Ultralight backpacking is a method used for arranging the contents of a backpack to significantly reduce the amount of needless weight. An excess load usually comes from packing too much gear. Ultralight backpacking focuses on measures that will minimize the weight of your gear. Selecting and categorizing the important item can be a challenge.
The following is the general classification of Base Weights (B.W);
The Base Weight must first be calculated to be able to determine the acceptable amount of gear.
The easiest way to pack light is to focus on the heavy and bulky items e.g. backpacks, shelter, sleeping bags, and pads.
A conventional backpack weighs 3 or 4 pounds and can fit up to 65 liters, however, there are backpacks that weigh 1.5 – 2 pounds and fit 45 to 55 liters. Choose frameless backpacks and those with less padding.
Tents. The lightest unit weights one pound. Double-walled tents are much preferred because they keep out insects and excess moisture. They can be used during any season and are versatile provided that there is enough ground space.
Tarps. Ultralight tarps make for a great cover against the rain. The walls of these tarps enhance airflow because they are part solid and part mesh. Tarps usually require large campsites for set up and several poles or trees to attach the guy ropes.
Bivy Sacks. A high-quality bivy sack weighs no more than two pounds and provides the sleeping bags with full protection from the rain. The warmth provided by a bivy sack allows you to have a lighter sleeping bag and no groundsheet. Notwithstanding, in hot and humid weather, bivvies will leave you drenched in sweat.
Ultralight hammocks. Ultralight hammocks are just as tiny in your backpack as they are on a scale. They consist of both a rain fly (which can be attached to the trees above) and a bug net (which is slid over the hammock and tied off at each end). A hammock is a good alternative when there is not enough ground-level at campsites, and there is no need to worry about ground moisture.
The best option would be a down sleeping bag. Down sleeping bags have less weight and can be folded to make them smaller. Most models are leak-proof and add an insignificant one to two pounds to your load.
Here is what you can do to make your backpack as light as possible without making any compromise:
Air pads are now used instead of Self-inflating camping pads. Air pads weigh less than one pound, has more cushion is of full length. Never the less, end-to-end long-distance hikers choose a closed-cell foam pad because they are durable.
Opting for a torso length air pad or a closed cell foam pad will significantly reduce the amount of weight you will carry Your backpack can also be used to protect your feet from the cold. Ultimately, it all depends on your preferred level of comfort.
After you would have covered the basics, food, fuel, and water are next in line. Here are some specific recommendations for each category.
A rule of thumb for how much food you will need, based on Military Physiology: Energy Expenditure is more or less 3500-4500 calories. The definite number of calories will depend on multiple factors: difficulty, distance, and speed.
In keeping with the trend of reducing weight, your meals should only require adding hot water into a dehydrated mix. You will use less food and fuel compared to cooking from scratch.
As for the cookware, it should serve several purposes. Metal cups can be used as a pot for cooking or as a spork.
There are several options for cooking as follows:
How to avoid carrying all the water you will need throughout the day.
Decide on a trail, determine the locations of water sources and how to filter it.
Even though the main goal is to make your load lighter, safety measures and necessary gear should not be compromised. In addition to backpacks, tents, and meals, you must include the following items in your backpacking checklist:
Another point to consider is staying healthy and clean. You should not forget the following items:
After selecting the essential items, there are other aspects of ultralight packing that will require your attention. The following are recommendations that will take your experience to another level.
You must ensure that your gears are made from both lightweight and durable materials. These gears may be expensive but are worth the investment.
Synthetic clothes weigh less than cotton and act as a better layering option when hiking. Synthetic clothing can be dried faster, so there is no need for a change of clothes when you sweat, this means less load.
The most crucial aspect of preparing for your trip is deciding on what to take.
By employing this method, you will avoid filling your backpack with unnecessary weight.
People get caught up with ruthless cutting of the load they will have to carry on their backs. However, they fail to take into account their actual body mass, which they have to carry on their feet.
Taking care of your health in advance will make the overall experience much better. Being fit will not only allow you to be able to carry more weight, but it will make you physically stronger and more capable of such activity.
Set yourself little tasks every time you plan your next trip. Read new articles, seek professional advice and tips, communicate with other hikers, research the trail, look for better gear, etc. Remember, there is always room to learn even if you believe that you are well-versed in the subject.
A full backpack should weigh no more than 20% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should not exceed 30 pounds. Total weight is determined by:
Base Weight (fixed gear) + Consumables (variable gear) = Total Pack Weight
Consumable and wearable items are food, water, fuel for stove and gear used for hiking. All others are B.W.
Ultralight backpacking is as safe as you make it. Obeying all the rules, keeping a sharp mind, knowing the area, acquiring basic wilderness survival skills and planning well, will allow you to have a safe trip.
Ultralight is all about compromise and trade-off. The best mindset is to trade camp comfort for trail comfort. You might not have a spacious tent, and your feast might be modest, but you will not be as worn out as the person who carried more weight. You can relax, munch on a power bar and look at the stars from the comfort of your hammock.
Ultralight backpackers highly prioritize the weight of their gear; however, the contents may be of poor quality. Ultralight backpacks are produced on a small scale by decentralized businesses, whereas, others are made by large purpose-built facilities in large quantities. As such, ultralight packs are often less sturdy.
The answer depends on the purpose of your trip. If you plan to relax and spend quality time at the campsite, you will benefit from taking extra items such as playing cards, a thick roll mat, a change of shoes, etc.
On the other hand, if you are going to be walking for long periods, it might be best to pack ultralight.
Carrying less weight will allow you comfort, it will help you to keep up your pace and cover more distance.
The checklist for ultralight packing is extensive but easy to follow. Start by choosing lightweight as an alternative and slowly go down the list of absolute necessities:
Once you get that out of the way, follow our tips on materials, organization, weather, and most importantly, how to be safe and comfortable. Overall, it’s a fun challenge with great benefits.