How to Reduce Backpack Weight for Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites?

This was a question asked in a Facebook group by a person who was preparing for his Alta Via 1 trip in the Italian Dolomites. Some advises from the group members were really surprising.

The person who asked the question was complaining that he could not reduce the weight of his pack below 11 kg. Now, I am not saying that this is too much weight for such a tour. We all have different priorities regarding comfort and security issues.

So if your pack’s weight is in the same range, this does not necessarily mean that you are carrying too much stuff. Nobody should tell you what to take with you. However, if you think you should reduce the weight, keep reading.

The lake above Fanes hut on Alta Via 1 route.
The lake above Fanes hut on Alta Via 1 route.

But why would you listen to me in any case? Well, I just came from the area and I have been on the Alta Via 1 route, see the picture above, and this is not the first time. The picture is taken on the AV1 route in the area above the Fanes hut which is one of the important points on the route. So I know the area reasonably well.

I am not providing a detailed list of items to carry in your backpack when you are on the Alta Via 1 or any similar tour. Rather, I am giving some basic principles, to avoid unnecessary weight. They can be summarized as follows.

  1. Choose an appropriate backpack.
  2. Make a wise water supply strategy.
  3. Do not carry unnecessary food.
  4. Choose your clothing wisely.

Everything else is up to you, as I mentioned above, we are all different and have different priorities. Below you can read more about the items listed above.

Choose an appropriate backpack for your tour

The backpack is the most important item which you will carry. But this is also one out of two of the heaviest items. This issue can be addressed from at least two perspectives:

  • Choose the right backpack volume/size.
  • Choose a light backpack.

Regarding the volume/size, a smaller pack will itself weigh less than a big one, assuming that you choose carefully. This is why the size matters.

The Alta Via 1 route is a typical hut to hut route, so you have many places to spend the night, to rest, and to have meals. It depends on where you make reservations, so your sections may be up to 24 kilometers or so, but they can also be much shorter.

The picture below shows two huts that are very close to each other, the Lavarella hut and the Fanes hut in the distance. This is from my recent tour to the Fanes National Park.

Lavarella hut and Fanes hut on the Alta Via 1 route.
Lavarella hut and Fanes hut on the Alta Via 1 route.

In other words, this is about extended day tours in each of those separate stages. The trip is normally only in summer months when the huts are open. This means that you do not need a big backpack.

So how big backpack? I am convinced that in any case it should not be over 40-45 liters or so. I am sure that many people will do even with a considerably smaller pack. It may be convenient to have a backpack with an expandable collar that adds more volume if/when needed.

If you are still undecided, here are a few options to consider:

Note that there are even much lighter packs on the market, but with fewer features. This will depend on how minimalist you want to go, regarding the pack and regarding the equipment.

Reduce the amount of water in the pack

The person who asked the question was planning to carry 2.5 liters of water in the pack. So this is the heaviest thing that will be in his pack, heavier than the pack itself. How to deal with this? On one hand, this sounds reasonable for longer sections. It is important to stay hydrated because you will sweat a lot.

In replies to the person, I have seen some truly dangerous and irresponsible suggestions of the type:

“You can freely drink water on your way, there are many water streams around. This is safe if you are above 1500 meters of elevation”.

It is a mystery to me how that person came to this number as a safe elevation. Nothing could be more wrong than that. I have addressed this issue partly in my text about drinking rain water and also glacier water.

The point is that I never directly drink water from such streams, no matter how clean it may look. There are many reasons why I avoid drinking the water directly.

  • There are huts above you, and you do not know where their waste water and sewage go.
  • Also, these are typically grasslands with cows and sheep everywhere, so you can expect their feces in the water as well.
  • Should I mention how popular AV 1 route is. So imagine, many of people will pee and leave poops around the route. Lots of it will be washed into the water streams.
  • Think also about carcasses of wild animals, I have seen them at various places, including in those crystal-clear water streams.

The person in the video below made a mistake by drinking water on the route. Have a look, this is a great video, but the author was doing it mixed, sometimes sleeping in the tent and sometimes in huts, so this is a different type of tour altogether.

But let’s go back to the issue, how to reduce the amount of water in the pack¬†regardless of how you do this tour? My suggestion would be as follows:

  • Have one full bottle all the time.
  • Have one empty bottle with you.
  • Carry a light water filter that allows you to refill on the go, yes, from those water streams. This means it should have a system that can be used to directly refill the empty bottle.

So do not even think of going without water. On longer sections you will have to fill the empty bottle as well. This may be particularly so later in the season when those water streams may disappear, and also at higher elevations.

But most of the time, one full bottle will be fine as long as you are able to refill on the go. Therefore, study the section that is ahead of you on a daily basis, and then decide for each section separately.

Now, which water filter to use? I am not ready to trust many of them. But MSR is the one you can rely on. I have discussed this issue in my text about water filters. They have them several, but currently the smallest that can be used to refill a bottle is this MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Water Filter:

MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Water Filter.
MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Water Filter.

Do not carry food

You will have meals in the huts, and from what I know, they also prepare the food for the route.

On the other hand, there are restaurants at high elevations on the route itself. So you do not have to carry basically anything extra in the pack. The picture below shows one of them on Passo Giau, but bear in mind it opens at 10 am, not earlier.

This beauty is also on Alta Via 1 route - Passo Giau.
This beauty is also on Alta Via 1 route – Passo Giau.

Choose your clothing wisely

The person who asked the question mentioned that he was packing 3 sets of everything, and many of his pieces were merino. Of course, merino is an excellent material for any use, but it is not the lightest one. Synthetic may be much lighter.

On the other hand, do you really need 3 sets? It was not clear what he meant, but in any case, you need only one jacket and only one piece of fleece as the second layer. If you have fleece, then you definitely do not need a light down jacket, I have seen it suggested as a must, this is simply wrong.

One extra pair of socks will be enough. You can wash and dry on the go, simply attach them on the pack. But let me elaborate on this a bit.

I always have one thin and one thick socks on. In this way I am safe from blisters most of the time. Those thin socks will have a bad smell after one day or two, so you can have one extra pair of thin socks only.

Final thoughts

In summary, as I said, it is not the topic of this post to make a list of all you need, it is abut general strategy. So although this is about Alta Via 1 route, you can apply it to various other situations.

Water and backpack are the heaviest two things you will carry on your back. So it is important to deal with those two the right way. Everything else is secondary.

But extra clothing, and in particular warm and bulky pieces that you need at such elevations regardless of the season, will require a bigger backpack, which itself then will be heavier. So clothing is also important to choose carefully, and make sure you do not carry unnecessary bulky items.

There are more texts about the Dolomites here in the site, I have been there several times. So have a look around if you plan to visit this particular area in the Italian Alps. Let me know if you have questions, there is a comment box below. Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

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Me on Jalovec.Hi, I am Jovo, the founder of this OutdoorsFAQs site and several other outdoor sites. I have been mountaineering for almost 40 years already, and I have created this site to use as a reference for various questions that I receive in my sites. Being a theoretical physicist by profession, I tend to base my answers on facts and on my own personal experience.

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