What is Ultralight Backpacking About?

Ultralight backpacking is…

  • Carrying everything you need
  • Carrying very little weight

The weights below are for fully loaded backpacks not including food and water.

  • 35 lbs– The weight of a typical backpack.
  • 12 lbs and under– The limit commonly defined to be ultralight backpacking.
  • 10 lbs– The weight of a loaded backpack using Ultralight Outfitters system.
  • 8.4 lbs– The weight of Ray Jardine’s Backpack while he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with his wife Jenny in 1994. (Ray is the modern grandfather of ultralight backpacking and 8.4 lbs is very light indeed.)

Ultralight backpacking has demonstrated that you can go backpacking and not have to carry a heavy pack.

This is great news! The problem is that ultralight backpacking has had a reputation of being extreme to the point of sacrificing basic comforts.

Ultralight backpacking has been pioneered by long distance hikers who typically seek to cover the most possible miles in a day. These are the people who set out to hike 2,000+ miles in a season on trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail. These extreme and adventurous individuals, a hearty few, have demonstrated for us that it is possible to go backpacking and not carry a heavy pack.

The problem is that traditional ultralight backpacking as practiced by the “hearty few,” isn’t going to be comfortable or necessarily safe for the average weekend camper.

The hearty few cut weight by carrying little or no warm clothing. They keep warm by walking and they walk all day and into the night. When they finish walking, they climb right into their sleeping bags.

The hearty few carry skimpy, thin sleeping bags that would leave us normal folks shivering at night. They sleep perfectly warm because after hiking day after day for weeks their metabolisms have shifted into high gear. Their bodies are generating lots of heat even at night, and they need less insulation to keep warm.

The hearty few sleep on thin sleeping pads than would not be comfortable for us normal people. Why? We know they need less insulation to keep warm. Also, after hiking all day even a hard bed feels good, and… well… the trail has toughened them up.

The hearty few use small light-weight tarps for rain shelters. Those small tarps are not forgiving. If you pitch them in the wrong place, or if you tie them up improperly, or if the rain is gusty and strong from the wrong direction, you are going to get wet. The hearty few have the experience to know exactly how and where and when these tarps can be safely pitched. And if worse comes to worse and there are no safe camping locations to be found, they can just keep walking all night.

One of the Hearty Few at Eleven Years Old!
Rob interviews Josh, an 11-year-old backpacker

Don’t let the way that the hearty few practice ultralight backpacking put you off.

Ultralight Outfitters has taken the principles of ultralight backpacking and designed a system that is safe and comfortable for normal people.

Continue with How We Do It…