Ultralight Backpacking – Tips for being more lightweight

Today more and more people are looking for ways to lighten their backpack and go ultralight. It makes the walking easier, lets you cover more miles and can make things a lot more fun. But what are the best ways to save weight and become more lightweight.  I’ve put together a short summary of some of the best tips for becoming a lightweight backpacker.

Want to be more lightweight than this?
Want to be more lightweight than this? Source - Flickr - Mrfrosted

The 3 big opportunities to save lots of weight are with your rucksack, tent and sleeping bag. Its worth investing money on these to purchase good ultralight versions. The only option for a lightweight sleeping bags is down, which will provide superior warmth to weight when compared with a synthetic bag. When it comes to rucksacks look for something light that will comfortably hold all your gear. Massive weight savings can be made when choosing a tent so consider your choices carefully and look for the lightest possible that is suitable for your needs or you could always consider just using a bivvy bag.

Weigh all your gear

Dig out the kitchen scales and get weighing. Weigh all your current hiking gear and keep a note of what it actually weighs. (Remember to take manufacturers figures with a pinch of salt as they can sometimes be very optimistic.) Knowing exactly how much everything weighs lets you easily consider how much of a luxury an item is and helps you identify ways to save weight.

Look for ways to modify your gear

If you look at any ultralight backpacker you’ll see that most of their gear has been adapted. Most gear can easily be modified to shave off a few grams. Good places to start to look are cutting excess webbing from rucksacks, shortening handles on toothbrushes, cutting off labels from clothing etc. The possibilities are endless and it is strangely addictive especially when you find a way to get rid of another few grams.

Bring hiking and camping gear that has more than one purpose

Being able to reuse the same piece of kit for another purpose is a great way to save weight. Why bring a separate plate, bowl and cup when almost any meal can be eaten from the pot, and it saves on the washing up too! Other good multipurpose items include using a water bottle as a mug or duct tape for just about anything! As you start to go lightweight backpacking more often you’ll start to see hundreds of uses for a single item.

Take only what you need

This may sound obvious but it is a really easy way to save weight. Only bring the gear you need. If you keep track of the gear you bring out with you versus the gear you actually use you can easily save lots of weight. It’s very easy to overestimate how many clothes you actually need for a weekend. The same thing applies to food and other consumables. Repack just what you actually need from the originally packaging into smaller containers.

Sleep with layers on

You can often get away with using a sleeping bag rated for lower comfort temperatures if you sleep at night with extra layers on. A down jacket is another useful consideration here as it will provide you with a warm layer for during the day as well as helping you save weight on the sleeping bag during the night. As i said before think carefully about using gear for more than one purpose.

Buy lightweight hiking boots

This may not seem like an obvious way to reduce your pack weight but since every gram on your foot is equivalent to 5 grams on your back you could easily have a massive improvement by moving from a pair of heavy boots to some lightweight trail running shoes. Just make sure that your footwear is still suitable for the terrain.

Other tips.

  • You can use foil takeaway containers as a lightweight alternative to a pot if you only plan to cook using boiling water.
  • Fill a stuff sack with clothes at night to create a pillow.
  • Do you really need a full set of cutlery? You can probably use just a spork or even titanium chopsticks if you’re feeling exotic.
  • Clean out your wallet – If you need to bring one only carry what money you need and don’t take lots of change.
  • Leave your spare tent pegs at home, consider removing unnecessary guy lines and look at replacing your standard pegs with ultralight tent pegs
  • Keep track of exactly how much fuel you use over a few trips , this will then let you better estimate how much to carry although don’t forget to bring some extra in case of an emergency.
  • Water is another big source of weight,  if you plan your trip so that you can pick up water on route you will easily save pounds.

Have you got any favourite tips for lightening your load when backpacking? Comment below and share them with us.


One thought on “Ultralight Backpacking – Tips for being more lightweight

  1. Beware though, water might save pounds of weight, but might cost more pounds in the financial sense. Some of the shops near camping sites are so expensive! I might have to get one of them waterworld contraptions!


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