In my going lighter series I have a constant reference point that I write a lot about: Simplify your backpacking and make your journey an enjoyable process.

I write a lot about this, but I found that I never really clarify it. What do I mean by simplify and simplicity? In life this would be the equivalence to the Minimalism movement, in backpacking I will just call it simplicity.

In essens I will sum it up as follows:

Simplicity in backpacking does not mean selling everything you own and backpack with just a tarp and toothbrush.

Simplicity is about bringing what you need with the comfort you enjoy.

What do I mean by that? Think of it this way, do you need a double layer, $600 name brand tent for a summer hike along the appalacian trail? Probably not. Do you need a 4 kilo green backpack and 25kilos of gear for a 3 day hike? probably not. Do you need 2 liters of water for a day hike along lakes and streams? Probably not.

See what I’m getting at here? Such as in life, the more you have, the worse off you tend to be. In backpacking you are immidiately punished for having too much of what you don’t need in the form of a shitty backpacking experience. Heavy backpack, clothes that absorb water and never dry, 1 foot long buck knifes that just sit on your hip, hiking boots that cause blisters and lower back pain, a tent that is drenched in condensation, not to mention a bitch to setup.. All of this leads to a terrible backpacking experience.

In my gear closet I have one tent, one backpack, one stove, one sleeping mat, one sleeping bag/quilt, one jacket, one set of baselayers, pants and underwear.

These are by far my greatest experiences: Spending an evening with my son and wife in the outdoors.

Packing my gear for an outing, regardless of where or how long is always the same. It’s always the same base gear time and time again. Occasionaly I will replace one item with another that has the same function but may be lighter or easier to use. When winter hiking I will add a few extra layers of clothing. The longer the hike I will add more food, if it will be a very wet course I might take an extra pair of socks, if its a hot trail I will bring a lighter shirt.

I write about this often and joke about it, but in reality simplicity is what makes me happy. I go through phases of course, and I notice when I have accumulated too much stuff.. I start to stress about not using them, I get anxious when I have to choose what to wear or if something will or won’t work. This is not just about hiking now, this is how I am with everything. Right now I can’t sleep at night because I feel I have too many things at home are taking too much time from me and what I love doing, namely: Backpacking, writing, playing with my son, enjoy evenings with my wife and photography.

I always feel my quality of life sinks with the more shit I acquire. Like most people of my generation I can go around and obsess about something thinking it will make my life better if only I bought it. I buy it, use it, than usually it ends up in a box or on the shelf and I look towards the next item that will change my life. If I don’t sell the item, it becomes a stress factor for me. Something I think I have to give time to. An example of this is that I have a 10 year old sega dreamcast on my bookshelf that I haven’t used in 4 years, yet everyday I stress and think that I should spend atleast 10 minutes on it since I have it. I’m sure most of you can relate to this.

As I always carry the same stuff with me when hiking, I never forget anything. Everything has it’s place on my shelf in my gear closet. 

How to simplify your backpacking:

Or, where to start. Most people know they have too much shit with them when they go hike. It’s usually an insulation for ignorance. For me, my latest example was my hike in Iceland – I brought a Jetboil for the first time ever and I was completely insecure with how much fuel I would need to bring. Usually I only bring my Caldera cone alcohol stove, I am comfortable with that. I am not however comfortable with a butane stove, and like any newbie I bought a 500ml (large fuel tank) for a 5 day hike, having to throw almost all of it away at the end of my trip.

For you it might be a 3.6 kilo Fjällmonkey backpack, or a 5 kilo mount everest expedition 5 man tent, or it might just be that you bring way too much water. In any case you have to start by actually evaluating your trips and what you do and need. Not what you want to do in 10 years time, but what you normally do here and now.

For me I switched out my Hilleberg Akto and Nammatj tents because they where just way too much tent for what I was doing and needing. After going through different tents over the years I have landed with the MLD Duomid with sewn in perimeter netting, because it is massive for one person, extremely light, cheap (I have the silnylon version), stabil in all kinds of weather and last but not least: It’s simple. One trekking pole in the middle, a few ground stakes and your done. The less time I spend setting up my shit the more time I have to enjoy camp and the nature around it.

After starting my backpacking career like all virgins of the wild, I bought a big ass pair of leather hiking boots and thought I could conquer the world. Then I went on my first real hike and had blisters for days, wet, hot terrible feet and in the end I wanted to never be in the wild again. With the drain on my body and sould from my earlier gear choices, it’s amazing that I ever stuck with this damn hobby.

I have similar reasonings for all of my gear: It has to fit my needs, be very simple to use and most of the time light.

For further reading on this subject I would suggest some of my other posts on gear choices and why here:

Hiking shoes or trail runners
Going lighter: The Tent
Bring man back to nature
Going lighter: The backpack
Going lighter: The first step

I feel that my philosophy in backpacking is really starting to spill over in my everyday life now more and more. I guess that is one of the benifits of being an avid backpacker, you realise what you need and don’t need to be happy. And really all you need to be happy is the outdoors and enough time to enjoy it.



Posted by Kenneth Shaw

Blogger, photographer and backpacker. If you like my writing or my site don't be afraid to follow me, like or share my posts here on the site. Thanks and enjoy!


  1. Joonas Jaakkola August 29, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Hi, thanks for this post. This resonates much with me and my situation. I feel like simplicity and minimalism really are the way to enjoy life more and to have harmony. I’m starting today without an apartment and have made a challenge to myself to sleep outside as long as my gear permits. I’ve done already almost 4 weeks.


    1. I do think simplicity and minimalism are the keys to help drive passion and of course by removing clutter we remove stress and anxiety. I don’t know if I could live without an apartment or someplace over my head to call home, but I can certainly see the delight in that thought. Good luck!


  2. […] my last two post on my minimalist journey – simplify your backpacking and when your things become you I talk about my own journey, and how backpacking is shaping my […]


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