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Core Principles, Lightweight Backpacking
Author’s son, Chase, off-trail on the Uinta High Traverse, Uinta Range, Utah.

Why Most People Flounder When they Start Lightweight Backpacking

When I started the process of lightening my pack, I floundered – I spent an inordinate amount of time and money guessing my way through a framework that was broken. It looked like this:

  1. I realized that my pack was too heavy.
  2. I went to an outdoor specialty shop seeking help, or worse, shopped at online retailers for stuff that looked better than what I had.
  3. I purchased hundreds of dollars of new gear.
  4. I went backpacking with the new gear.
  5. I realized the new gear didn’t really keep the promises it made to me for a lighter pack and a more satisfying outdoor experience.
  6. I came home and my pack was still heavy.
  7. I went back to #2 and repeated the process.


There had to be a better way.

Over time, I invested countless hours into developing a cautious, intentional, careful, and methodical approach to lightening my pack, learning lightweight backpacking skills, and developing the solid foundations required to have a safe, comfortable, and satisfying experience with less weight in the wilderness.

Core Principles of Lightweight Backpacking

Eventually, I settled into a core framework that has been the foundation of my writing, instruction, clinics, seminars, and schools for more nearly two decades:

  1. Take inventory;
  2. Simplify;
  3. Limit contingencies;
  4. Value core function;
  5. Consider multiple use;
  6. Build systems;
  7. Develop your skills.

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