3 weighty hiking backpack mistakes everyone makes and how to avoid them

Group of hikers setting up camp on the mountainside
(Image credit: Klattermusen)

There isn't anything more freeing than picking up your hiking backpack and going on a bit of adventure – wherever the country road takes you, it will be fine. However, this adventure can be spoilt pretty quickly if you don't pack your bag right. Thankfully, there are a few handy tips, explained below, that can help you keep the weight of your bag to the minimum without sacrificing other elements of your hiking trip.

1. Not evaluating your gear choices after a trip

People love looking at the weight of backpacking tents and lightweight sleeping bags, but they wouldn't evaluate how it felt to carry them around for three days. Don't get us wrong; few people can afford to buy a sleeping bag, take it on a multi-day trip, and buy another one if it doesn't work out.

That said, plenty of items in your bag can be optimised with less effort: snacks, water carriers, accessories, etc. Look at what things you didn't use. Could you get away with packing less trail mix? Do you need the 1.5L hiking water bottle in the backpack? Could you use a smaller hiking backpack? 

2. Not experimenting with different gear options

Everyone has their favourite hiking gear they can't live without (here's Sian's list of essential hiking gear). The process of becoming essential gear often starts with finding the best pair of hiking boots or walking shoes; eventually, most of your gear turns into essential gear, from spoons to camping stoves and more.

You'll need to look at your gear and evaluate its usefulness if you want to reduce the weight of your backpack. Adding stuff is always easy – reducing the kit list to the essentials without risking not having something with me is the real challenge. Get your trusty gear out of the bag, and rate their usefulness on a scale of 1-5. From there, you can select items to be left at home and weed out the non-essential items on a trial-and-error basis.

3. Packing your fears

Do you need that nail clipper with you on an overnight camping trip? How about that tick-repellent spray in the late autumn? Do you need multiple rolls of tape to fix small holes in the tent you examined and repaired at home before setting out? There are probably at least a dozen just-in-case items in your hiking backpack right now you won't need on your next trip. Don't just always take the usual stuff!

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt looks after T3's Active vertical, which incorporates all things fitness, outdoors, wearables and transportation – anything that gets you moving and keeps you fit and healthy will go through his hands. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.