Beginners Guide

Basically, pack weight is like a continuum - the more you carry, the more comfortable you are in camp...but the harder it is to tramp (hike). And the less you carry, the more comfortable you are on the track...but the fewer comforts you have in camp. It's hard to have both (from Jeff @

Many trampers "talk" about going lighter and they tinker around the fringes. If you are seriously thinking of carrying less weight (and who doesn't) then first concentrate on the big four and go from there. But the first thing to buy is some scales. Create a spreadsheet and weight EVERYTHING.

The Pack - Why carry a 2.5Kgs on you back before you even start to load your pack! The bigger the pack to more you put in it, you don't need a 70 or 90-litre pack! For most trips, up to a full week, 35 to 45 litres in more than enough. This includes good outside storage like hip, rear and side pockets and bungee lacing. I can recommend Gossamer Gear's Gorilla pack, Ultra Light Adventure's Circuit (a bit too much room for me, but it was my first foray into lightweight), Six Moons or my current favourite, Zpacks Arc Blast. I use the 42L.

Dyneema and/or 2.92oz cuben fabric (now called Dyneema Composite Fabric) is light and bulletproof for bush bashing. I carried 10Kg for each of the two 9 day sections of the JMT in my Gossamer Gear Gorilla - including a bear barrel. For the less confident - more room, look at the ULA Catalyst, or MLD Prophet (you will change to a smaller pack in 12 months!!). My go-to pack now at 495 grams is the Zpacks Arc 42L. I got Joe to put the Arc frame on it (same as what they have on the 55L). If I was going new today I would opt for their Nero Pack.

Your Boots - It takes a lot of energy to lift 1.5kgs of weight on every step for 4 to 8 hours! Boots were the last heavy piece of equipment I gave up on - should have done it first up. Good trail running shoes will have you flying along and if you are doing a lot of river crossings you won't be lugging around another kilo of water in those wonderful Gortex waterproof boots. As for "ankle support", That's a marketing ploy by boot manufactures. Mountain runners subject their ankle to more stress than us trampers (hikers) and they fair OK. Try any good brand of trail running shoe that has a good toe cap and extended side protection - I have used Inov8 Rocklite 295/310, but are now hooked on Altra Lone Peak Zero Drop Shoes. Currently using Lone Peak 4's. The wide toe box is the big plus for me. Montrail and Sportiva make a couple of good trail shoes. Most of these shoes weigh in at 600 to 700gms. I loved the old Montrail Vitesses, but they stopped making them at the height of their popularity with the lightweight community. Insane!

Sleeping Bag - I basically tramp 3 seasons. You can get some very good bags between 450 and 600 grams - My favourite is Western Mountaineering or Zpack with waterproof duck down. For shoulder seasons I recommend the Zpacks 20F bag (550+ grams). The WM HighLite (455grams) is great in summer as a hut bag (NZ has a superb backcountry hut system). Why carry an extra warm bag when you can sleep in your gear that you are already carrying!

Tent - Once again, this is dependent on where and what season you are using your shelter in. I use to be a tarp and bivvy man, but today's fabrics and designs can give you an inclosed tent at the same or better weight. My go-to shelter now is the Zpacks Soloplex, Zpack sleeping bag and Thermarest Ultra-Lite mat (the mat is not "ultra" light but at my age (72), I enjoy the comfort!.

My 2 person, shelter is the Zpacks Twin. Check my home page for great sites (Zpacks, MLD (TrailStar), Gossamer Gear etc). There are hundreds of blogs and lightweight sites you can research.   You can cut 50% off your weight with these four items alone and that's just the beginning!

Food - I budget 550g a day - mostly freeze-dried - see my gear list

What you wear and what you pack: Every gram counts - think about packaging. Only pack what you need. On the trail, I see dozens of people with tubes of toothpaste, bars of soap, tubes of creams etc. Think about how you can repackage these to what you need for a few days, not a few weeks! Do you really need a knife, fork and spoon? Gas, cooker and pots are also heavy items you can save on. Think about personal hygiene and first aid. Many hikers carry a chemist shop. I have been at huts where women have pulled out "make-up bags". Darling, in the bush we love you make-up free!!! 

All up - My pack, sleeping gear and shelter come in at under 1.8Kgs!! It use to be 5.75Kgs! Check out my Gear list page. I stick to around 4Kgs of base weight (no matter how many days) and then add 550 grams a day food - 10 days = 10Kgs. Never carry water if you are 1 hour from any good source. I see people river bashing with a litre of water on board!

Remember, you are an adventurer in paradise, not a packhorse!


  1. Nice to have a kiwi take on light-weight tramping. I have realised in the past year or two that I need to lighten up, so my total pack weight (including water) has dropped from low 20kgs to around 10-11, but I can see your site will help me get below. I have already changed from boots to shoes (what a huge difference). Next to change is the pack and sleeping bag - just getting courage to downsize to a 40-45 litre pack takes a bit of doing when I am used to a 60l pack (even if it is not full most times). Keep up the blogging!

  2. Sorry Anthony - a belated reply. Yes, 45Lts is all you need. Remember, you have a lot of storage on the outside. I strongly suggest Zpacks Arc Blast. And for sleeping bag checkout Western Mountaineering (Highlite or Ultralite) or Zpacks (get waterproof down option and a long length).

  3. Just found your page.............what do you do about water, do you take a water filter? This is one of my concerns. water weights heaps! but I'm a drinker (of the water kind)

  4. I never carried a filter (that's 'an American thing'). Although I did get a Sawyer for the JMT - never used it. As long as you are above farming and heavy human traffic you're fine. I carry a pump bottle (750mls soda bottle). And only fill if I am going to be 1 hour away from next water source.
    It's amazing how many people carry a bladder load of water and they are hiking alongside a river or crossing creeks every half hour or so. If I am going to be on the tops with limited natural source, I will pack an additional one liter Platypus.

    1. really? I have heard of people getting sick from water that looks safe.

    2. Yes, that is true, but as I said it's all about where it is flowing from and through. Farm lands and high human/animal traffic will require filtering (a lot in North Island lowlands). Experience is my 'red light'. I have hike/tramped in NZ (mainly South Island high country) for 52 years - never filtered water, never been sick.
      But, hey, you are responsible for your own health so do what feels comfortable for you.

    3. I agree Rob. I think the risk of water contamination in the NZ bush has been hugely over inflated. Even the Milford Track tour guides say to clients the water is safe to drink.


Hey, thanks for you contribution - I monitor my blog weekly. I will reply with comments, ideas and suggestions ASAP - In the meantime, remember, hiking is an outdoors experience to enjoy, not an army boot camp training exercise!!