Travel Light and De-Clutter: A Backpacker’s Toothbrush

A Good Time to “De-clutter”


As many of you know from my stories I love to hike in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and along the Appalachian Trail (or the “A.T.” as it is called.)
One thing backpacking quickly teaches you is the priority of traveling light. When you are carrying a 30-40 pound pack on your back for 10-15 miles per day, you quickly learn what not to carry.
Here are items a hiker quickly learns to leave behind:
-Blue jeans [when they get wet (and they will) they weigh a ton] -Anything in cans. The metal containers and packing water weigh down your pack. Saws, axes, big tents, Bowie knives, too many clothes, bulky sleeping bags, skillets, lawn chairs (I’ve seen hikers toting each of these and more.).

Long distance hikers are famous for the lengths they will go to reduce their pack weight. I’ve met hikers along the northern stretches of A.T. who had pared their pack weight down to under twenty pounds. They didn’t even carry much water in their canteens (Their comment: “Man, I drink lots of water at every spring and carry my water ‘inside me.’ “ )

I had one proud lightweight hiker brag that he only rationed himself “four squares of toilet paper per day.” My dignity would not let me ask him to elaborate on his technique but I sure knew I didn’t want to sleep next to him in a shelter!

One of the prime examples of traveling light is the backpacker’s toothbrush. As you can see from the picture, it is simply a regular brush with the majority of the handle cut off. A true backpacker will say, “That long handle is just for city people. You don’t need all of that extra weight.”

I checked it on a postal scale. The toothbrush in the photo weighed 6 ounces (not quite half a pound) before I cut off the handle. After I had removed most of the handle, it now weighed half of what it had weighed- 3 oz.
But as any serious hiker will tell you, “Every ounce counts.” For those who walk the entire A.T. in one season (that’s 2160 miles from Georgia to Maine) it is estimated that it takes over 5 million steps. 5,000,000 x 3 oz. ounces can actually translate into lots of weight!
Most often you’ll not find really heavy items to remove from your pack. Lightening your pack requires twenty small decisions to remove/lighten items. All of a sudden, your pack is now 6 pounds lighter and that makes a real difference!

So it is important to “de-clutter” and travel light. Here are my 5 items to eliminate from “my backpack” this week as I travel on my life’s journey:

Negative thinking– I will choose to think positively believing that “all things are possible through Christ” as Paul states in Philippians 4:13.
Bitterness- This heavy weight loads down anyone who carries it. It is the one emotion that nothing good can come out of. I will forgive, forget, and reconcile to avoid this “cancer of the soul.”
– Being afraid of what others think or say. I will not “set my sails” due to the whims and criticisms of what others may expect of me. To have the approval of God and my self-respect is all I need. The only way to please everyone is “to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.”
– Living a life of regrets from the past. Carrying the heavy stones of regret from the past only robs today (and tomorrow) of joy. Because I have the forgiveness of God, I will not dig up my past sins, shortcomings, and failures.
Jealousy I choose not to carry the extra weight of comparing everything I have to someone else. “If you look at what you do not have in life, you don’t have anything. If you look at what you do have in life, you have everything.”

Happy Hiking!
Travel light! Travel joyously!

A fellow traveler,
Curt Iles


  1. Curt, welcome to blogland! I think you will find there are many interesting and talented characters in this land.

    Your list of items to eliminate is a good one. As for myself, I have an old bottle of “What Might Have Been” that I have been trying to empty for some time now (it somehow seems to keep refilling itself!). It never tasted very good anyway, so it is a small loss, but it pays big dividends in terms of lightening my load.

  2. Curt, the hiker’s backpack illustration will be good for an upcoming youth talk. We do need to simplify and streamline our lives for better effectiveness–dumping sin and things that weigh us down. Thanks for being a model of Christ for me and countless others.

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