Offloading your backpack? Here are some things you must consider

As an Experience Coordinator, almost every day I come across questions regarding backpack offloading. Usually, trekkers are apprehensive about carrying their backpack, especially if it is their first long trek. And I think – what a great experience they are missing out on! But I understand, the most common concern is the weight of the backpack and the ability to carry the weight for long hours. 

This is where backpack offloading comes in. But what does offloading mean? Many trekkers are unsure about this term. Or, wonder what is the right time to opt for it. Is it right after registering for a trek? Or, does it require more thought?

We know this happens. And, we write to trekkers encouraging them not to offload when in doubt. In fact, I have had trekkers cancel their offloading request after giving it a second thought. Sometimes, all it takes is a small nudge that offers confidence. A small push that they can do it on their own. 

But first, what does it mean?

What is backpack offloading?

Mules at Kedarkantha Indiahikes
Mules carrying backpacks. PC: Chetan Biraris

Backpack Offloading refers to the process where you give your main backpack to a mule or porter to carry it for you on the trek. When I say ‘main’ backpack, I mean your 45+ L backpack which has all your trek gear. 

Multiple backpacks are loaded onto a mule, or carried by porters. They carry your backpacks from campsite to campsite. While trekking, you will often see them zip past you. Their speed is unbeatable. They won’t trek alongside you. This means anything you put in your offloaded backpack is out of your reach till that day’s trek is over.

And this is why you must carry a daypack if you are offloading your backpack.

A daypack is a smaller backpack (around 15L to 25L) which carries all essentials that you need while you trek. Your daypack must have 2 water bottles, a medical kit, your lunchbox, and poncho/raincoat. 

| Tip: Leave some space for your jacket(s) in your daypack. You may start your day bright and early when the sun is just rising. It will be cold and you will be wearing your jacket. But as the day progresses, you exert your body and you will begin to feel warm. Then, you will want to remove your outermost layer – your jacket and pack it into your daypack. So, account for this when you choose a daypack.

What we recommend

At Indiahikes, we strongly believe that trekkers should carry their own backpacks. This is because we embrace our culture of trying to be simple and frugal in what we do. As trekkers, it also makes one self-reliant and helps in engaging with the true spirit of trekking. 

Another important factor is that these backpacks are carried by mules or porters. Having too many mules on a trail isn’t good for the ecosystem and as for porters, they are hard to find.

One of the biggest achievements on a trek is carrying your own backpack, and nothing can beat the feeling of having successfully completed a trek with your backpack on your back. And, it’s really not as difficult as you think it is!

Here are some tips to carry your backpack

Here are some tips for you to carry your own backpack. Whether you are a first-time trekker or have trekked before, these points will help you.

1. Exercise and strengthen your core, shoulders, and back.

  • Include pushups, planks, situps and jumping jacks to your trek preparations.
  • HIIT workouts help a great deal. Look for upper body and core strength workouts. Nike Training Club app has some good workouts to help you begin. 

2. Pack smart

  • Categorize all of your gears into sets. For instance, you can have a toiletry set, electronics set, medical set, inner layer set, etc. Pack each set in a separate reusable plastic bag. Pack them in a compact manner.
  • Use the ABCD method of packing. This is an extremely simple, but efficient way to pack your bag. At Indiahikes, we swear by this.
  • Think twice (or thrice, or more) about every single item you put inside your backpack. Do you absolutely need this item on your trek? Leave these items home if it is not a confident YES.
  • Check the weight of your backpack. For a 6-day trek itinerary, your bag should weigh about 8 to 9 kg. 

| Tip: We’ve noticed that our trekkers usually use only one trek pant and three t-shirts while on the trek. They also wear the same warm layers. So leave all your travel and excess shirts and pants in the cloakroom.

3. Mount the bag correctly onto your back

  • Your trek leader will demonstrate the correct way of lifting and then mounting your backpack
  • The weight of your backpack needs to be on your hip and not your shoulders. If you feel a strain on the shoulders, there is something amiss in wearing your backpack. Ask your Trek Leader for help immediately. 
  • Carry a small tub of vaseline and apply it on your shoulders where the straps rest. It will help avoid abrasions. 

4. Make sure you choose a well designed and good quality backpack

3 things to keep in mind when you offload your backpack

  1. The bags you offload must have shoulder straps. i.e. it should be a backpack. No suitcases, trolley bags or duffel bags can be offloaded.
  2. The weight limit is 9 kg. Anything greater than this weight means you have overpacked. You may be asked to keep some items back in the cloakroom at the basecamp.
  3. All backpacks will need a raincover. This will protect the backpack from sun, rain, snow and any damages on the way. 

What are the backpack offloading charges?

Backpacks Indiahikes

The backpack offloading charge is calculated based on the number of trekking days in the itinerary. For example, the Ali Bedni Trek has a 6-day itinerary and a 4-day trek. You will be charged for the duration of the trek.

If you pre-book your offloading it is INR 250 per day on treks where mules ply, and INR 350 per day on treks where porters carry your bag.

If you choose to offload your backpack while on the trek, you will be charged an additional fee of Rs.100 per day and for the duration of the trek. 

My learnings

Some of my biggest learning on the trek have come from carrying my own backpack. From what to carry, how to carry, and how much exactly to carry, rather than just physically strengthening my back and shoulders.

I want you all to test your backpack. Carry it on your evening walks or go for a weekend trek. Or just climb a flight of stairs with your backpack. Let me know how this feels.

If you have stories to share about carrying your backpack, share them in the comment below, I would love to hear from you. 

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