What you need to know to start ultralight backpacking this spring
Less is more with this fastpacking-style adventure
If you’ve always dreamed of doing an extended, multi-day backpacking trip, but the thought of carrying back-breaking, heavy loads over challenging terrain has held you back, then it is time to consider a new way of thinking about backpacking.
Ultralight backpacking is a style of backpacking that adopts the Less Is More philosophy. The idea is that by carrying lighter and more multi-purpose equipment, backpackers can cover longer distances per day with less wear and tear on the body.
This has two advantages: you can travel further and faster if that is your goal, or you can simply enjoy the backcountry in greater comfort with a lighter load. This is particularly useful when through-hiking on long-distance trails.
Ultralight backpacking can best be achieved by combining the following elements:
1. Reduce each item's weight: Modify items to reduce excess weight or replace items manufactured using heavy materials with items made from lighter ones, such as titanium utensils.
2. Weigh everything: To determine how much weight you are carrying and saving, you need to weigh each item and record its weight. Only with precise before and after weights can you really see how much you are saving.
3. Carry less. Omit unnecessary items such as camp chairs, coffee makers, electronic gadgets, multiple items of clothing, etc. Consider clothing made from lightweight fabrics such as merino wool that is both warm and naturally odour-free, so you don’t have to carry as many items.
4. Share gear with others. For example, one person carries the tent, one person carries the cooking system, and the food is spilt up.
5. Work on your outdoor skills: Through reading and practice, you can increase your skill and confidence level in using the environment and gear, and thereby become less dependent upon multiple tools and gadgets to carry along.
6. Lighten your feet. Trail running shoes can replace heavy hiking boots and are both more lightweight and comfortable.
7. Rethink, Reduce, and Repackage. Carry only the amounts of what you'll need for the trip in terms of fuel, sunblock, insect repellant, batteries, etc. This often means repackaging items.
8. Multi-purpose. Try to use items that can serve more than one purpose or task such as hiking poles that can be used for tent poles or your cooking pot used to cook, serve, and eat.
9. Replace gear. When you need to replace or buy new gear, consider buying lighter-weight gear. Start with the shelter, sleeping, and carrying systems (commonly called the Big Three).
For instance, Osprey has a fantastic lightweight backpack ideal for fastpacking excursions. The smallest silhouette in the Sportlite Series, the Sportlite 15, pictured above, is perfect for small day hikes and excursions. Its minimal design is simple to use, it's lightweight and durable with a minimalist design that makes each bit of volume count. We also love the AirScape® back panel that keeps this pack dynamic and comfortable. Other features of this pack include the upper compression straps, stretch side water bottle pockets, and trekking pole loops w/ upper compression strap capture.
You will always need to carry enough gear to be as safe as possible, but with a little planning and consideration, and an honest look at what you really need, you can achieve a lighter backpack. You will be truly surprised at how little you need to be comfortable in the great outdoors.