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How heavy should your pack be?

If you carry a normal pack, you can expect to carry 13-18 kg on most of our trips.

If you choose to go light, you never need to carry more than 10 kg on any Kakadu or Kimberley walk lasting a week or less.

This is an information page: no pretty pictures, just lots of suggestions as to how you can keep your pack weight down, not just on our trips but wherever you may walk.
We welcome suggestions as to how we can improve this information.

Light-Pack Bushwalking

Most people carry far more than they need on overnight walks. Many others look at those heavy packs and decide that overnight walks are not for them. We'd like to show you the alternative.

You can enjoy a comfortable weekend in the bush while carrying no more than 8-10 kg. Leave the extras behind and you can get it down to 6 kg.

This page will give you a few ideas. It contains links to our own PDF detailed information documents as well as a number of useful websites.

You don't need much, only the following.

Pack. Most bushwalkers are conditioned to large framed packs and don't realise that they can easily and comfortably carry 10-12 kg in a simple, foam-stiffened pack. Change your pack and you've lost 1½ kg or more.

Shelter. There are a variety of lightweight tents on the market. Two people sharing means less weight for both. Or go back to basics with a tarp and net where you don't need poles or pegs. On most walks, if you carry more than 1 kg of tent, you are carrying more than you need.

Sleeping bag. You can easily get a three season down bag that weighs about 1.2 kg. Top only bags weigh about 750g. In warm weather, you might get by with a bag that weighs as little as 450 g. If two people are traveling together, they can often share a single bag by opening it out and using it as a blanket. Down probably still has the lightest weight to warmth ratio but some of the latest synthetics are getting close.

Silk Liner. A silk liner for your sleeping bag adds warmth and keeps the bag clean. It weighs only 150-200g. Cotton is much heavier.

Sleeping mat. By using your light pack under your legs, you can easily be comfortable with a ¾ length mat. A ¾ length Thermarest weighs about 800 g for the standard or 600g for the ultralight.

Torch. LED head torches are expensive but they weigh next to nothing and the batteries last a long time. The lightest we've found is 30g with battery good for 15 hours.

Eating utensils. Plastic weighs less than metal. A fork is an option. You do need a spoon and knife. Choose carefully and you can get the weight down to 50g.

Cooking. If you're not having a total fire ban, you'll want to cook. If you can't have a campfire, you'll need a stove. One stove can easily do for 4-6 people. The lightest I've found weighs 90 g - add fuel and you are still only 5-600g. Work out how much fuel you need before you go and save weight. A 1.5 L aluminium billy, good enough for 2-3 people weighs only 150g. Titanium is more expensive but weighs even less. One person could also use the billy instead of a bowl.

Water bottle. You can easily get by with old plastic drink bottles. Two bottles weigh 100 g (plus the water). Need more? Bring a wine bladder (50g) as a spare container. Need to purify your water? A few drops of iodine or purifying tablets weigh next to nothing.

Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, sun screen, insect repellent, toilet paper, personal first aid and medication, hair brush or comb. What else do you need? Use the smallest possible containers. (Film canisters work well for most things but be careful with insect repellents - if they spill, they'll destroy many things that they come in contact with.)

Spare clothes. 400 to 800 grams is all you need.

The 400 to 800 grams is based on the above. If you are confident you'll have reasonable weather for most of the time, nothing else is necessary.

If heavy rain and wind is possible, you might want to get a good Gore-Tex (or similar) jacket. This will increase the weight but you should be able to find a good jacket that weighs no more than 500-550g. If you're going to be walking in constant rain, you'll need something heavier - but it will be on you and not in your pack.

Leave a change of clothes in the vehicle for the trip home. The clothes you don't wear to bed can be used as a pillow at night.

Food. You can keep weights down by using dried spreads like hummous rather than things like peanut butter or jam. A moderate eater should be able to get the weight of breakfasts, lunches and snacks down to 250 g per day. Use dehydrated foods for your evening meal and it should weigh no more than your breakfast and lunch. If you don't have your own dehydrator, there are some good dehydes on the market. Our PDF document lists some suppliers you may not have heard of.

Optional Extras

Camp sandals. Some people find that the extra weight is well worth while so they can protect their feet without having to wear their boots/shoes. You should be able to find reasonable sandals that weigh between 100 & 300g.

Pillow. Many people find that a lightweight pillow makes the difference between a good night's sleep and an uncomfortable one. You can get decent inflatable pillows that weigh about 100 g.

Camera & film. Some cameras weigh next to nothing; 250g to 500g can get you a decent camera.

Book. For lazy days. 200 to 300 g. Don't forget, you can almost always trade during a trip.

Another lightweight win

If you are carrying a light pack, you don't need heavy hiking boots unless you have particularly weak ankles. "Research shows that every pound on your feet feels like 6.4 pounds in your pack. Switch to low-cut hikers or trail runners, and you'll save the equivalent of 10 to 15 pounds (about 4.5 to 7 kg). The key is not to swap until you've lightened your load - and considered the potential hazards of your terrain. But in the end, there's no better place to save weight and no other change that will make backpacking feel so much easier." (Dec 2002 issue of Backpacker magazine)

Want more info?

Click the links below to download our detailed PDF information sheets.

Download our six-page light-pack information document.

Download our five-page light-pack check lists including examples of exactly what certain people carry.

Go to a useful page of links to other websites that give information about light-pack bushwalking.

If you know someone you think would like to see this information, please click the link below to send them a link to this page.

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Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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