208: HEAVY: When You Can’t Carry the Load

Show Notes: Episode 208

Today on the First 40 Miles, we’ve heard people say “I’d love to go backpacking like I did when I was younger, but I just can’t carry the load.”  Are their backpacking days truly over?  Then, what do you do when a trail mate is injured, sick or fatigued and can’t carry the load.  For the SUMMIT Gear Review, something that will change the way you think of transporting your gear.  And we’ll teach you how native peoples transported goods using a few sticks.


  • Whenever people find out that I’m the host of a backpacking podcast, I get two general responses:
  • “Carrying everything on your back? I could never do that.” or “I could do that kind of thing when I was young, but not any more…”
  • Carrying 30 pounds of gear on your back is challenging
  • Are there other options?
  • We’ve had trips where people needed help. It’s not uncommon to lighten a load for a fellow hiking buddy

Top 5 Ways to Carry Someone Else’s Pack

Divide their load

  • Even if you just take a few things out of their pack, it can go a long way in lightening their load
  • I carried Josh’s extra water when he hurt his knee on day three of our PCT section hike
  • Josh carried my water on the lava rock section of the PCT
  • Has a physical effect, but also a psychological effect
  • Offer to carry water, tent, food. Those are the heaviest…

One person front carry

  • Fold your arms in front and carry the pack with your arms through the straps
  • Careful…it blocks your vision

One person duffle bag carry

  • Carry it like a duffle bag over one shoulder
  • Short distances

Two person carry

  • One takes the closed hip belt, the other carries the strap at the other end

Two-person stick carry

  • Cinch up the hip belt and run a stick through the belt and the top loop of the pack

You may be able to figure out other ways to carry a load…and you may be surprised at your creativity and the ideas that emerge.

SUMMIT Gear Review:  Pack Wheel


  • Aluminum frame
  • Variety of wheel sizes
  • Super comfortable handlebars
  • Disc break
  • Made in the USA


  • Hold handlebars like you’re riding a bike, and push
  • Can carry more than 4X more weight than a backpack, with little effort
  • Completely collapsible
  • Disc brakes work to slow Pack Wheel down on downhill portions of trail, steady it on uphill portions
  • Pull yoke add-on helps to get over rough backcountry areas, esp. with heavy loads and rugged terrain
  • Purchase panniers separately to attach your gear to the Pack Wheel


  • We have the compact frame with 24” wheel
  • Weighs 12 lbs


  • Pump, tube patch kit


  • $675
  • Cost of 2-3 good packs
  • Makes it possible for you to get out…priceless


  • Easy to use, easy to maneuver, easy to load
  • Second nature
  • Ultralight–considering how much weight it carries, collapsible, single wheeled
  • Popular among hunters—but quickly gaining popularity among hikers + backpackers
  • Makes gear feel lighter than it really is
  • Fantastic option for hikers who may not be able to carry the load
  • Also great for families with young children, where the kids may not be able to carry the load.
  • Unique benefit of PackWheel– even if load isn’t balanced, it’s still easy to maneuver
  • Strong, carries the weight more efficiently and effectively than a pack
  • Made to order
  • Not for use in designated Wilderness Area

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Travois on the Trail

Native Americans used to haul supplies long distances using something called a travois.  It’s essentially two sticks with a woven basket or woven tray in between upon which they strapped the supplies.  The two end poles were then strapped to a pack horse, a pack dog or carried by themselves as the other two ends dragged in the dirt.  The narrow end is what you’re holding and the wide end is dragging on the ground.

Trail Wisdom

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”
—Otto Rank

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