Hiking without a backpack: Alternatives and Considerations

So, as I sat looking across the water and wiping my brow, I looked down and thought, “Why the hell didn’t I go hiking without a backpack!?.”

We’ve all been there, our mighty backpack proudly packed. Containing our haulage of equipment, a collection of trophies that prove our love for hiking. Then you have to lift the pack and can’t help but feel that love dwindle a little. Or maybe you haven’t been there at all. You’re thinking of embarking on a hike and dread the thought of having to lug a heavy backpack around the trail.

Either way, in this article we’re going to look at the limitations of hiking without a backpack. How much we can get away with not taking with us and when and why we should be carrying more. We’ll also consider alternatives, ideas, and inventions that are aimed at hiking without a backpack.

Can I go hiking without a backpack?

The simple answer is yes, you can. There are no hard and fast rules that say you must use a backpack. Although, the correct question is actually, “should I go hiking without a backpack?”. The answer to that is, it depends.

It depends on numerous factors such as, where you plan to hike, for how long, what the weather is going to be like and if there’s a chance it could change, if you’re going to be alone and if you’re going to have any signal or help nearby. To name but a few.

Just using the distance of a hike is not a good way to determine whether you should go hiking without a backpack. You could go for a 5-mile hike around a lake near your home and only take a small bottle of water if anything. You could also go for a 5-mile hike in the mountains hit a blanket of fog or a snowstorm, get lost and be in a life-threatening situation within minutes. For these reasons, you’re going to need to carry some means of survival.

Should I use a CamelBak when hiking without a backpack?

The most important thing when hiking is hydration. If you don’t drink you can’t survive, it’s as simple as that. However, we’re not going to go into this here. Check out our article on Bottles, Bladders and Hiking Hydration, for everything you need to know about staying hydrated whilst hiking.

Camelbak’s are an awesome way to carry your water hands-free and are very easy to use. They allow you to carry more than you could in an average sized bottle or flask and they don’t require a bag to carry them in.
Camelbaks are quite dainty on your back, not bulky at all, and they don’t weigh anywhere near as much as a loaded backpack. This is a great way to carry your water if you plan on hiking without a backpack and we definitely recommend their use.

Check out CamelBaks


Do I need a survival kit when hiking without a backpack?

Again, this depends on where, when and how you plan to hike. However, let’s assume you’re going on a hike substantial enough to warrant a survival kit but you still want to go hiking without a backpack.

We’ve already covered water, which is without a doubt the most important part of survival. Next, we must consider warmth and shelter. To create heat we need a source of ignition. In order to provide food and shelter, we could carry the food and a tent, in a backpack. Alternatively, we could carry the tools required to build a shelter and prep our own food, should we wish to travel light.

We considered writing a sister article on how to make a fire by rubbing two sticks and other weird and wonderful ways. But a quick google search showed that there is already an abundance of articles. We advise you to have a quick read, it can’t hurt.

For your small survival kit, however, we advise a robust, airtight, ziplock bag to keep your kit dry. Then it makes sense to cover more than one base. A gas lighter is the easiest to use, followed by windproof matches, but the king is definitely a fire steel. It doesn’t matter if it gets wet, it’s simple to use and it’s the most fun! It is an essential piece of kit which can fit right in your pocket if you take nothing else then take a fire steel.

A survival knife is a great tool, not only when creating shelter but also killing and preparing food, if necessary. Not only this, it can help you when making a fire, such as making tinder and kindling. You can use it to make rope for your shelter. For carving, such as making a bow drill fire starter if you’ve lost all other means. The list goes on.

After water, a knife is one of the most important tools because it can be the difference between life and death in a survival situation. You can use a knife to make the means to create fire. You can’t use a fire steel to build a shelter and kill and prepare a meal. This doesn’t mean you should ditch one for the other, they’re both great, but it is food for thought.

If you haven’t got the time to make up your own survival kits there are ready-made kits available at not a great cost. They may not always be as small as we’d like when hiking without a backpack. But they are definitely a viable option.

Check out ready-made hiking survival kits

What is a spibelt?

A spibelt is a belt, just like any regular belt. However, it contains a thin stretchy pocket, or pockets. The belts are designed to carry essential items without the use of a backpack, or even pockets! The belts are popular with runners but are become popular with hikers also.

Is a spibelt good for hiking without a backpack?

Spibelts are great for hiking without a backpack. You can carry all your essentials, phone, fire steel, and knife and barely know that you’re even carrying them. You could even clip your water bottle to the belt. If you found this article by searching for the term hiking without a backpack, then this is most likely the solution you were unknowingly seeking.

Check out spibelts

Are canvas totes good for hiking without a backpack?

If you are going for a hike and would like to pack a few essentials but don’t have a backpack, then a canvas tote is a cheap alternative. You could carry a family picnic or a raincoat and some water with ease. You won’t win any fashion contests but they do a job.

Is a stowaway daypack good for hiking without a backpack?

Stowaway daypacks are basically a smaller version of a backpack. They will do when you just want to pack the essentials and don’t mind carrying something light on your back. In fact, that’s what makes them a step up from a canvas tote, you are still carrying the essentials but hands-free.

Overall, what is the best thing to use when hiking without a backpack?

We would say that, without a doubt, the Spibelt¬†used with the CamelBak is the best alternative to hiking without a backpack. Obviously, this depends on the amount of kit you require to carry. But if you’re looking for a light, hands-free, hike, whilst still being able to carry the essentials then this combo is awesome!

For tips on bag and backpack security and staying safe whilst traveling,
check out this article.