Making weight: What items do you really need?


A pound of cotton socks weights the same as a pound of sharp knife. You need to pare down your duffle so what do you leave at home? It’s your choice. Do you value warm feet and do you see a need for a good skinning knife? Yes to both questions, so back to the question of which item to leave at home.

The answer is neither. You’ll need both, so to make weight, you’ll have to leave something else, or find a way to stay in an allowed weight.

The rule

It’s a juggling match and a very important one when packing for a hunting trip. In Alaska, the rule is 65 pounds of gear, including food. It sounds like a lot until you try it. Then it becomes next to impossible.

That’s because most Alaskan hunts begin on a floatplane, and excess weight is something that airplanes don’t like. Packing for a horseback trip is a little easier, since the allowed weight is not including food. Nevertheless, it’s hard.

A group of avid hunters, including this one, are heading for Colorado soon and the hunt begins on mules and horses, so weight limits are strict. We’ll be camped high in the mountains for a week and must be prepared for weather that might make us sweat or shiver, maybe both, so we need to be prepared for anything from minus 20 degrees to plus 70 degrees.

Weight goal

Our goal is to pack in 60 pounds or less, plus food for the week. Try it. Do you take fresh underwear for every day? How about four or five clean shirts too? Now throw in sweaters, long johns, gloves, hats, gaiters, lots of socks, extra boots, camp shoes, rain gear, windbreaker, vest, emergency gear, first aid kit, flashlights, sleeping bag and mat, pillow, towels, bullets, knives, meat bags, toiletries, directional aids, maps, gun-cleaning supplies and binoculars and you’re just getting started. You are already up to 75 pounds and there’s more to go.

Walk up to your Western outfitter overweight and you’ll be facing a mighty unhappy cowboy or you’ll be paying for an extra pack animal and wishing you had packed tighter.

So rewind to the big question? What do you leave at home? Packing light is a learned experience. The rule is to lay all your gear out then begin a painful process called culling.

Expendable items

You don’t need to change clothes every day and you don’t need two extra pairs of jeans and you don’t need all those shirts and you don’t need 20 extra batteries, a spare set of binoculars and three hats. When you overpack you carry lot of unused gear and clothing home. Weight is a constant problem, but with modern materials, lightweight gear is available.

Take a hunting knife for instance. I carry a sheathed, handmade, full-size skinning knife. It’s too heavy and should be replaced by a Kevlar folding model, but I like it and count on it so it is immune to the culling procedure.

Making weight is doable but it does take careful thought and planning. If the trip is a group outing, share the load. Meaning, one of some things is enough.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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