By Michael Lanza

The fact that you opened this story means you already recognize a simple backpacking truth: Reducing the weight in your backpack will make this activity feel like an entirely different and far more enjoyable experience. But how do you navigate the transition from heavier to lighter gear—what should you replace first, second, and so on? This story will guide you through the most logical progression of steps to a lighter backpacking gear kit—and happier days on the trail.

I’ve learned the tips shared below as someone who began backpacking when gear was much heavier—and who has spent more than three decades backpacking thousands of miles all over the U.S. and around world, including a quarter-century testing and reviewing countless packs, tents, boots, bags, and other gear as a past Northwest Editor and lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for 10 years and over a decade (and counting) for this blog.

If you have older gear, these steps can help you slash your base pack weight—which includes your gear and clothing but not food and water—potentially by 10 pounds or more. You will also significantly reduce your gear volume, allowing you to use a smaller, lighter pack. If you’re a new backpacker buying your first gear kit, use these steps to prioritize your gear purchases and focus on going as light as you can afford and that is practical for you.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker hiking through Kerrick Canyon in Yosemite National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Todd Arndt backpacking in Yosemite National Park. Click photo to see my e-guides to this and other great backpacking trips.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”598″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=900%2C598&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking through Kerrick Canyon in Yosemite National Park.” class=”wp-image-11445″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=1024%2C680&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=300%2C199&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=768%2C510&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=1080%2C717&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=200%2C133&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=670%2C445&ssl=1 670w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Yos12-024-Kerrick-Canyon-Yosemite-NP-CA-copy.jpg?resize=900%2C598&ssl=1 900w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside
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