections from the elements. Bring rain gear if it’s going to rain. Pack sunscreen and lip balm if it’s going to be sunny, or even if it’s going to be cloudy. Pack a hat no matter what. Staying protected from the sun, wind, and rain are just as much about safety as they are about comfort.


You can still count your ounces, just make sure you don’t skimp on these things. And sure, every ounce does count, but sometimes it’s more important to be comfortable or prepared than save weight. A better way of thinking about pack weight is to “make every ounce count”. Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters for any camping or backpacking equipment before your next trip!

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