Full disclosure, I'm going to totally geek out on this topic and if you end up deciding ultralight backpacking (UB) is for you, then you will geek out too.
You will become a gram counter and obsess over the weights of gear options. You will cut the handle off your toothbrush. Dyneema will be incorporated fully into your vocabulary. You will most likely buy a titanium spork because that is the international object of desire for any ultralight backpacker. I didn't go as far as creating a spreadsheet, but that's OK if you want to.
Go far, Feel good. That is Smartwool’s slogan, but it is what UB is all about. Even more to the point would be, go far, Feel fantastic. The whole premise is that with less weight on your back, you can go much farther and see more vistas and be better rested. You will do without and carry less stuff. Carrying 60 lbs on your back over rough terrain is like an all-day CrossFit session. You either really must train for it or you will get destroyed physically day in, day out for a week. With UB, it is more like a long day hike every day and much easier on your body. Assuming you have done some backpacking, you will no doubt fine tune your goals and style the more you get out there. Combining functionality in as many gear pieces as possible will save weight as well. For instance, a poncho that covers you and your pack in the rain and acts as a footprint for your tarp, bivy or floorless tent. Some people like to carry a big pack full of lovely food, plush sleeping pads, all kinds of footwear and beer to a shorter destination and just hang out in a beautiful spot for a few days. That’s great if that’s what you’re into but if your looking to cover some ground and see as much as possible then going ultralight might be for you. For folks like the fore-mentioned, they sacrifice daily moving comfort for camp comfort. With UB, you leave all the luxury items at home and sacrifice camp comfort (somewhat but not totally) for the ability to move quickly and easily. Ultralight backpackers are focused on moving fast and efficiently over land and can cover great distances. Either way is fine and most of us like to do a bit of both but packing for one style verses the other is quite different.
One main thing to consider with all this gear is that the lightest you can find will most likely not be the most durable. The lighter you get; the more delicate. Special care is often needed when using. There is a balance between lightness, cost and durability that is right for everyone.
A great resource for anyone looking to read reviews and unbiased gear testing is Outdoorgearlab.com. They buy all their gear outright and test it without obligations to the manufacturer and give very thorough and honest reviews.
We are going to cover a lot of gear here with some examples, pros and cons of each and relative weights of some. This is meant to be a starting point for you to go down the rabbit hole of UB. The more you get out there, the more you'll find your own methods and decide on the sacrifices you are willing to make.
Click a category below to get started:
- SHELTER & SLEEPING
- FOOD, DRINK, STOVES & WATER TREATMENT
- CLOTHING & FOOTWEAR
- BACKPACKS & HIKING POLES
- NAVIGATION & ACCESSORIES
I hope this helps get you started if your considering Ultralight Backpacking. Any new activity has the potential for sucking you down the rabbit hole, but remember, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Going Ultralight can be a challenge in and of itself but the rewards are great for both mind and body and the process of getting there can be a lot of fun.
Don’t hesitate to stop by the shop or give us a call if you have any questions about gearing up for your next ultralight adventure.