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Photo taken 3 hours before our son’s 18th birthday, right after his eagle paperwork was signed!

FUN NEWS! Our Superior hiking Trail adventure is being featured all week as a series on the BSA Instagram page. Volunteering with our son’s Boy Scout Troop has provided me with opportunities that have ignited a passion for the outdoors and empowered me to pursue adventure both inside and outside of Scouting activities. I’m grateful for the youth and adult leaders that have taught me along the way and am totally honored to be featured as an Adventure Ambassador! So to celebrate, I have been reposting the BSA feature and sharing photos of our own family’s Scouting history on the WP Instagram and Facebook page every day this week. Check it out! Thanks BSA!


Lighten up!

Last week, I posted our itinerary and more stuff I learned from our Superior Hiking Trail hike on the blog and dedicated the whole week on the Wandering Pine Instagram to the gear I brought. As part the SHT series, here’s my beloved packing list! Hit subscribe if you want more food and gear tips and to follow my journey to finish the last 200 miles.


My very first backpacking experience was an overnight shakedown on the SHT a little over 6 years ago. I volunteered to be the adult leader for the older scout 3 day Glacier National Park backcountry trek without ever having backpacked before. No one else volunteered! So I read a book, went to a class, talked to some folks and carried the same gear on our shakedown that I would haul on our 3 day trip in bear country.

fullsizeoutput_c31My green 65L REI pack weighed almost 45 lbs loaded for that 3 day trip. A couple of years later, when we were prepping for our Isle Royale High Adventure Trek, I passed that pack down to my son and got my load down to 32 lbs (pictured above). I was super proud of that! Looking back, I carried some things I didn’t need (obviously). But, the top 5 things I worked on during this evolution to a lighter pack weight were:

  1. Backpack
  2. Sleeping Bag/Pad
  3. Tent
  4. Clothing
  5. Water


1. Backpack

  • I started with a 5+ lb REI 65 L pack that I got cheap but didn’t fit me well and totally over filled.
  • Upgraded to a 4.5 lb Osprey Aura 50. I reduced 15 L in size to reduce overpacking and never missed those 15L one bit! I’ll still hang onto this pack for trips where I am carrying over 25 lbs (like winter gear).
  • Made my own 10 oz. 50-60L Ray Jardine Frameless backpack kit. I realized that my previous backpacks weighed quite a bit empty due to their suspension and fancy features, and that most of those would not be needed if I carried less weight. This type of pack really isn’t designed to carry over 25 lbs, so that’s important to keep in mind. I added some custom features during construction and ended up adding a lightweight ‘store bought’ hip belt I got in the clearance bin – doubling the pack’s weight, but still only totalling 21 oz, about 4 lbs less than where I started.


2. Sleeping Bag/Pad

  • I started with an old school down mummy bag that was given to me…I think that baby weighed about 5 lbs and stopped being warm at about 50 degrees when the dew would roll in. I paired it with a Thermarest pad
  • Upgraded to an REI Seranna 20 degree bag and a Thermarest Prolite pad, those two things together helped but still weighed 4.5 lbs
  • Finally switched to an Enlightened Equipment Revelation 10 degree ultralight water resistant down quilt. And after testing a few pads, settled on the Big Agnes Inslated AXL pad. The combined weight of the two is just under 2.5 lbs! I sold 3 sleeping bags to buy my quilt about a year ago and absolutely love it. I like that I was able to customize it, eliminate unecessary weight (material and fasteners) and use it as a sleeping bag or hammock under quilt. My Big Agnes pad is super plush but was a tad chillier than I expected at 40 degrees. But the combo worked pretty great for our trip and lopped off at least another 5 lbs from my first backpacking sleep system.


3. Tent

  • I bought an Asolo Backpacking tent that weighed 6 lbs for that first backpacking trip. My only other tent was a HUMONGOUS REI Kingdom 6 tent that is still pretty “glamporous”, so this was a much lighter weight option. The little green Asolo tent is still going strong and belongs to our youngest son now.
  • Upgraded to a Hummingbird Hammock with whoopee slings and a light weight tarp. I was able to get a solo set up down to a little under 2 lbs.
  • Switched gears and decided to go back to a tent a couple of months before the trip, so my sister and I could share a space. I upgraded to a Tarptent Saddle 2 that someone had never used and sold at a pretty good deal. Overall weight is 36 oz if you use your trekking poles to set it up and 42 oz if you add the small poles. This tent weighed about the same as my hammock/tarp/strap set up, fit two of us comfortably and still ended up cutting 4 lbs off my starting weight.


