15 Ultralight Backpacking Tips To Shave Off Pack Weight
“On a long journey, even a straw weighs heavy.” - Spanish Proverb
Packing light for the trail is a skill that many people have developed with time, experience and lots of back pain. If you love backpacking, but don’t like the way your whole body aches after lugging around a heavy pack on the trail, then you may consider ultralight backpacking. Ultralight backpacking means that your pack should have a base weight (everything in your pack that is not consumable or the clothing and footwear you’re wearing; i.e food, water and fuel) of around 4-5 kilos.
Most ultralight backpackers have learned through years of trial and error on how to only bring the essentials, and get rid of the non-essential weight on the trail. That’s because every gram you cut from pack weight will make you faster and more comfortable on a backpacking trip. But switching to a lighter setup can be daunting for many people, and it takes years of honing the skill of knowing what to bring and what to leave behind before you can truly feel like you’re hitting the trails as a seasoned ultralight backpacker.
As a starter, remember to check out our ultimate guide to ultralight hiking.
Today, we’re looking at some of the best ultralight hiking tips to help you shave off the pack weight and get you on the right track and perfect the art of lightening your load. These tips may be helpful because shaving whole kilos off your back, or even just a few grams will help you save big in the long run.
1. Analyze everything.
Do you really need it? Is there a lighter version of it? Can it be shaved or cut down? Always analyze everything you’re bringing on whether you really do need it or not.
2. Know your activity and prepare accordingly
Know what you will be doing on your trip by planning beforehand. You will be either hiking or resting at camp, so your clothes should be prepared accordingly to give an easier time of packing. You should ideally have hiking clothes (which often get sweaty) and camp clothes, which stay dry.
3. Use a scale
Getting a digital scale is a worthwhile investment, as you’ll be able to keep track of the exact weight of your gear and supplies. This will help you plan and pack more strategically for your trip.
4. Keep the big three ultralight
Traditional backpacks tend to weigh around 3 kilos, which comes out to around the same as your base weight. But you can easily find an ultralight pack, like the 45L Lightweight Hiking Backpack which only weighs around 1.7 kilos, saving you a lot of weight. When looking for an ultralight backpack, you should also be looking at a carry load range of about 40-55 litres. While they may not be as durable as a traditional backpack, with proper care and handling, an ultralight backpack is still hardy and will last you for many hikes down the road.
Ultralight tents are a great way for you to save a lot of weight. Traditional tents can weigh from around 3 kilos or more, but one-person ultra lightweight tents like the Illumina X Ultralight Hiking Tent usually come in at around 1.35 kilos or less. Generally, the more comfort you are willing to sacrifice, the lighter your shelter will be.
iii. Sleeping Bags
If you have a choice between down or synthetic sleeping bags, try to go for down bags, like the ULG Mummy Goose Sleeping Bag as it is the more lightweight sleeping bag option with a similar temperature rating as compared to the synthetic bags.
5. No duplicates
There shouldn’t be a duplicate of anything in your pack. You should have 2 pairs of socks for weekend trips, but you probably won’t need to have a spare of anything. If you plan well enough, you won’t have duplicates of the same type of clothing.
6. Use wool socks
Light, breathable and naturally fights odors, wool socks are the perfect socks to bring on an ultralight trip. Plus, wool socks still insulate even when it’s wet, unlike the clammy cotton socks.
7. Use rocks instead of stakes
You don’t have to bring stakes, which may not be heavy, but are weight that you can cut for more important items. Instead, use rocks that you picked up nearby to tie your shelter down. Rocks can also be used on hard surfaces when your stakes are unable to penetrate the ground.
8. Drink water at a source
Your water supply is one of the heaviest items you have to carry, so don’t. Instead, drink as much water as you can at water sources that you have identified along your route. The, following your route, carry only what you need to get to the next destination.
9. Try not to bring a puffy jacket
Puffy jackets take up space. When you’re hiking, even in the cold, you will still be sweating buckets. Go for ultralight down jackets instead, and use your sleeping bag to bundle up if it gets cold at night.
10. No cotton
When packing your clothes, choose lightweight synthetic materials over heavier clothing like cotton and denim. Not only do synthetics weigh less, they’re also more water resistant than their traditional counterparts.
11. Don’t use hiking boots
You should opt for trail runners instead of heavier hiking boots. Not only are they lighter, they can dry faster and are more comfortable on long trail treks.
12. Cooking ultralight
Consider an ultralight stove to cook your meals. The foldable ultralight camping stove is a great selection for your needs.
13. Don’t use long sleeping mats
Your sleeping mat is crucial, as it not only keeps you comfortable, but insulates you from the cold ground. However, a full length pad is unnecessary. If you can, find a shorter sleeping mat that is able to cover just your torso.
14. Dry out your gear
Wet gear is heavy gear. You may have protected your gear from the elements, but there is a little something called morning dew, which often covers the entire surface area of your shelter. Yes, a wet tent does weigh significantly more than a dry one, so remember to dry out tents, tarps, clothes, and any other gear before packing it away. You can always hang them on your pack to dry as you hike or lay them out in a sunny spot as you pack up and eat breakfast.
15. Knowing the weather saves weight
This is where the importance of planning ahead comes into place. Preparing for the cold, hot or rainy weather can prevent bringing unnecessary gear, especially for ultralight hiking. You either need a piece of gear or you don't.
By following these tips, you should now have the wind in your sails and the weight out of your pack. With proper planning and preparation, ultralight backpacking can be an absolute breeze! It’s time to take things into your own hands to start your ultralight backpacking trip today!
What did you think about our article? We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comment section below! Have you heard about fastpacking? Read more about it on our latest blog post, or check out our beginner’s guide to ultralight backpacking. You can also head on over to our store for more camping gear!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What are the best places for ultralight backpacking?
Knowledge of place is probably the best tool an ultralight backpacker has. If you know the place you’re hiking, know its flora and fauna, its seasons and temperament, you are more likely to backpack there comfortably.
When you’re starting out, take your first several trips in places that you know well, places where you can get water and where you won’t get cold and wet without a tent. Make sure you know whether the trails are marked out well. These and many other details unique to place will determine the ultimate weight on your back.
2. What are the best seasons for ultralight backpacking?
It all depends on where you’re going, but ultralight backpacking trips generally work best in spring, summer and early autumn. This is where planning becomes very important. You don’t want to take an ultralight trip during the rainy season unless you want to add the weight of rain gear and the discomfort or being wet and cold.
3. What are some things about ultralight backpacking I should remember?
There are 5 main principles of ultralight backpacking to keep yourself safe and enjoy yourself while on the hike. These are:
- Don’t increase your risk with a lessened load
- Get rid of your non-essentials
- Downsize your pack
- Use multipurpose tools
- KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
4. Will I need to get new gear?
Probably. There’s a lot of lightweight and ultralight backpacking gear out there, and it all seems to get lighter every year. If you start obsessing about grams, which ultralight backpackers always do, you’re eventually going to want the lightest gear you can find. But you don’t have to replace everything right away. Work on replacing the big, essential items first since those will likely be the heaviest.
If you don’t know where to start, check out our store for more selections.
5. What are the benefits of going ultralight?
Ultralight backpacking has tons of benefits, well aside from a very much lightened load that doesn’t make your back hurt too much. These include:
- Enjoying nature even more
- Hiking faster and further due to lightened load
- Less tiring than carrying a normal backpack load
- Reduced risk of injury