What you got in that bag? Backpack Weight, Contents and Effect on Your Hiking Experience.

Jason Doucet “The Punisher” – AcadianX Co-Founder

Backpack weight hasn’t always been a concern of mine. My first hiking experience I borrowed an external frame pack from my friend Mike, threw whatever gear I had in it and hit the trail. As I progressed in my hiking adventures, purchasing new equipment along the way I admit I didn’t research anything. I’d decide I needed something new, go to the store and buy what was cheap and would serve my purpose. I was carrying  a couple of knives, a Leatherman, Altoid cans full of random firing starters, extra clothes and tons of food. The list goes on, I was throwing stuff in the pack. My mentality towards my loadout stayed this way for years until my first trip into the mountains. I hiked the Snow Creek trail in Yosemite National park. A stunning ascent out of the Yosemite Valley with an altitude gain of over 1700 feet while hiking 1.7 miles. Basically straight up. When I got to the top exhausted all I felt like I’d carried a backpack filled with granite. Completing this trip, I immediately began to reassess the items in my pack. To me this was critical because from Yosemite, we were headed to Grand Canyon National Park. It was August and the group I was with planned on hiking the South Kaibab Trail to the Colorado river, ascending back up the Angel Bright trail to spend the night at Indian Garden. Neat fact: Kaibab means “mountain laying down” or “upside down mountain” in Navajo. So, we arrived at the Kaibab trailhead early one August morning and began our descent into the canyon. It was a really hot day and when we arrived at the Indian Garden campground I was exhausted. I’d spent most of the day adjusting my backpack. I couldn’t get comfortable. I felt like my pack was heavier than when I hiked Snow Creek. I was determined to never end a hike feeling this way again.

Hiking up the Snow Creek trail in Yosemite National Park.

Unlike when I began hiking the internet was now easily accessible and information was abundant. I was inundated with information. Everyone was talking about ultralight hiking, and cutting their toothbrushes in half, and ditching all creature comforts. I agree this approach has merit, though I believe it’s a little excessive. What I did do was start saving my money. First, I bought a new backpack. I purchased an Osprey internal frame pack weighing around 3lbs. Compare this to my old North Face pack which weighed nearly 8lbs. Next, I purchased a new tent and sleeping bag, again reducing my weight. The combined weight of my first load out of the B3 (big 3: backpack, tent, and sleeping bag) was nearly 18lbs. my new setup, 8lbs and currently my B3 weigh in at a whopping 5 lbs.

The benefits of reducing the weight of your pack are obvious. You spend enough time on the trail and you’ll reach a point when the only way to reduce your pack weight is to lose weight. A jest but it’s true. Carrying a heavy pack puts tremendous stress on your hips, knees and back. This burden takes away from the experience. Another key piece of information is, “Purchase a pack that fits you.” This is not a bookbag. Go to a store and get sized properly. A backpack with hip straps and chest straps is designed to carry a load a certain way on your body. Do the right thing: do not negate this design feature as I did when I purchased my first backpack. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. Afterwards charge through, save money, use the gear you have and set a goal to purchase the next two pieces of equipment to complete your B3. These two items can be as expensive as the backpack. My B3 cost around $1000 combined. Take your time, research, talk to friends, borrow gear and, never buy the Zero degree bag off Amazon.

Referring to my dissent from mantras of ultralight hiking, I’ll say I understand why a person will forego creature comforts such as a blow-up mattress, camp chairs, pillows, camp shoes, or other items such as binoculars and a titanium Snow Peak French presses– two things I feel enhance my adventure. I love a good cup of coffee. Here’s some Jason Doucet tips to lighten your pack and enhance your hiking experience.

      • Get all the gear you’re going to consistently use on most if not all trips, seasonal changes aside. Once you’ve reduced weight, introduce items with redundancy. Examples of items I carry are my titanium pot which also functions as my drinking cup, my 18-ounce shelter tarp supported by my trekking poles, eliminating a heavy tent and tent poles.
      • In addition, learned skills such as packing your backpack, which will make it ride better on your body making it feel lighter, setting up a tarp shelter or using water purifying tabs or a water filter.
      • Water purification skills are important. Water weighs around 8lbs a gallon. Now imagine you’re carrying 2 gallons with you on your trip into Glacier National Park in August, 60 miles over 4 days. That’s a lot of weight–but wait. If you do the research and have acquired the skills, you’ll know that you don’t need to carry much water at all because you’ll be walking along rivers, lakes and waterfalls the whole trip.
      • Lastly, I want to address hiking shoes. Many people start out buying a nice pair of waterproof hiking boots. Water resistant is more like it. I suggest you get use to wet feet. It’s ain’t so bad. They’ll dry, and any way shoes have a big hole in the top wear your foot goes. Back to the hiking boots, consider this, the United States Army wrote a research paper equating every pound on your feet to 7 pounds of force being exerted on your hips, knees and back. For example, I wear steel toed boots often. I weighed them, 2.3 pounds each. The math, 2.3 x 2= 4.6 total weight of both shoes, multiply this by 7 = 32.2 pounds. This means when I wear these boots the impact on my hips, back, and knees is the same as walking around with a 32-pound pack. Add a pack to the equation and think about the forces your joints are exposed to on a 20 mile hike. I personally hike in a pair of trail running shoes, combined weight less than 2 pounds. Before doing this consider how much ankle support you need. I would suggest checking out the Salomon shoe company.
      • A backpack is an extension of the wearer. Apply skills you’ve learned to determine what you absolutely need and then pack what you desire. Learn your likes and dislikes. You’ll find you don’t need enough food for 7 days on a 3-day trip.