4. Clothing

  • I remember packing a clean shirt and underwear for every day on the trail and a couple of extra warm layers for that first shakedown on the SHT and GNP (in July!) I didn’t weigh all of those clothes but realized I didn’t need most of them
  • I brought less extra clothing on our Isle Royale Trip but knew I could still cut it further after that trip.
  • I don’t have a total weight saved, but did just fine with the clothes I wore every day on the SHT. I still carried just under 5 lbs of clothing that was not worn, but knew we would have wet and cold weather conditions that required rain gear and warm layers at night.   Earlier this summer, I finally replaced my old Target Merona down puffy that’s been with me forever with the Enlightened Equipment Torrid Synthetic Jacket.   You might remember my story about the poor female cardinal that mistook me for her soulmate while I was camping at Mystery Cave State Park.   It’s THAT awesome of a red!  I’m happy with how lightweight and warm it is, and wore it a lot before and after hiking on this trip.


5. Water

  • This was HUGE! My first few trips, I would fill a 3L hydration bladder and sometimes carry a nalgene bottle too. That’s 136 oz, well over a gallon and weighs 8.5 lbs! I’m not going to tell you how much water to carry, but unless you are in extremely dry conditions, this is probably too much. Ultimately you have to know your body and environment, but it’s worth planning your water stops and filtering along the way.
  • I switched to carrying (2) 20 oz Smartwater Bottles and filtering a couple of times a day. Even on the driest Northern sections of the SHT, we found water flowing. I did bring my Nalgene Canteen as part of my “Frankenfilter” water filtration system knowing I could carry more water if it was needed and have some extra at camp for cooking/cleaning. Switching to two 20L bottles allowed me to carry 7.25 Lbs less than that first trip and I never went thirsty.

Working on these 5 things took about 20 lbs off my pack, not even including the extra clothing on that first trip.

Because of the length that we planned on being on the trail, I was really motivated to get my pack down to a sub 25 lb weight. Even with needing to carry a few more things since it was just the two of us, I was happy to have 20 lbs less on my back…for a trip 6x as long as that first Glacier Trip!

I spent about a year honing my pack weight: selling gear, buying gear, weighing gear, making gear, weighing gear again, researching, talking to more experienced folks, eliminating duplicates….but the heaviest and toughest thing I had to eliminate wasn’t even on the list above…


Its one thing to be prepared. But learning to bring only what I need and not allowing fear to overly influence my decisions is something I will probably work on for the rest of my life. I remember bringing extra clothes and socks for Scouts and a HUGE First Aid Kit on that first trip. AND carrying the most ridiculously huge 2 lb Summer Sausage! Food fears can be especially heavy and I’ll post more about that in the future.

IMG_3186The Packing List!

It’s all right here…my packing list with after trip notes! Its a work in progress and you have to go with what you are comfortable with, but I love seeing what kind of gear other folks bring!

It might seem kind of geeky to make an excel grid of your list, but doing this and weighing all of your gear on a food scale is the best way to whittle things down if you are focusing on items other than the big 5 listed above.



SHT 18 Gear List

More Ways to Lighten Your Load!

Reducing your pack weight isn’t just about counting ounces or buying fancy expensive gear. I have enjoyed the continuous process of simplifying my needs and possessions. It’s flowed into other areas of my life, and it feels good to live on a little less. Its easier to pack and unpack each day and when you are looking for something, you can find it more quickly since you don’t have a bunch of extra stuff to sort though.

If you are interested in more ways to lighten your load, check out these other Wandering Pine Posts and tell me something you have done to reduce your pack weight!

Making your own Ultralight Backpack

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Gear Review

5 gear Hacks and How to Lighten Your Load Without Breaking the Bank

10 tips for Scoring at an REI Garage Sale

Moarr Gear and my new Favorite Backpacking Book

…and because winter is coming…

A California Transplant’s Guide to Winter Layers


IMG_2407Thanks for reading, happy trails!



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10 thoughts on “Lightweight Backpacking Tips: 5 ways I reduced my pack weight – Including packing list

  1. Another great post. Congrats on BSA sharing your journey. Totally unrelated, but how did you attach your patches to your pack? I have four sitting here for the past year trying to figure it out.

    1. Hi Linda! I sewed my SHT patch on with my machine when I was making it and just safety pinned the others on for this trip. My day pack has hand sewn hiking club patches on the front. Thanks for reminding me I took my BSA shoulder patch off my uniform and need to sew it back on! 🙂

  2. Great post!!!! Loved the Instagram pics… we’ve been many of the same places 😉 And most of all -congrats to your son on becoming an Eagle Scout… a big deal!

      1. I hope you’ve got that picture of you and your Eagle Scout son framed and on the wall by now! 😉

  3. This is awesome and inspiring! Thanks for sharing the details of your backpacking weight loss journey. I’m getting mine down too, but haven’t done a spreadsheet yet to see where I’m at.

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