Ultralight Backpacking


the outdoors through a water bead

There is regular backpacking and there is ultralight backpacking.

In regular backpacking, for a one week trip, the pack weight comes in at around 45 pounds.

In ultralight backpacking we have the concept of base weight. Base weight means the weight of the pack excluding food. Ultralight backpacks should have a base weight of 10 pounds. For a one week trip, assuming 2 pounds of food a day, the entire pack should come in at around 24 pounds.

So we have 24 pounds for an ultralight backpack vs. 45 pounds for a regular backpack. That's a difference of 21 pounds. Anybody who's been to the gym and hefted a 20 pound barbell weight knows how significant this difference is - and that's for a one time heft. Consider the long slow miles of hiking in uneven terrain, and 21 pounds really becomes significant.

24 pounds vs. 45 pounds. The popularity of ultralight backpacking becomes clear.

Ultralight backpacking can benefit anybody but there are certain people that can benefit from it more than most. Ultralight is specially amazing for:

  • People with joint or back problems
  • Older backpackers
  • Children

The bottom line is that ultralight backpacking is for anybody who has ever lugged around a ton of stuff in there pack and asked: Is there a better way?

The Ultralight Experience

Those who've switched to ultralight backpacking rave about how they've enjoyed their trips more since carrying a lighter pack.

The obvious question comes up: Do ultralight backpackers do without? The answer: Yes they do. The first step in ultalight backpacking is thoughtful and focused packing. What are the stuff that you really need + what are the stuff that you don't need but really want on this trip. Yes, the stuff that you don't need but want to bring is important. It's a backpacking trip not a death march to the gulag.

The next step in ultralight backpacking is substitution. Ultralight backpackers weigh every item then they look for other items that have the same utility but are lighter. Yes, it can get tedious, but it will pay you back with the ease you will feel on the trail.


resting up on a trek

Ultralight Backpacking Packing List

Here is a sample packing list to start you off on your ultralight adventure:

And there you have it. If you need more information you might want to pick up a copy of Trail Tested: A Thru-Hiker's Guide To Ultralight Hiking And Backpacking .

Or check out this video:



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