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How to Become an Ultralight Backpacker


If you are already a backpacker, put ten or twelve pounds into your pack and walk around a little. Does that feel better than carrying a heavy pack? Then you are ready to become an ultralight backpacker.

Rule #1

Consider each item carefully. Do you really need it? What will happen if you don't bring it? What lighter alternatives are there? After you've really cut down your weight, you can always add back one or two luxuries. But isn't backpacking light a luxury in itself?

Using Money

It isn't the only way, but money is the easiest way for the backpacker that wants to reduce weight. See the pages on gear for more information on what incredible stuff is out there. If you don't have much money, well...decent rain jackets cost a sixth of the great ones, and weigh almost the same. There are many options.

Using Knowledge

A backpacker with knowledge can use a tarp instead of a tent, can carry only a pint of water (depending on where she is) by filling the bottle at every stream, and eat a belly full of berries instead of carrying fruit into the wilderness. Read, learn, practice, and you can backpack lighter and more safely.


Step One: Buy a light pack. See the page, "Lightweight Backpacks."

Step Two: Buy a light shelter. See the page, "Lightweight Backpacking Tents."

Step Three: Buy a light sleeping bag. Start on the page, "Lightweight Sleeping Bags."

Learn how to use them, read the rest of the pages in this site (you better bookmark it, because it is over fifty pages and growing), and start planning a trip. A short trip to is best if you are using all new equipment. One trip, and you're an ultralight backpacker.

In the meantime, take a walk a few times a week on uneven ground (not down the sidewalk). This will strengthen your ankles. You'll love hiking in running shoes instead of clunky boots. You may also want to read the page, "Lightweight Backpacking - How Much Should You Carry."

Here's a video I did on the "big three" backpacking items:

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: Backpacking Videos

Problems Ultralight Backpackers Face

There are a few limitations to consider with lightweight backpacking. Some of the techniques require practice, for example. Learn how to pitch your tarp, or you will get wet. Keep that down sleeping bag dry, or you will get cold. And don't try to carry thirty-five pounds in your new ultralight backpack, which brings up the next point.

The gear an ultralight backpacker carries can be more fragile than traditional equipment. My Frogg Toggs rain suit, for example, is light (7 ounces per piece), but not as tough as an expensive nylon/Gortex one. It even seems papery, but, with care, I've used it for many years, from the forests of Michigan to the glaciers on the volcanoes of Ecuador. At $50 or so, compared with $300 for some high-tech rain suits, I figure I can just throw it out and get a new one a couple times in my life, and I'll still save money and weight.

The bottom line is that the problems a backpacker faces going light are small compared to the advantages. Become an ultralight backpacker and you won't go back to the traditional routine of struggling and suffering.

Note: If you want to go really light, you can learn a few wilderness survival skills, just so you'll be safer when you push your limits. Here are some links to pages that cover survival topics:

Wilderness Survival Guide

Wilderness Survival Tips

Staying Warm

Edible Wild Plants


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Become an Ultralight Backpacker