The one thing every family needs to be successful in the outdoors

Learning how to go light successfully empowers a family to get out the door faster, travel farther, experience more, and even spend more days per year doing the activities they love (more on this later).

There is rarely a time when we have returned from a trip wishing we had brought more. We usually find ourselves in the opposite position: researching, plotting, scheming, and fine tuning our stuff to see how we can trim the unnecessary fat.

I have found that packing light brings tremendous advantages:

  • It takes less time to pack. The less time it takes to prepare for trips, the easier it is to get out the door. The easier it is to get out the door, the less stressed we are, and the more frequently we will do it.
  • Going lighter is… lighter. The less everyone has to carry, the happier they are. The kids can handle swifter travel and longer days. We the parents (packhorses?) are happier because we can more easily keep up with them. Everyone is more comfortable.
  • Less time is spent managing stuff. The more gear you have, the more time you have to devote packing, unpacking, and organizing it. It takes less time to setup and takes down camp which makes multi-day trips a whole lot easier.

Won’t it be expensive?

One thing I love about the lightweight philosophy is that it is both not about the gear while at the same time all about the gear.

What do I mean by that? I mean it is about the philosophy and theory of gear, not necessarily specific brands or technologies. People who pack light can be equally as safe and comfortable with home-made and low budget gear as they can with expensive and top-of-the-line gear. Once you wrap your mind around this, you can walk into an outdoor store and not be wooed by the latest backpacking gadgetry. It is quite a feeling of “sticking-it-to-the-man” when you realize you can replace your $100 backpacking stove with a cat food can and a hole punch. It is about maximizing your investment, matching your real needs with your budget.

Won’t I be uncomfortable?

One thing that immediately comes to mind for people when they think about going light is less comfortable. They try to imagine brushing their teeth with a sawed-off toothbrush.

The truth of the matter is that going light has its roots in more comfort, not less support. Carrying more gear is less comfortable. The key is learning how to maximize function while minimizing weight. This can be done in any number of ways, one of the most popular principles being multiple-use items: why carry two things when one will do?

Isn’t it unsafe?

Another thing that people associate with going light is less safety. You know the adage “better safe than sorry,” or “prepare for the worst.” For most, this translates into packing more things for all of the “just in case scenarios.”

Going light is about using your head. It is about learning, understanding, and experience. We all start out heavier than we need to be initiated because we are inexperienced and afraid. As we gain experience through doing and glean from the experience of others, we can become more confident in our limits and the capabilities of our gear. Going light teaches us how to be safe through encouraging expertise over things as our safety net.

Isn’t lightweight gear fragile?

Going light brings visions of flimsy gear that won’t stand-up to the rigors of the great outdoors. The truth of the matter is most outdoor gear is over-designed. To woo customers, many outdoor companies add unnecessary features and “beef things up.” Going light is about learning what features you need so that you are only carrying a weight that matters.

Side Effects

A word of warning. Buying-in to going light does have some unintended side-effects. It can be highly addicting. You may find yourself evaluating everything in your life, not just your outdoor gear. Once you realize how much more you can accomplish with less, you are going to want to figure out how you can use those principles to squeeze more out of life. Simplifying your life gives you more time to do the activities you love with the people you love. Who doesn’t want that?

Going light is not an overnight process, it isn’t a product that can be purchased in a store. It is a skill like any other that needs to be learned and developed over time. For most, these aren’t the types skills passed-on to children via their parents. Nor are the skills you would learn through an organization like boy scouts (although that is slowly starting to change). The best way to learn is to find a community of people who are living it and who are dedicated to sharing the information with others.

A Special Offer

One resource that we have found incredibly useful to us on our journey has been a subscription to Backpacking Light. Backpacking Light is an online magazine dedicated to backcountry travel in a light-weight style. It is one of the few online publications I have found that has more content than ads (they currently don’t do any third-party advertising on their site). I have seen the articles to be very thorough and informative, many of which I would consider foundational to anyone spending time in the outdoors (lightweight or not). Every time I have a backpacking question, it is the first place I will go – even before trying Google. If I can’t find the answer in an already published article, a quick post to the forums usually always results in a helpful response from multiple community members. Over time I have gradually increased my participation in the community, and within the last year, I have started writing some articles for them.

Backpacking Light has offered to partner with us to provide you with a subscription discount: 40% off a one-year subscription or 10% off a lifetime membership. A subscription will not only give you access to new material but all of the online content they have ever published. This offer is currently not available anywhere else, and can also be used for subscription renewals. What’s more, by purchasing a subscription you will be helping to support us here at ADVENTUREinPROGRESS, as we will get a little in return for the referral.

Scroll Up