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Lessons from a long walk: Keep the weight of your pack down

While walking the Camino this year, I gained the trail name 'Snow Light'. The 'light' part came from the fact that I had considered the weight of everything before adding it to my pack.

Although I am not an ultralight hiker, my pack weighed far less than those of most of my Camino family.

One of my friends thought the weight of his pack - that I could barely lift - was not impacting his enjoyment at all. Then one day, he had to walk with a light day pack instead of his full rucksack.

"Ah, now I understand!"

Here are some of the things I have learnt about how to keep the weight of my pack down. What can you add to the list?

Consider the weight of the pack itself

To my mind, this is not as important as choosing a comfortable pack. My pack is not particularly light but is comfortable, so I anticipate that I will continue using it for a while. Having said that, if I do a long trek that requires me to carry a lot of food, I will be reassessing the weight of everything!

Check the weight of everything before you pack or wear it

Do you have something more lightweight that you could wear instead and that will still do the job? For the last few years, I have worn walking trousers because they dry quickly. When walking the Camino, I decided that weight was more important, so I wore leggings instead.

Spare shoes can weigh a lot too. It's always nice to have something else to put on your feet at the end of a long day's hike. Would something lightweight like a pair of barefoot sandals do just as well as something heavier?

I was astonished to find that my water bottle weighed 250g when it was empty! I quickly found myself one that was much lighter. Bladders also tend to be lighter than bottles per litre capacity.

Consider the calorie-to-weight ratio of your food

This is a lesson that Maggie and Ian taught me when I met them on the South West Coast Path.

One of the stories they told as we strode along was from when they hiked Scotland's West Highland Way. A group of lads had set off at a similar time to them, and every day, they noticed that the group was smaller as, one-by-one, the lads gave up. Finally, there was only one left. At the end of a punishing day's hike, he too decided that he had had enough. As he left the trail, he offered Maggie and Ian the food that he had not yet eaten. As he pulled it out of his rucksack, they were astonished to find that he had been carrying a lot of low-calorie, heavy food, including a bag of apples. No wonder they had all given up, carrying that much weight with them!

Excerpt from my book, Live Your Bucket List.

Carry only what you need

When I finished walking the South West Coast Path and the Camino, I was delighted to find that I had used everything in my pack except for emergency items. Don't skimp on things that you are likely to need, especially on longer, more remote hikes. Equally, it's worth avoiding the temptation to carry things you are unlikely to need or collect guidebooks and heavy trinkets as you walk.

Don't necessarily carry everything you need for the whole walk

Walking the South West Coast Path, I set off in a September heatwave. It was cold at night, but still warm during the day. I wore lightweight trail shoes on my feet and carried a pair of lightweight gloves. Later in the walk, the weather became wetter and colder, so I arranged for people I was meeting to bring warm, waterproof gloves and my walking boots. I knew that I would have those opportunities, so didn't carry all the kit I expected to need later in the walk.

On the Camino, some of my friends posted their warmest clothes home after scaling the Pyrenees. This saved them a lot of effort for the next few weeks while they were walking in a heatwave. When we reached hills again, it was far cooler and they had to re-stock.

It is worth considering your options if you are on a long hike and expecting to walk through differing conditions.

Empty your whole rucksack from time to time

It can be surprising what you accumulate without noticing - receipts, empty packets, leaflets or guidebooks, food that you are not going to eat, litter you have picked up on the path. If you empty every pocket of your rucksack from time to time and only re-pack what you need, you may well find that your load is lightened.


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73 views2 comments


Ronald Turnbull
Ronald Turnbull
Nov 02, 2022

Well - when checking weight of rucksack, consider also its weight when soaking wet. On rough country in the Western Isles I once found myself under one that had gained about 5lb in weight under the rain – an extra bit of grief I didn't actually need at that moment!

Replying to

That's something I hadn't considered. I guess that's a good reason to use a rain cover even if everything inside is in a dry bag.

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