While all the advantages I listed in the two previous posts are big, they are not the reason most of us pack light. Sure, not being worn out from a heavy pack at the end of a big mileage day is a plus. Knowing how to rely on skills to keep yourself safe if definitely important. However the number one reason to pack light is that it is just MORE FUN!
There, it is just that simple. Most of the hikers I know are out there just to have a little fun. They want to get away from the civilized world and all that it entails to enjoy all the scenery that nature has to offer. The first thing you discover with a lightweight pack is that you are not staring at the ground. Because you no longer have that load on your back, your center of gravity is closer to your body’s center. Your head is up and you can look around to see where you are. I keep a camera in my hip pocket and click off pictures all day without having to drop a pack. Heck many times I forget the thing is back there.
Want to do a little off trail hiking? Not a problem. Without the burden of an extra 35+ pounds, pick your own route to catch a special view or explore a new area. The best views are not always on a trail and especially out west there are an abundance of opportunities to hike where few other dare to go. One reason may be that with less gear your range of travel increases. Higher mileage days with less effort allow you to reach remote areas. Fording a stream or even a river is not a major obstacle.
With more room for food, you can even hike more days. In 2012, I hiked ten days with a 26 pound pack covering 213 miles. I did make an unplanned stop in Franklin, NC when the Bartram Trail turned into a road walk and passed right by a Zaxby’s. It was just too tempting to pass up. I ended up running into a friend in town and got to enjoy a hot shower and a comfortable bed. Because my pack was down below 18 pounds I had no trouble meeting a ride at Fontana to collect my scheduled resupply.
Since I started packing light, getting ready to go on a backpacking trip is less of a chore. With less gear, there is less to pack. I’ve found that a weekend trip or a month long trip requires about the same gear. I take into account changes in weather on longer trips with maybe an additional layer but that’sabout it. Packing food is where I spend most of my time. I’m notorious for packing too much on short trips and not enough on longer ones. Not by much but it’s a developing skill.
So that’s it. Start leaving that extra “just in case gear” at home. Start looking around on your next adventure and see what you’ve been walking by. Extend your hike a few more miles next trip with a lighter pack. Just get out and enjoy.