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The 8 best 'weight weenie' items to pack for a thru-hike

You could learn a thing or two from how ultralight thru-hikers pack.

Not all hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail (or any long-distance thru-hike) begin this way, but somewhere along the route, nearly every hiker turns into a “weight weenie.”

The affectionate moniker goes to anyone with a near-obsessive desire to cut weight from their pack. At first glance, that makes a lot of sense: The more miles you’re traveling with a backpack on, the more important it is to get that backpack as light as possible.

WHAT IS A WEIGHT WEENIE?

But for outsiders, it borders on crazy. The perfect ultralight pack is almost never truly attainable and the constant quest for it turns into a science of ounce-shaving by leaving at home everything that’s not absolutely necessary, finding the lightest possible gear, and even physically trimming the gear they have when possible. True weight weenies are using tarps instead of tents, not bothering to bring a hat because their jacket has a hood, even cutting their toothbrush in half to save on weight. “EVERY OUNCE COUNTS” IS THE UNOFFICIAL SLOGAN OF THE WEIGHT WEENIES MOVEMENT.

Even if it makes complete sense when you’re hiking thousands of miles at a time, most of us won’t be giving up creature comforts like tent floors, camp chairs, or durability in favor of reducing our packs' base weight (the most important metric to thru-hikers is the weight of their pack and gear, before adding food and water). Having slightly sore shoulders simply isn’t that bad when you’re only out for a weekend. But even us lay people can use the weight weenie ethos to be a little more comfortable on the trail.

It’s easy to pick out bits of their mentality and pieces of their gear to cut our own base weight just a little bit, making it easier to go further (or, if you’re like me, just carry more food instead). Personally, I’ve borrowed some of the tenets of weight weenie-ism to help me realize what I just don’t need to carry, or how I can cut things out for slightly longer trips.

Continue learning some packing tips for your next adventure here.

LAST UPDATED

June 16, 2022

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MEDIA MENTIONS

While DEET products may be more familiar by name and their chemical smell, sprays with 20 percent picaridin, like Sawyer Products, offer comparable protection without the harsh odor and oily feeling on your skin.

Kevin Brouillard
Travel & Leisure

MEDIA MENTIONS

The Sawyer Squeeze was (by far) the most common Pacific Crest Trail water filter this year – for the fifth year in a row. It’s a $39, 3 oz / 85 g hollow fiber filter that rids your drinking water of protozoa and bacteria (and floaties). It can be used with Sawyer bags (included with the filter) or with compatible water bottles (Smartwater is the bottle of choice for many hikers).

Halfway Anywhere
Media Mentions from Halfway Anywhere

MEDIA MENTIONS

SAWYER MINI WATER FILTER, $22 This has been my water filter of choice for years now. The bags can be iffy — I have had a few break – so carry a couple. However, the filter itself is reliable, light and inexpensive. -Logan

Bikepacking Team