Your clothing weight will vary slightly depending on the backpacking trip you’re preparing for. The current trail conditions, season of travel, weather forecast, and elevation profile are important factors for choosing the right clothing for your trip. A well thought out clothing system will keep you covered under almost any conditions and can be extremely light.
Clothing choices are often overlooked and over packed, but clothing can be an area to save a lot of weight and space. When I first started lightweight backpacking I didn’t worry too much about my clothing choices. When I decided to take a closer look, I was easily able to cut three pounds by leaving home unnecessary extras and replacing heavy clothing choices.
Lightweight clothing is all about fabrics and layers. For fabrics you want to lean towards light quick drying synthetics. Synthetic fabrics will perform really well under most backpacking conditions, especially when wet. You’ll also want to pack with layers in mind, so you can put clothing on for warmth or peel it off to cool down. In general, you won't want to bring two items that serve the same purpose. One warm coat, one long-sleeve shirt, one short sleeve shirt, etc.
1. Unnecessary extras
2. Heavy pants and accessories
3. Heavy jackets
Hat and mittens
Long john bottom and top
Your rain jacket and warm jacket will often be some of the heaviest clothing items you bring on the trail. One common mistake is bringing jackets that are unnecessarily thick and heavy.
For example, you won’t need a mountaineering thickness on your raincoat for most backpacking trips. All you really need is a thin, light, waterproof shell to keep you dry.
There are affordable options out there for full rain suits that will only weigh around 10 ounces or less. Have a look at our gear guide to find our favorite picks.
For your warm jacket, a down coat can be an excellent investment. They have fantastic warmth to weight ratios, they can weigh as little as 6 ounces, and if you treat them well, they’ll last for years.
Choosing lightweight jackets can be a great weight saver. When I switched from my traditional raincoat and jacket over to an ultralight rain jacket and down coat, I was able to save over a pound and a half.
When you add up all of your clothing, it might seem like a small amount of gear compared to what you’re used to. The truth is, you don’t need a ton of clothing to stay clean, comfortable, and stylish in the backcountry, even on long trips.
Clothing is obviously a very personal choice, so choose fabrics that are light, comfortable, and that you look good in. At the end of the day, you’ll be happy you did.
Hopefully that gives you some great ideas on how to stay comfortable and save weight with your backpacking clothing choices.
Hike light, hike smart, and have fun.