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What is Ultralight Backpacking?
Backpacking, the form of outdoor recreation where gear is carried on one’s back, is a rewarding pursuit. Many people stay away from it, however, because of the heavy weight backpackers carry. It is not uncommon for backpackers to carry 40 pounds or more of gear that includes a sleeping bag, a tent, food, fuel, a cooking stove, toiletries, and clothes. With all the equipment backpackers need to survive several days away from civilization, the load can get downright hefty.
Ultralight backpacking seeks to cut down on weight in order to make the pack as light as possible. Ultralight backpacking is defined as a backpacking with a base pack weight of 10 pounds or less. Base pack weight is the weight of a pack that excludes consumables such as food and fuel, amounts that often vary with the duration of each trip.
With lighter packs, backpackers are able to hike longer distances with less wear and tear on the body. Consequently, it is no wonder that ultralight backpacking was pioneered by thru-hikers who tackle long-distance trails like the Pacific Crest Trail. Cutting down the weight of one’s pack can make the experience more enjoyable.
Ultralight backpackers are known for going to extreme lengths in order to cut down on the weight of their gear. Some of the methods they use include:
- Weighing Every Piece of Gear – Weighing each piece of gear one intends to take for a trip can help to decrease the overall weight of the pack and make adjustments when needed. For example, ultralight backpackers are notorious for shaving off the ends of toothbrushes to save ounces off the total weight.
- Replacing Gear – Gear that weighs more than other similar types can be swapped out in order to lighten the load. For example, if a sleeping bag made of a certain type of material weighs too much, another type of sleeping bag can be used instead. A person has to consider the pros and cons when deciding which gear to replace.
- Leaving Gear Out Completely – In certain situations, gear can be left out completely. For example, a person who wants to make their own shelter can carry less sleeping gear.
- Sharing Gear With Others – By sharing gear with others, one can significantly reduce the amount he or she will carry.
- Repurpose Gear – Backpacking gear can be used for a variety of purposes, and this can be taken advantage of when cutting back. A trekking pole can also be used for a tent stake, a bandanna can be used as a washcloth, and so on.
At some point, every backpacker will seek to lighten his or her load, and there are many valuable lessons that ultralight backpacking can teach us.