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7 tips to optimize the weight of your bag when hiking


GR5, GR10, GR20... every summer thousands of hikers embark on itinerant treks, often carrying huge backpacks. However, a bag that is too heavy can quickly turn your trek into a real ordeal. David Debrincat, recidivist adventurer, gives you his 7 tips to optimize the weight of your bag and hike lighter.


Today we are tackling the nerve of the war... The weight of the backpack!

It's all about finding the fine balance between carrying the essentials and what your shoulders can handle.

This subtle balance, I experienced it again this summer on the crossing of the Pyrenees (GR10). I started with 13 kilos, I eliminated as I went along the things that seemed absolutely vital at the beginning and were not. Some of the hikers I met confessed to carry more than 20 kilos... enough to turn the crossing into a real ordeal!

trekking backpack gr20 tips

An optimized bag = a hike you can enjoy! - Boris Pivaudran


Here are 7 tips to make your next expedition's backpack as light as possible . Of course, depending on the type of trek, the technicality of the terrain and the climate, you will not be able to save weight in the same places.

1- As a general rule, eliminate all "Just in case" and "If ever" items, except for safety essentials such as a small first aid kit.

2- Integrate the lack of comfort. When I left to cross Australia on foot, I knew that I was going to live in the bush in very rudimentary conditions. You have to accept it and consider that any non vital comfort object is a luxury that you can spare your back.

3- Avoid taking equipment that you can buy on site. Hiking routes often cross villages where you can get supplies (I admit it's not always easy in the mountains).

4- Optimize your choice of clothes to avoid superfluous items. Choosing is giving up, so opt only for materials that do not smell (to wear them for several days), that dry quickly (to wear them quickly once they are washed). Having tested it for a long time, the Proclimb2 range perfectly meets all these criteria.

long sleeve t-shirt trekking gr10 gr20

The hunt for grams also means choosing clothes that can be reused several days in a row - ©Boris Pivaudran


5- Chase the grams. No matter how insignificant it may seem to you, grams quickly become pounds. Do you really need all that camera equipment when your cell phone can do the job? Why bring several liters of water when you know you have a river nearby and a filtering straw will do the trick?... It is important that you know how to prioritize your needs.

6- Opt for light alternatives for the main parts of your equipment. Be careful, investing in ultralight equipment is not without a cost, but you won't regret it if you are a regular user. Three items should be your primary targets. First of all, the bag itself: choose a light model made of solid canvas and do not hesitate to cut the straps that are useless to you. Some metal frames can be very heavy and should be removed. Second object (if you are bivouacking): the tent. We often have the reflex to always want to sleep in a tent whereas in our temperate regions, we can bivouac under the stars in good weather: 2kg saved on the bag without doing anything*! There is also the option of a tarp or a single wall. Third object: the sleeping bag. Models with a high cuin value (the unit of inflating power of feathers) will guarantee you better thermal insulation for a given weight.

7- Choose foods with a high weight-to-calorie ratio. Even for a day hike, food can represent a significant part of the bag's weight. We often tend to take the same foods we are used to in our daily lives. But taking tomatoes and compotes on a hike is of no use, except for your gustatory pleasure. Indeed, these foods (like many others) are full of water: you are essentially carrying water, and very few calories. What you need is to carry the driest food possible: freeze-dried food, seeds, cashew nuts, peanuts... Because in general, the less water a food contains, the more calories it contains for a given weight. The number of calories/100g is usually indicated on each package. This does not exempt you from choosing foods of good nutritional quality, so please avoid Chinese noodles and "Bolinos".

bivouac equipment gr10 gr20 tips

When trekking, the bivouac equipment is a crucial aspect to save weight - ©David Debrincat

Bonus tip: do a first test while hiking. At the end of your trip, empty your bag and look at what was really useful or not. On your next outing, eliminate everything that wasn't useful the first time around: by repeating this selective process, you'll end up with an optimized bag!


Now you're ready for lighter rides!
*In addition, we recommend our article "The bivouac... or the art of sleeping under the Milky Way".

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david debrincat author adventurer masherbrum

Writer and adventurer of Pyrenean origin, David Debrincat has walked on all continents, including a solo crossing of Australia. He is the author of several books about his adventures.