I grew up with a love of hiking, at least until the military beat it out of me. Since then I’ve been out long enough that I’ve not only picked up some tips, but I’ve also come to once again love the activity. I don’t usually just hike around though; I tend to do it to reach camping locations that I like. Over the years I’ve picked up some tips and tricks regarding how to make your pack as light and as comfortable as possible, as well as for helping ensure your safe and successful trip.
First you need a pack that is the right size. I’m not talking about the bag part, though that is important what I’m talking about is the fit of the straps. Some packs allow adjustments of various types for taller and shorter people. You want to make sure that the belt while properly strapped around your hips also pushes the shoulder straps up and slightly loose or even sometimes off the top of your shoulders. The belt must be properly strapped around your hips on or slightly high on your hips. This is where the bulk of the weight will be carried for most of your trip, as your legs are generally much stronger and more used to weight than your shoulders are.
Failing to do this properly will mean a great deal of pain along your shoulders and back as you hike. It’s imperative as well to pack the heaviest items along the portion of the pack that is closest to your body. All the recommendations I’ve come across state that low to mid pack is where you want them. You can get them higher up in the pack but be aware that this allows for the pack to pull away from your center of gravity and will also strain your body. Along with location you want the weight to be as evenly spread left to right as possible. It will only cause injury if you overload one side of the pack.
Everywhere else is for packing other items, from clothing and rain gear to cookware and food. You don’t always need to spend loads of money on the lightest items available either. You can get along just fine in most cases with midweight items. However, a good idea is to carry as many items that serve multiple purposes as necessary. So instead of just a tarp, find a poncho that can double as a tarp. A multi tool is often a good idea as it has multiple useful tools on it and can be quite compact.
I gave up my knife/fork/spoon combo tool when someone got me a titanium spork for my birthday one year. Since I carry a multi tool anyway, the spork was a great addition and was much lighter overall than my combo utensil. You can find all the lists you want online in multiple locations. I’m not going to bore you with a list of specific items to take.
There are also assertions that using at least one hiking stick is beneficial. This is up to each individual and their hiking style. So far, I’ve found that the cheap aluminum ones aren’t worth the investment as you can’t use them aggressively, but that’s my style of use. There are a multitude of hiking stick options out there, many of which are quite good. Whether or not you use them is up to you and your preference.
Footwear is of supreme important, as is having extra pairs of socks. Don’t go hiking in shoes that aren’t broken in, unless you really want to damage your feet. Wear a good pair of socks and bring extra to switch them out as needed especially if you sweat a lot or if it rains. Some tricks to spots that are wearing for you to try: 1) duct tape the shoe or sock where it’s rubbing, but not on your skin, that will come off with sweat. 2) Cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose that have a run in them elsewhere, the material reduces friction very nicely. 3) invest heavily in moleskin.
My pack weighs in usually between 35 and 50 pounds for an overnighter, depending on if I bring extra water for someone else or what the weather is going to be like. I tend to pack a little heavy though and have almost always done that. If I tried going ultra-light, I’d probably weigh in at 15-20 pounds depending on how much water I needed. Since I tend to prefer having a full belly, and extra food and water just in case it’s hard for me to strip the weight down. This trip I’m at 42 pounds carrying extra water (6 liters total) and food for my son who’s with me. Still not too heavy of a pack.