Be safe out there and let us know if you have any questions. We’d love to help any way we can, cheers.  For more information about packing your backpack and choosing the right gear for you please visit our learning center at AcadianX U.

Homepage | AcadianXU (teachable.com)

Here is a link to our suggested gear packing lists to assist you in organizing your gear needs:

AcadianX Gear Packing Checklists – AcadianX Outdoor Adventures

Trekking Poles: The 4th item of the big 3…

Jason Doucet “The Punisher” – AcadianX Adventure Guide

My Journey

When I started hiking trekking poles were not a piece of gear I would carry. My pack was heavy. I had a 6 lbs. internal frame pack, a military sleeping bag and a 2 person dome tent which weighed about 4.5 lbs. As time went on I would get new gear, focusing on quality and weight. I was tired of my 60lb pack. I wanted to be more comfortable and faster. I got rid of Altoids cans, my Rambo knife and my pelican box and i was introduced to trap tents. I was stoked. My tarp weighed 20oz. A feather compared to the boulder I’d carried around my whole life. The mountain laurel tarp I purchased was supported by trekking poles, up to this point I associated trekking poles with old and/or unfit individuals. I was completely wrong.

Trekking poles have many uses for the backpacker. They are a travel assistance tool that can greatly assist in balancing and carrying heavy loads.  They help boost climbers uphill and help put on the brakes when going down. They offer balance and stability when fording rivers, traversing over uneven terrain, and travel on snow or scree. They redistribute effort across arms and legs, which helps in minimizing the stress on lower extremities allowing you to increase overall endurance.  My initial purpose as support for my shelter soon expanded. I realized I never wanted to leave home without them. I was faster, I was more balanced and I was less fatigued. The ability to have 3 points of contact with the ground at any time enhanced the hiking experience for me. As I’ve grown and had the privilege to introduce others to hiking, trekking poles have become the 4th of the big 3 (Backpack, tent, sleeping bag). Trekking poles make you a better a safer hiker. Trekking poles become spare tires.  Imagine yourself or a companion with a sprained ankle or twisted knee, right. For the weight and uses, regardless of age or fitness I suggest making some room for this light weight piece of gear in your pack.


A common tactic used by some backpackers and climbers is to shorten adjustable trekking poles slightly when traversing uphill (Figure 1a) and lengthen them slightly when traversing downhill (Figure 1b). For traversing uneven terrain, slide your uphill hand as far as necessary down the shaft of the pole below the handle (Figure 1c).

Figure 1:  Using trekking poles while traveling on different terrain.

Using the wrist strap is also meant to help distribute the weight and make it easier on your grip. To do this, first, put your hand up through the strap loop and then gab the pole grip so that the strap comfortably supports the wrist (Figure 2). In order to scramble a short, steep section, let the poles dangle by the wrist straps being careful not to get your poles caught in something. For a longer stretch, collapse the poles and stow them on the loopholes or bungie loops on the pack. In addition, some ultralight tents make use of the trekking poles in lieu of tent poles to reduce weight.

Figure 2: Trekking pole strap technique.


These are the features you want to take into consideration when selecting trekking poles:

      • Grips.  Cork or foam grips are designed for bare hands. Rubber grips are for use with gloves but after extended use tend to cause blisters on bare hands.
      • Shafts.  Aluminum poles have the tendency to bend before they break. Carbon fiber poles are light weight but more expensive and may fracture unexpectedly.
      • Shock Absorbers. They add weight and cost. I personally do not use them as they tend to wear out over time.
      • Baskets. Most poles come with snow baskets, beneficial also on ground or rock where it’s easy to jam a pole tip. Larger baskets are helpful when the snow is soft.
      • Tips. Carbide steel withstands abrasion. Option for rubber tip for traction.
      • Length. Most poles are adjustable using a locking mechanism. Proper fit is when they are long enough to allow a 90-degree angle at the elbow when standing on level ground. Poles should retract or fold for easy stowing inside the pack.
      • Locking mechanisms. Older designs primarily used twist-locks, which were prone to slipping when heavy loads were applied. External lever and push button locks are more reliable and faster to adjust in the field. Folding poles use an internal cord to keep sections together and securely aligned.
Figure 3:  Anatomy of the trekking pole