How to Be a Minimalist Hiker

Minimalist hiking. Lightweight backpacking. Dirtbagging. Whatever you want to call it, hikers have recently been eschewing the traditional ethos of packing heavy in favor of something that’s a little kinder on the back. Smaller packs, lighter gear, and fewer clothes are becoming commonplace along the world’s longest thru-hikes. If you’re looking to jump on the bandwagon and embrace minimalism, here’s what you need to do.

Choosing gear

You should not be hiking in order to use gear. That philosophy is key to minimizing the amount you take with you on both short and long hikes. When you place the emphasis on what’s necessary, rather than what sounds fun to use, you’ll find that many of the items you pack don’t serve many purposes.

So what do you take? For starters, aim for a smaller backpack that’s designed for long trips while also helping to prevent you from stuffing in things you don’t really need. One that includes a built-in hydration pack will let you lose the water bottle. Alternatively, pack a water filter that you can use to pull out sustenance from lakes and rivers. You can also reduce the size by focusing on inflatable gear like pillows rather than the stuffed variety.

Instead of a change of clothes for each day, bring a small bottle of soap so you can watch your clothes each evening. This’ll reduce the load immensely and help keep you smelling fresh.

Choosing a tent

Unless your goal is to sleep out directly underneath the stars every night – and you’re not afraid of a little rain – you’ll still want to pack a tent. A lightweight, two or one-person tent that weighs under three pounds and fits snugly into any backpack.

Hammocks are also a reliable and compact choice that can be taken out onto any hike in warmer weather. Similarly, an all-purpose rain fly won’t take up much room but will still protect you from the rain, if you must forego a tent entirely

Choosing food

Food is an essential factor to consider when packing for a minimalist hike. Rather than stuff your pack with hefty pieces of meat and chicken that need to be cooked over a fire, opt for smaller fare like grains and nuts. Pasta is also a quick, easy choice that doesn’t take up much room and can be fixed over a fire relatively quickly. Ideally Vacuum compressing food is a growing solution to the problem of bulk and is a great way to reduce the space your fruits and veggies take up in your pack while also keeping them fresh for a long trip.

Don’t pack for your fears

One of the things that bogs hikers down is the subconscious need to pack for our fears. Meaning, we worry so much about what might go wrong that we stuff everything we can into our packs in order to be prepared for it. The reality is that we should be learning how to survive in the wild through training and experience rather than relying entirely on tools to help us out in a pinch. One of the best things you can do to become a minimalist hiker is to take a wilderness survival course, a first aid class and learn as much as you can about navigation. This knowledge will help you much more than a backpack stuffed with the gear you don’t really have experience using.


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