168: Weight vs. Volume

Show Notes: Episode 168

Today on the First 40 Miles, if you’re trying to get your pack weight down, but the numbers just don’t want to budge, we have a new challenge for you.  Reduce. Your. Volume.  We’ll share 5 ways to take up less space.  For today’s SUMMIT Gear Review, would you trust a stuff sack made of tissue paper?  For the same weight, we’ll give you a much better option.  Then, a quick hack that will help you streamline your bathroom time.


  • Pack weight…it can become something that people obsess over.
  • We talk about the weight of our packs so much that I think we might be forgetting another important element of packing a pack: Volume
  • Weight vs. volume of down sleeping bag compared to weight vs. volume of a synthetic bag
  • Does volume matter? Why does volume matter?

Top 5  Ways to Reduce the Bulk or Volume of Your Pack

Compression Sacks

  • Compression sacks are different from stuff sacks
  • They can take a sleeping bag that fills up your entire pack, and compress it down to the size of a loaf of bread.

Up your calories per ounce

  • 200 calories of broccoli vs 200 calories of oil

Backpack in the summer

  • Insulating winter gear is just bulky
  • Insulated mug, insulated sleeping bag, insulated clothing
  • Without bulky insulation, your pack will shrink significantly

Take out the air out of packaged goods

  • Transfer your toiletries or smaller containers…do you need a hard sided container to hold your sliver of soap, or can you store it in a freezer zip top bag. It reduces weight and volume
  • Poke holes in the top of your food bags, let the air out and reseal with tape, so your food won’t take up as much volume. Air weighs nothing, but if you want to reduce your volume, get rid of the trapped air

Pack smart

  • Smart nesting–“like with like”
  • Can you fill the inside of your toilet paper roll with a small bottle of hand sanitizer or a small bar of soap?
  • Fill your empty spaces
  • Stove filled with fuel canister, matches in a plastic bag. Stacking and nesting your stuff compresses how much space it takes up.
  • Packing smart also means leaving things at home that don’t make sense to bring. Rethink the full package of biodegradable baby wipes and maybe just pack a handful.  The battery-powered cassette player?  Maybe on this trip, leave your cassette tapes at home and let nature’s sounds prevail.

SUMMIT Gear Review™:  Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Stuff Sacks


  • Made with 100% waterproof DCF8 Dyneema® Composite Fabrics



  • Weighs 0.02 lbs | 0.28 oz | 8g
  • Volume: 1700mL / 1.7L / 103.7in3
  • 8”x10”


  • Not submersible, but it is waterproof
  • Hyperlight Mountain Gear has bags that are submersible, but this is not one of them


  • $20


  • It feels like it’s made of tissue paper—but it’s so durable
  • Translucent—which means the contents of the bag aren’t a mystery to you. Easier to find things.
  • Incredibly tough bags…in fact, the whole line of HMG gear is tough, abrasion resistant, waterproof, well designed

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Potty Kit

When nature calls, it’s really helpful to be able to have everything you need in one stuff sack.  It may seem ridiculous—some of you might be thinking, “All I need is a leaf and I’m good.”  But really, the process of going to the bathroom in the woods is a multi-step process—which is why this kit is so helpful.

So here’s what’s in my potty kit:

  • trowel
  • half roll of toilet paper (with cardboard tube taken out) inside a quart freezer zip top bag
  • rubbing alcohol
  • lotion (so my hands won’t dry out from using alcohol)
  • soap tube (filled with unscented glycerin soap)
  • feminine hygiene

I keep mine in a HMG Stuff sack because I like how they’re translucent, but not transparent.

Trail Wisdom

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

–Henry David Thoreau

Editor’s Note: Not true… Happy Anniversary, Josh!!