Whether you’re going for a day hike, a weekend camping trip, or a quick mountain bike ride on the local trail, you need the best gear to make the most of your adventure. Having the right equipment can enhance your experiences outdoors, but bringing too much gear can be just as bad as not having enough. Extraneous equipment can weigh you down and feeling overwhelmed about everything you have to bring can put a damper on your trip before it even begins. When it comes to getting outside, we say “Pack Small. Live Big.” Being selective about the gear you bring and making sure those essentials are of exception quality can make a world of difference. Here are some tips for getting out there without burdened by the bulk of too much gear.
Know before you go
A little research and knowledge on the conditions can go a long way on an outdoor excursion. Looking at the weather ahead of your trip can help you pack only what you’ll need for your outing, although it’s always good to have waterproof gear in case the elements don’t cooperate. Researching the conditions of the terrain can help you be prepared for crossing water or packing for steeper trails. RootsRated.com is a great website for looking up information on trails and parks, and includes details like distance and difficulty.
Pack multipurpose gear
Bringing items that do the job of two or more is a sure-fire way to lighten your load. Besides the obvious utility of packing a Swiss Army Knife, get creative with how you use some of your essentials: a good pair of wool socks can double as mittens, some trekking poles also function as tent poles, and a simple bandana can be used for half a dozen things from filtering sediment out of water to protecting your neck from sunburn.
Every ounce counts
On most short adventures, you’re going to be carrying everything with you for the entire trip, so weight is an important consideration. Spending a little extra on boots or a backpack that’s a few ounces less may not always seem worth it, but cutting out a little weight here and there adds up quickly. Repacking smaller portions of consumable items is important too, such as moving a few ounces of sunscreen into a plastic bag instead of bringing a full bottle.
Look for packability
Even if something is lightweight, it doesn’t mean it’s going to fit inside your bag easily. And after you’ve taken things out of your pack, getting them back in while you’re out can be a pain. Search out gear that’s designed around portability like collapsible lanterns (Goal Zero has a great one), telescoping trekking poles, and compact sunglasses.
Think twice about everything you bring
At the end of the day, being mindful about every single item you carry with you is the most important and simple way to avoid being bogged down by extra stuff. After you’ve packed what you think you need, take each item and ask yourself “do I really need this?” You’ll always want to include safety essentials like first aid supplies that you will hopefully never need, but in most cases, there will be a few things you can leave behind.
This piece originally appeared in Terrain Magazine.