The Basics of Ultralight Backpacking

Ultralight backpacking is about as far from the stereotype of a hiker as you can get. When you think “hiking,” chances are you envision an adventurer in sturdy boots and perhaps a puffy jacket to keep them warm at night.

What Is Ultralight Backpacking?

Ultralight backpacking is a form of hiking or backpacking that requires the use of very little gear, to the point that many ultralighters will only carry what they’re carrying on their backs. In some cases, this has led to huge debates on the ethics of ultralight backpacking and whether it’s viable as a long-term lifestyle. The idea behind ultralight backpacking is not to be more experienced through carrying less weight but instead more efficient with your gear and time; for example, you can keep your pack light by using lightweight gear like sleeping mats instead of bulky tents. Ultralight backpackers are also often vegan or vegetarian, so they don’t have to carry as much food (or any food at all) with them when they hike.

Gear for Ultralight Backpacking

Clothing is a fundamental part of ultralight backpacking, but it’s not the only way to make this type of hiking work. There are several types of clothes you can use: a base layer and a mid layer, with the latter being particularly important for colder temperatures. It is possible to use a puffy jacket or an expedition-style coat as your mid layer. This coat would protect you from wind and rain while still being light enough that you don’t feel too stuffed in your backpack. There are also face masks, gloves, headlamps and other items that help make up your kit for ultralight backpacking. These items often come at a price – especially when considering the higher quality materials needed for ultralight gear – but they often have their own unique advantages that make them worth the investment.

Planning for Ultralight Backpacking

Planning for your ultralight backpacking adventure is the first step in making it go as smoothly as possible. It’s important that you plan out the gear you’ll need for your trip, as well as how long you will be away and what to expect during your time on the trail. You also need to be sure that you have a good understanding of how much food and water you will need for your trip, given the amount of time that you’re gone and the type of terrain you will be passing through. If you don’t drink enough water on your hike, then dehydration may cause health problems or even death; so be sure to pack plenty of essentials.

When to Go Ultralight

There are a few different reasons why someone might want to go ultralight. Someone may be trying to take on a thru-hike and need something light that will allow them to carry less weight, or they may just want to try out this type of hiking with minimal gear. Whatever your reason, there are a few important things you should consider before heading out into the backcountry. First and foremost, if you’re planning on doing any sort of long-distance hiking in your ultralight gear, it’s important to make sure you feel comfortable carrying the load. Ultralight backpacking can be risky due to the fact that you’ll have very little protection against the elements, so it’s crucial that you know how well your gear works for you. You should also check the weather and make sure it won’t rain anytime soon; otherwise, your clothes will get soaked! As far as what kind of terrain you plan on exploring goes, this is ultimately up to personal preference. If you plan on doing more mountainous terrain than flat land, then it would make sense for you to go ultralight as well.

Tips for Ultralight Backpackers

The biggest challenges for ultralight backpackers are staying warm and finding the right balance of food. Keeping your body heat up is important to avoid hypothermia and keep your weight low, so a sleeping bag is necessary, but it will be one of the heaviest items in your pack. In order to minimize weight, you’ll need to use lightweight foods such as dehydrated meals. Other challenges can come from how light your clothing are; if you don’t have enough insulation or warmth, you could end up freezing or getting sunburnt during a hike. You should also take note that ultralight backpacking requires gear that doesn’t break down easily and must be repaired when needed. Some brands of ultralight gear are limited to use by experienced backpackers only because they're designed with longevity in mind and require time and familiarity to make them function properly. Ultralight backpacking requires hiking gear that can withstand years of abuse without being replaced or repaired. Some backpacks weigh as little as three pounds while tents are lightweight, requiring no tent poles because they set up like an umbrella. Another important aspect of ultralight backpacking is minimizing what you carry so that you can save space in your pack for other things like water bottles, food and more gear that doesn’t break down easily.


Ultralight backpacking is a type of backpacking that uses lightweight gear to achieve a high level of mobility. When you’re going ultralight, it’s important to think about what you carry on your back. Consider picking up some gear that will help lighten your load, like a sleeping bag that weighs less than 2 lbs and a backpack that can hold less than 40 lbs. If you’re not already carrying a sleeping bag, picking up a lightweight sleeping pad is also important to your success.

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