50 Ultralight Backpacking Tips
The days of carrying around a 50lb backpack on the trail are fortunately long behind us. The last twenty years have seen a shift in mindset towards lighter gear and more efficient hiking. I’m here to help you in your transition to a lighter pack and more efficient, comfortable hiking.
If you have specific questions, drop them in the comments below.
1 – Take Less Stuff
Then make a pile of things you absolutely have to bring, starting with obvious items like your sleeping bag. Once this is done then you’ll have two piles. The second pile will be things that aren’t absolutely necessary. It contains things like extra clothing, a camera and a book. This second pile is where you want to focus your energy. These are the things that you can leave at home. Only you can decide whether you want or need to carry their weight.
2 – Do Your Research
I recommend people consume as much content as possible on UL Backpacking. Broaden your horizons and learn from the wealth of knowledge out there. Delve through the archives at pieonthetrail.com where you’ll find over fifty articles focused on backpacking.
3 – Focus on the “Big Three”
The Big Three is your backpack, sleeping bag (or quilt) and your shelter. These three items are usually the heaviest items in a pack. They then deserve the most consideration when trying to cut weight. More details are below but you’re looking for the lightest options that meet your requirements.
4 – Look at Single Wall Tents or Even Better Switch to A Tarp
Our shelter system is one of the heaviest things we carry so it’s a great place to save some weight. Single wall UL tents differ from more traditional backpacking tents in many ways.
As the name suggests they are single walled and have no inner or outer tent, it is all one piece. They usually incorporate some kind of bug mesh to keep critters away and have built in bathtub floors. Single wall tents are available from many companies to fit all budgets. Using them can cut the weight of more traditional shelters in half. For years I used these types of shelters before recently moving to a tarp system. This cuts even more weight from my pack and adapts to whatever scenario I find myself in.
5 – Sleeping Bags and Quilts
For most of my three-season hikes I take a quilt or sleeping bag rated for 10F/-12C or 20F/-6C. This covers most scenarios and I can use my clothing system to help keep me warm on the coldest of nights.
6 – Sleeping Pads
Closed-cell foam sleeping pads are enough for some hikers. Although they are light and simple I prefer the comfort of an air mattress. Be aware that sleeping pads have temperature ratings known as “R-Value”. The R Value of the Neoair Xlite mentioned above is 3.2 which is perfect for three season backpacking. I’ve used sleeping pads with lower r ratings and have found myself cold when the temperatures drop.
7 – Share Gear With a Friend
Backpacking with a friend does give you opportunities to share gear that will reduce the weight of both your packs. Many ultralight backpacking shelters come in a “one person” and a “two-person” configuration. The two person version weighing less per person than the one person version. As an example, my current go-to one man tent is the Gossamer Gear “The One” that weighs in at 22.4 Oz/635g. Gossamer Gear also makes a two man version called “The Two” it only weighs 29 Oz/822g. Divide that by two and you get 14.5 Oz/411g. That’s a huge 7.9 Oz/223g weight saving. Although “The Two” is a single piece and cannot be split, one person can carry the tent and the other can carry both sleeping pads to even out the weight.
Other examples of sharing gear could be a stove, camera, and GPS.
8 – Don’t Carry Something Just Because You Always Bring It
9 – Weigh Everything
I promise you, you will be shocked how much of a difference it makes when you start weighing your gear. It will make you question everything. I accept no responsibility if you start frantically weighing all your gear and entering weights into a spreadsheet. Welcome to the nerdy world of ultralight backpacking. Joking aside, the scale never lies and puts into numbers how much your gear weighs. You’ll question your gear decisions and possibly reach for the lighter item on your next trip.
10 – Cut Unnecessary Parts Off Of Your Gear
Maybe. But wait.
Many people know about cutting off the handle from your toothbrush to make it lighter. There are a lot of other things you can cut and trim to save weight. I recommend people cut off unnecessary webbing and accessories from their gear but please put some thought into it. I’ve cut off compression straps in the past only to regret it further down the trail. You can save weight doing this but once it’s done it’s done. Trim your sit pad to make it smaller and shorten that webbing. You can even cut an extra few inches from the inseam of your hiking shorts.
There is no such thing as too much thigh.
So that’s the first 10 nuggets of wisdom from my free Ultralight Backpacking Tips Book.
To get the full ebook and 40 more tips to lighten your load, simply enter your email address below and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.
If you have questions for me then I’d love to hear from you, drop me a comment below right now