Lightening the Load: The Ultra Appeal of Ultralight Backpacking

3 min readJan 13, 2024


Hello, outdoor adventurers! Today, we’re venturing into the world of ultralight backpacking. This approach to trekking is about minimizing weight to maximize comfort and distance covered. Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of ultralight gear, compare it with traditional backpacking equipment, and discuss how these choices impact your experience on the trail.

Ultralight vs. Traditional Backpacking: The Weight Debate

Ultralight backpacking aims for a base weight (gear minus consumables like food and water) under 10 lbs. This contrasts starkly with traditional backpacking, where 40+ pound packs aren’t uncommon. The ultralight philosophy isn’t just about shaving off ounces; it’s about rethinking your needs to travel farther, faster, and more freely.

The Ultralight Shift: Key Gear Changes

  • Trekking Pole Tents: Bid farewell to traditional tent poles. Ultralight tents utilize trekking poles for structure, offering significant weight savings. Trekking poles are great to use for many reasons on the trail, so why not save yourself lugging around unnecessary tent poles during the day and put the trekking poles to use at night? Brands like Zpacks and Tarptent are leaders in this space.
  • Quilts over Sleeping Bags: Swap out your sleeping bag for a quilt. Without a zipper and the unnecessary bottom insulation (which gets compressed and loses insulation value), quilts are lighter and just as warm. Think of these as 3/4 sleeping bags. Enlightened Equipment offers excellent options.
  • Down Insulation: Down reigns supreme in ultralight gear for its unbeatable warmth-to-weight ratio. Whether it’s your sleeping bag or jacket, down is your best ally against the cold in most situations.
  • Alcohol Stoves: Simplify your cooking with an alcohol stove. Lightweight and efficient, these stoves from brands like Trail Designs are perfect for boiling water and preparing simple meals.
  • Ultralight Backpacks: With a lighter load, you can opt for a backpack with less padding and support, cutting down significantly on weight. Modern materials like carbon fiber make these packs durable yet featherlight.
  • Shoes: with less to haul, trail runners make a whole lot more sense than bulky hiking boots, and at over a pound lighter per shoe, that adds up over many, many steps. Read our more detailed blog post on this topic.

Beyond Gear: Ultralight Systems and Strategies

  • Steady Cardio: Use continuous movement to maintain warmth, reducing the need for heavy clothing layers.
  • Sleep in Hiking Clothes: Embrace a bit of grime and save weight by sleeping in the clothes you hike in.
  • Minimalist Emergency Gear: Instead of a bulky knife, pack a teeny tiny pair of scissors. It’s about having what you need, not what you fear you might need.
  • Hydration Strategy: Instead of carrying large amounts of water, use a lightweight water filter or purification tablets and refill at sources along the trail.
  • Navigation Tools: Swap out heavy guidebooks and maps for digital versions. A cell phone is an ultralighter’s dream: maps, GPS, camera, audio books or podcasts, and more all in one.

Embracing the Ultralight Philosophy

Ultralight backpacking isn’t just about gear; it’s a mindset. It’s about knowing your capabilities, understanding your environment, and carrying only what you truly need. While it may seem daunting at first, the freedom and ease it brings to your trekking experience are unparalleled.

The Financial Aspect

Yes, ultralight gear can be pricier due to specialized materials. However, the investment often balances out over time, considering the longevity of the gear if treated thoughtfully and the reduced need for redundant items.

Conclusion: Finding Your Balance

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or new to the trails, ultralight backpacking offers an exciting challenge. It’s about refining your gear, honing your skills, and embracing the simplicity of the wilderness.

Until next time, consider lightening your load and see how it transforms your journey. Happy trails and light packs to you all!




ReadyTrek Packs: Customized, pre-packed backpacks for all your adventures. Expertly curated for you, your family, and pets. #AdventureReady 🌲🎒🐾