5 Backpacking Essentials That You Can Leave At Home

One of the challenges of backpacking is bringing just enough to meet your needs on the trail without over packing. This is one of the joys of backpacking, too. Every piece of backpacking gear you choose to carry adds pack weight and takes up precious pack space. While you can eliminate unnecessary items, there are certain essentials you have to carry.

Once you’re familiar with the outdoor essentials, you can get a better sense of what you need to carry and what you can leave at home on a backpacking trip. Comforts and luxury items can be important, especially on long trips, but knowing what you actually need and what is excess is a good place to start when eliminating pack weight.

Here are five backpacking essentials you can leave at home to reduce pack weight.


You absolutely need water. Without water you will die, so drink water and stay hydrated.

That being said, you don’t have to carry all of the water you need for your backpacking trip. Water is super heavy and it takes up quite a bit of space.

Instead of carrying 3+ liters of water each day, carry a water filter or water purification tablets to reduce pack weight and save space.


A shelter is another outdoor essential that you must have whether you’re car camping for the weekend or you’re on a long distance thru-hike.

Instead of a big, bulky tent, try a hammock or a lightweight tarp instead.

Survival knife

It’s almost blasphemous to say, but most people don’t even need a knife on the trail. Of course, a knife is super useful and it’s a good idea to have some type of blade when you’re heading outdoors.

Instead of that super heavy survival knife, a small, lightweight pocket knife will do just fine.


Unless there’s a burn ban in effect, you can make a small cooking fire to boil water and cook your meals. Stoves are definitely easier and more convenient, but they take up a good amount of space in your backpack. Many would say that a good backpacking stove is more valuable on the trail than it is burdensome.

Still, if you’re looking to cut pack weight and your fire building skills are solid, you can leave the stove and fuel canisters at home.


There’s no denying that a compass can save your life. If you know how to use a compass, that is. It’s a time-tested battery-free navigation tool that has earned a right to have a permanent spot in your hiking pack.

Of course if you bring your phone, you could leave the compass at home.

Phones are lightweight, compact, and incredibly useful. Download trail maps and apps with wilderness survival information. Your phone can be used as a backpack flashlight, and it can save your life in an emergency.

Charge your phone on the drive to the trailhead, and switch it to airplane mode – or better yet, turn it off unless you need it.

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