Is Lighter Always Better?

Anyone who has spent time backpacking knows that you don’t want to carry extra weight if you don’t have to. Learning what you should and shouldn’t pack, and learning how to do without, is part of the fun of backpacking. For some, however, eliminating ounces becomes just as much a part of backpacking as putting boots on the trail. Reducing pack weight can turn into an obsession, and people are willing to leave essential gear at home or shell out big bucks for the latest and greatest titanium or carbon fiber lightweight gear on the market.

So, this raises an important question about backpacking gear. Is lightweight gear always better? Here are a few things to consider.

Activity

It’s easy for backpackers to get caught up in counting ounces. Unfortunately, obsessing over lightweight gear is contagious. Blame it on marketing or recommendations from friends, but soon enough you have car campers trying to find the lightest outdoor gear available.

Here’s an easy way to decide whether or not lightweight gear is right for you. How much work do you have to do?

  • Hikers and backpackers shoulder 100% of their gear.
  • Bikepackers have it easier than backpackers, but weight still makes a big difference on a bicycle.
  • Weight matters more in a canoe or kayak if the water is low.
  • Car campers don’t need lightweight gear.

Comfort

People try to reduce the weight of their packs because it makes hiking more comfortable. Carrying less weight means you’re doing less work. Of course, sometimes carrying extra weight actually increases your comfort.

For example, you can save a lot of weight by leaving your sleeping bag and tent at home. Of course, by doing so you’ll be cold, wet, you’ll be eaten alive by mosquitoes, and you won’t get any sleep. In this situation adding weight actually increases comfort.

Think about comfort before making a decision in the name of weight savings.

Negligible weight savings

This is one of the biggest dangers in ounce counting. You have a lightweight aluminum cook pot, but you can save 4 ounces if you buy a titanium cook pot. Most people will have one one of the following reactions:

  • Why would I buy a different cook pot just to save 4 measly ounces?
  • I can save 4 whole ounces?! Sold!

Sometimes lightweight gear saves a lot of weight, but 99.9% of people aren’t going to feel a 4 ounce difference on their backs.

Being prepared

The easiest way to reduce the weight of a hiking backpack is by leaving gear out of your pack. You can ditch some items without too much risk, but omitting backpacking gear is a slippery slope. What starts out as cooking food over a fire instead of packing a stove can turn into packing a trash bag instead of a tent, or packing a Mylar blanket instead of a sleeping bag.

It’s important that you don’t leave yourself vulnerable by leaving essential items at home, or by packing inadequate gear.

 

Yes, weight matters, and lightweight gear is a great way to help reduce the weight of your hiking backpack. Don’t get caught up in the numbers game, though. Start looking beyond the ounces, and choose your backpacking gear based on your needs rather than on weight alone.

Looking for backpacking gear in Northwest Arkansas? Visit Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters for any of your camping, hiking, backpacking, or any outdoor needs.

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