Are You Carrying Too Much in Your Backpack?

You could be making the mistake of carrying too much in your backpack.

And that could lead to an array of different problems for you. It can create wear and tear on your backpack. It can cause your hiking gear to become damaged or weakened. But most of all, it can hurt you and cause medical problems later down the road. You don’t want any of that, especially the last part, right?

Luckily, it’s an easy fix, but for most folks, you just don’t know how to fix it. I’ve made the mistake and learned enough about fixing it to share with you how to prevent carrying too much in your backpack, so I’ve created this article.

Medical problems from carrying too much in your backpack

Understanding the negative impacts of carrying too much in your backpack is important.

When I first started hiking, I carried too much in my backpack. I wouldn’t even finish the hike, and I’d be in pain. When the hike was finished, I was glad it was over because my back and shoulders would be in so much pain. Sometimes, I’d even lose sleep over it. It stopped me from fully enjoying the hike, and that’s no way to be a hiker.

Carrying too much in your hiking backpack can lead to many problems with pain. It puts unnecessary stress on your shoulders and back. This can lead to pain and discomfort, and if it happens too much, it can lead to further medical issues that might require treatment to stop the pain. A heavy backpack can throw you off balance, put too much pressure on your feet, and cause you to have a miserable hike. You should never have a miserable hike.

You should address a heavy backpack now because it causes you further issues. And we’re going to go over your options moving forward.

Carrying Too Much in Your Backpack

You’re probably packing more than what you’ll ever need

I wrote an article recently about what not to pack when going hiking. It addressed gear amounts that people often pack and don’t really need.

When I overpacked, it was because I took more than I needed, assuming that something crazy would happen and I would need it all with me. But I never thought about that; eventually, it would run out anyway, and I’d be back in the position of not having enough of something.

You’ll often bring more than you need because you fear reaching a point where you need it all. But in reality, you should bring more of the important stuff and only what you need of the not-so-important stuff.

Bring enough water to last you longer than you plan to be out. But if the creeks are currently running, you can substitute the weight with a water filter instead of extra water. Pack a first aid kit with supplies you know how to use; it doesn’t need to be a trauma bag. Leave the stuff you take at home on every hike, but never use or at least bring less of us just in case you might need it. Start out as an ultralight hiker and then add stuff emphasizing saving weight.


Have you weighed your hiking backpack?

Most hiking backpacks are measured in liters. For example, my backpack is a 36-liter pack with 36 liters of gear.

Back when I packed too much in my backpack, I never paid attention to the weight of my pack. I’d just shove everything in and go with it. It was obviously a bad choice because I was always in pain, and my pack would tear and break down quite a bit.

If you think you’re carrying too much in your backpack, you probably are. The best thing to do would be to weigh it and ensure you’re not exceeding the amount the pack was created to hold. Many beginners make this mistake. Even I did it.

Weigh your backpack and see if it goes over the weight limit. If it does, start working on shedding weight from it, even if that means taking packaging off or buying smaller and lighter gear.


You might be using the wrong kind of backpack or packing it wrong

Sometimes, the problem of carrying too much stuff in your backpack falls on you using the wrong backpack for your hike.

I used a backpack much like a school backpack when I first started hiking. It had no support for me to adjust to prevent myself from being in pain on my hike. I also wore the backpack wrong and packed it the wrong way, leading to more pain.

Get a backpack made for hiking. It should have adjustment capabilities for your shoulders, hips, and back. A lower-liter backpack is typically for shorter trips. A higher-liter backpack is meant for overnight hiking and longer multi-day trips.

You should make sure you adjust your backpack properly when putting it on. Most backpacks have to be adjusted every time you put one on. You should pack your backpack properly to counter the weight in a fair balance to relieve pressure from one side to the other. The weight of your pack should rest on your hips and not your shoulders and back.


It’s important to be healthy and in shape, too!

Hiking shouldn’t be you’re only form of fitness to prevent injury by wearing a heavier backpack.

I do several different exercises to keep my upper body strong so that wearing a heavier backpack isn’t going to be that much of a problem.

Cycling and running are two great forms of exercise to strengthen your lower body (and arms on running), which can help you carry heavier loads. Swimming and kayaking are great ways to strengthen your arms, shoulders, and back. Safe weight training is another great form of exercise to be able to carry a heavier load, especially when backpacking or doing multi-day trips.

You need to exercise when you’re not hiking to build strength and fitness for your next hiking adventure. And don’t forget about stretching, as it’s one of the most important things you can do for your fitness.


Sometimes, you have to spend some extra money or get creative

If you’re carrying too much in your backpack, you might need to fork out some extra money or think outside of the box to cut down on weight.

I purchased a better backpack (affiliate link) because it had many features to reduce the load on your body. I also bought a lighter-weight tent and sleeping bag so that my overnight hikes aren’t as heavy as they would be if I bought heavier items.

You don’t always have to buy the most expensive ultralight products. There is always another great option. That option is getting creative and thinking outside of the box. Go to a Dollar Store or even a secondhand or thrift store and look around at what is being sold that could easily replace a heavy item in your pack. You’d be surprised how creative you can get and how much weight you can save.

Sometimes, the only way around carrying too much in your pack is to carry the same stuff but only lighter-weighing stuff so that you can lighten your load a bit.


And sums up today’s article all about how you can pack less in terms of items you take or even lighter weighing things to reduce the pain load on your body. You’ll thank yourself for taking action on this sort of common hiking problem. I know I did many years ago. None of my hikes are painful now.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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