How to Be a Minimalist Hiker

Backpacks in the Mountains

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 like the Mar­mot Tung­sten UL is a great option 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.