Ultralight backpacking migration is a process and a philosophy. You must take it seriously, but not to the extreme. Take your time and adapt it to your own philosophy to suit your thoughts, ideas and, not the least: your budget.
Beware, however, because it could very well become addictive. There are four overriding criteria that you should always use to evaluate your equipment from, these are: weight, simplicity, multi functional and useful. Good equipment meets all 4 criteria.
Here are my principles of Ultralight backpacking migration:
1. Check and weigh all your equipment, note the weight in a journal. There are many tools and services that will help you with this. But we prefer ligherpack.com which is a free service that will allow you to weigh and classify all your gear for free, in an easy to use system.
2. Choose the item that is lightest and fills the purpose you have in mind. Sometimes the lightest item is not always the best and sometimes the most rugged heavy item is not the Best. Finding the right item is usually a matter of trial and error. Get to know your equipment and the uses for it.
3. When buying new equipment, it must meet the 4 criteria, otherwise pass: weight, simplicity, multi functional and useful
4. Insist on knowing the weight before buying anything, even from online stores. Backpackinglight.dk always displays the weight of every item it sells. Most of the items we sell here we have weighed by ourselves.
5. Avoid too many pockets, zippers, buttons and other stuff on clothes and equipment. More pockets = more problems. A good example of this is a standard hiking backpack that has entryway zippers all over the pack. While in theory this might seem lovely to be able to quickly access everything, everywhere in your pack. In reality this creates also a lot of entry ways for water, dirt and moisture to get into your pack. In the world of backpacking, Less is more. The best option is a roll-top backpack with only one entry that can easily be sealed off.
6. Use equipment that meets several needs. For example, hiking sticks are excellent tent poles and your pot is an excellent coffee cup.
7. Dress up according to the 3-layer principle. You must be able to have all your clothes on at one time! This gives you a lot of flexibility when hiking. It’s not unusual for ultralight backpackers to sleep with their clothes and layered clothes on if the temperature starts to drop. This allows the user to carry a lighter sleeping bag than what would otherwise be required.
8. Take less and do more! Eliminate all the 'nice to have' equipment, either you need it or leave it at home. Though don’t go to extremes. Sometimes nice to have items is the difference between a lovely evening in camp and a horrible, cold evening in camp. Just as it is easy to overestimate what you need along the trail, Don’t underestimate what you may need. Temperature and weather fluctuates in the mountains - be safe, be prepared, but don’t try and compensate ignorance with gear.
9. Only take the amount you need. This applies to clothing, fuel, food, toothpaste and so on. Choose the lightest sleeping bag for the weather you expect and use your 3-layer clothing system if the temperature unexpectedly drops. Going lightweight demands more from you the user, you must up your game or face the consequences of bad planning. Know where you are going, and plan accordingly.
10. Always evaluate, be curious, reward yourself, always think about optimizing equipment and techniques. Going ultralight will take time and practice - Have fun! One day you too will be a lightweight expert!
Get out the door, nature begins right outside.
Lightweight and ultralight backpacks in general have a much more simplistic carrying system than your more heavy weight counterparts. This is because with a lightweight backpack, usually the user has a lightweight packing as well - so a heavy, robust carrying system simply isn’t needed. In fact, a lot of lightweight packs don’t even bother with a frame and instead use a sitpad or some other foam option as a frame. There are of course exceptions to this rule, for example the Hyperlite mountain gear packs are a favorite among lightweight and heavyweight backpackers alike.
A good rule of thumb for most lightweight and ultralight backpacks is a total weight of around 1 kilo. Just about any lightweight backpack up to a 70 liter pack, will accomplish this with a solid frame, carrying capacity and comfort for around 1 kilo. If you can do without a frame, than there are ultralight packs weighing in at around 400 grams with 40 Liters of carrying capacity. Which is useful for most summer hikes up to about 5 days.
Making your backpack watertight
With any backpack it’s important to pack efficiently and watertight as possible. Even if a backpack is stated to be waterproof, moisture can and will still get in when the weather really turns for the worst. We prefer to start with a watertight inner liner, usually something as simple as a large plastic trash bag, then pack all our gear in different watertight stuff sacks and packing pods. If you use a simple rolltop backpack than keeping everything waterproof is far easier than backpacks with multiple entryways and zippers.
Because of the type of carrying systems that most lightweight backpacks have, it’s important to think about how you pack your backpack. Even if your load is light, proper weight distribution will still have a big effect on your overall hiking enjoyment. We usually start with our sleeping bag furthest down, then on top of that a packing pod filled with extra clothing, first aid and so on. Then lengthwise sleeping mat, tent and kitchen. With rain gear and down jackets pushed into the pack to fill out the empty spaces between everything and food bag at the top. This will give a nice weight distribution on your pack, keep everything dry and in place. We also prefer to keep everything on the inside of our packs, using the outer mesh pockets that a lot of backpacks have simply to carry trash, sitpad and sometimes a wet outer fly of our tent.
Sleeping bags and quilts
Both will keep you warm if you buy the right bag for the job. Meaning your comfort temperature - there is no point in buying a +20c degree summer bag, if all your hiking in done in 0c degree temperatures - the 20c degree bag will serve no purpose other than to take weight in your bag and keep you frozen at night. A sleeping bag should be that one solid investment above all else, or rather your sleep system should be your one solid investment. Don’t skimp to save money. Buy what you need and remember a good sleeping bag is an investment on your comfort and security for many years to come.
Another factor to consider is your clothing as part of your sleep system. It’s perfectly acceptable to buy a lighter bag and complement it’s warmth with your camp clothing. Jackets, rain clothing, long johns - it’s all plausible to have on if the night get cold enough and your bag is not warm enough.
There is no such thing as the perfect tent for any and all situations. If there was, than there wouldn’t be so many tent designs and producers. What works perfectly in one instance, might be a horrible choice in another. A good example of this is a double walled tent. In certain situations the extra weight of the inner tent is well worth it. While in other conditions, having a floor in your tent is so much as pointless.
There are different factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a tent. Do you use trekking poles? If so than perhaps a tent that uses trekking poles for setup is a better solution than having a tent that uses tent poles. This will give your poles a double usage with weight you were going to bring no matter. If however you don’t use trekking poles, than a tent that uses them might be a heavier solution than a tent that uses tent poles. Most lightweight single man tents will weight around 1 kilo. Though there are quite a few tents that weigh much less and even one man tents that weigh as little as 440 grams.
A lighter weight does not always mean a tent with a lot of compromises either. In fact technology has come a long way allowing a a tent to use much lighter materials while offering more space and in some cases far more robust than it’s traditional backpacking counterpart. Don’t be afraid to test something new - technology has come a long way and fabrics todays are lighter, stronger and cheaper than ever.