Trail junction on the path from Lyon to Le-Puy, France 2009.
Making Light ~ Getting Small
Smaller makes lighter possible
“Space is a vacuum”, as our astronautical friends are fond of telling us. And vacuums don’t like being that way. Space doesn’t like to be empty. It wants to be full. So if you buy a pack that’s bigger than you need, it will come with its own insidious need to fill up.
By finding the smallest pack that can accommodate your gear and supplies, you automatically limit how much extra you can haul around.
“Don’t Buy a Backpack…” …until you know what you’ll need to carry. It will almost certainly be smaller than the one you would have selected if you purchase a pack early on in your trip planning. Even a pack that seems to have room left will eventually get stuffed to the gills, as you collect maps, brochures, souvenirs, etc., all very easy to do, if you have any spare room.
I often stop into various outdoor equipment stores, and I can’t believe how many times I’ve overheard a salesperson tell a prospective hiker, “well, generally, a 65 to 75 liter pack will give you plenty of room for a long weekend or so…”
I think a better way is to figure out what you’re going to need, assemble the best choices for those needs, carry it all down to your favorite backpack dealer, and find the smallest backpacks that can carry your kit. Any good dealer I’ve spoken to is more than happy to have you do that; some even encourage it. Many will allow you to buy a backpack, take it home and try it out, and if it doesn’t measure up (or down), you can return it (assuming it’s still like-new).
Don’t forget the volume of a sample picnic lunch, or a hydration reservoir if you’re planning to use one. If you haven’t selected every piece of gear or clothing yet, use the closest substitute or proxy you have. One of the outcomes of this exercise is that you will probably modify your packing list. Taking this approach – “How small can I use” versus “How big can I carry” – will probably lead you to a significantly smaller (LIGHTER) backpack than you might otherwise have purchased.