Here at Ultralight Advantage we wanted to make an introductory post in case you are new to Ultralight backpacking. We know most of the readers here already have a lot of experience but we just wanted to go over the basics for someone entering the world of Ultralight Backpacking.
This post assumes that you have been backpacking in the past and may already own some gear. If this isn’t the case then we will likely be posting an introductory backpacking post soon as well!
What is Ultralight Backpacking? Though there isn’t a formal definition it can easily be described as taking as much as necessary but nothing more. What is necessary is very different based on the location, climate, and individual person. Most people are used to carrying 30 to 50 pounds when out for a weekend trip. The essence of Ultralight is bringing that down to 10 to 20 pounds so you can relax while hiking. After all, its supposed to be enjoyable!
How to adapt the mindset?
Ultralight backpacking is as much gear selection as it is a mindset. To get into the mindset you have to be willing to accept compromise and have a good base of knowledge regarding your situation. Most people while gaining experience take to two different camps, one is becoming ultralight and the other becoming complacent. If you’re reading this I assume you’ll be in the first camp and likely trying to skip the learning curve by doing your research. Adapting the mindset of ultralight isn’t something that can be forced into someone, you have to be willing to put in the effort.
It’s time to take the first steps.
If you have your backpacking gear already then the first step is to make a list of everything you bring when going on a backpacking trip. If you don’t have gear yet, keep following along as the process is important. This means everything from the phone in your pocket to the first aid kit. Now if you have a scale, I suggest personally weighing everything you own and putting that in the list. There are tools out there to help you with the process, a personal favorite here is LighterPack.com. If you are looking for an example, you can check out my personal link here.
Now that you have filled that out its time to move on to shedding some of that weight. The absolute easiest way to do this is cutting out things that are not critical to your safety or happiness in the woods. This is where the individual gets to become part of it, what is important to you may not be important to me. Go through your list several times looking at items that you hardly used on your last trip and try to cut them out. Even if the weight doesn’t seem like much on each item remember that 16 one ounce decisions add up to a pound. If you are interested in personal advice on your gear please head over to the Contact Us page and we would be glad to help!
Once you have the easy part done its time to start looking at spending money to reduce your weight further. There is an overwhelming amount of gear out there that is labeled as ultralight but we have to cut through the gimmicks to find whats going to suit you the best. Our preferred method is to take the price of the item and divide that by the amount of weight that you will save. The number will then be in $/oz, and you can then upgrade in the order that makes the most sense based on your budget. Of course, budget is always a big concern when it comes to backpacking.
Making the most of your budget
Just because you don’t have a large budget doesn’t mean you can’t be ultralight. Simple is cheap. Look for simple options when solving issues. The Thermarest Z-Lite is an 8oz sleeping pad for 35$ compared to the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite which is 14oz and $120. Tarps and bug bivies can be had for under $100 where as a Zpacks Duplex runs $600. Using the method above is one of the best ways for you to maximize your budget. In addition to this, you can check many of the gear deal websites while waiting over the off season. Look forward to another post on this topic where we go in depth on frugal ultralight setup!
Other useful tips
- Water is often one of your heaviest items. Having knowledge of upcoming water sources can greatly reduce the amount you carry to almost always between .5L and 1L.
- A pound on your feet is 3 pounds on your back. Every pound you reduce off your shoes is usually sited as 3 pounds off your back. If you’re still using hiking boots, check out trail runners. We hope to have to specific shoe reviews coming up soon.
- Cooking is a heavy chore! Some people enjoy a hot meal at the end of the day, but for others it is a chore. If you find it a chore, look into going stoveless. It can save you weight at no additional cost(it also makes a hot meal so much better).
- Knowledge is power. When planning your trip out it is important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Having knowledge of the temperatures and environment means you can make more educated decisions on what is required for you to bring.
- Stay safe. Don’t sacrifice safety in order to be lighter. You are in control of your own safety out there so do your best to be prepared.