Nobody wants to carry more gear than is necessary on their backpacking trip. I’ve worked really hard to reduce my own backpack weight down to ‘ultralight’ status. It’s been a fun journey of trial and error but I have it very close to perfect – for me.
So, is ultralight backpacking worth it? Ultralight backpacking is definitely worth it. You will only be carrying the items you need without overburdening yourself. When you have a lighter backpack on your shoulders, you will be more comfortable and can travel over challenging terrain more easily. You will also be placing less stress on your body and can cover more miles in a single day.
Even the most committed hikers will attest to the fact that ultralight backpacking is about more than simply reducing excess gear from your backpack. You can think of ultralight backpacking as a way of life since it involves obsessively reducing weight from your backpack down to what is absolutely necessary.
When you enter the world of ultralight backpacking, your ideas about the essentials you need to survive will be challenged along with your resourcefulness.
By eliminating the luxuries you carry with you in your daily life, you will experience a new kind of freedom and a feeling of pride that only comes when you leave the comfort of your home. There are several benefits of going ultralight. With a little research and experience, you will manage to adopt the ultralight backpacking style easily.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ultralight backpacking lifestyle, then you should read on. We’ll dive into some of the most important things to keep in mind as you prepare for your next outing into the wild.
How to Decide if Ultralight Backpacking Is Worth the Sacrifice
To define ultralight backpacking in simple terms, it is a style of backpacking where the goal is to ensure you can pack the lightest gear possible in your backpack. You obviously don’t want to carry a backpack that is heavy when you’re backpacking since you will be hiking and walking a lot. This is where an ultralight backpack is handy as it helps reduce back pains and strains.
There is no definition given for ultralight. It’s more about a state of mind instead of a random pack weight that you need to hit. It’s all about deciding how much you are comfortable carrying with you. Everyone has their own sweet spot when it comes to backpacking weight. However, it’s not uncommon to reduce the luxury items from your backpack so you have more room for the necessities.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with loading up your backpack with luxury items you enjoy at home but you should consider what you need on the trail. You can enjoy the following benefits by choosing to go ultralight with your backpacking:
- Cover more mileage on the trail
- More energy and efficiency on the trail
- Less weight on your back
- Enhanced maneuverability
- Decreased chances of getting injured
The items considered as necessary when you’re practicing the ultralight backpacking style tend to vary from person to person. They depend upon the climate, location, and individual. A lot of people usually end up carrying anywhere between 30 to 50 pounds with them when backpacking, but the real essence of ultralight backpacking is bringing that figure down to somewhere between 10 to 20 pounds.
This allows you to relax when you’re hiking or walking and ensures that you can enjoy the entire experience.
What Weight Is Considered Ultralight Backpacking?
This is a question that is asked by a lot of experienced hikers and backpackers. However, there are several factors that play a role in the weight of your backpack. Generally speaking, the ultralight backpack should weigh anywhere between 8 to 10 pounds.
However, it is more about the mentality of what you’re packing. The problem here is that there are no firm technical standards for defining ultralight backpacking. If you must have a number – It is sometimes defined as a base weight that is below 10 pounds (4.5 kg).
When backpacking ultralight, it is important that you are committed towards your goal of packing light, since it is important that you don’t skimp out on the essentials. Don’t let your theory of the weight that is considered ultralight when backpacking come in the way of your experience.
When determining the weight of your backpack, you should follow these general guidelines:
- Loaded backpacks shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight
- Loaded day hiking packs shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of your body weight
There are other factors that play a role in determining the weight of your backpack and these include:
- Trip duration
- Personal preference
I have already pointed out above that going ultralight is mostly about a state of mind and way of thinking. However, there are different milestones for the weight of backpacks that have been set by experienced backpackers and hikers.
How to Lighten Your Backpacking Load
It takes skill to pack light – one that develops over time and with experience. Ultralight backpackers have learned the art of lightening their backpack load by removing unnecessary weight from their backpacks. You will learn with experience on how you can identify what weight is
unnecessary and which gear items are necessary for your specific backpacking trip.
With a little research and planning before you go on your next trip, you can easily become an ultralight backpacking expert. You’re not going to enjoy your backpacking trip if the weight of your backpack doesn’t allow you to stand up straight. A heavy backpack will place a heavy burden on you and suck out all the fun from your trip into the backcountry.
The most experienced ultra-light backpackers will say that you should buy a scale first to learn the skills of reducing weight from your backpack. Alternatively, there are some tried and tested ways that you can employ to lighten your backpacking load easily.
So, without further ado, here is how you can go about reducing your backpack weight without compromising on your comfort:
- Be ruthless
- Minimize individual items
- Make things multi-purpose
- Limit your wardrobe
- Cut excess straps
- Repackage personal care and food items
- Choose a lightweight tent
- Ration your water and plan ahead
When you lighten your backpack, you are opening doors for yourself to travel to new destinations and cover more ground on trails. This is where ultralight backpacking comes in handy because you end up removing all non-essential items and get to enjoy the open trail.
How heavy should my tent be for backpacking? If your backpacking tent weighs more than 40 ounces, it is time that you think about replacing it with a lightweight alternative. Your tent is usually the heaviest item you will carry so it is also the easiest way to majorly improve your overall pack weight.
Every backpackers needs will be different. Some will be hiking as a couple and only need one tent between the two. Some are heading out into the desert in summer time and others will be heading into snowy conditions. Every scenario will require careful planning but the one thing that will stay true is that the lighter your tent is, the better.
How do I prepare for my first backpacking trip? The best way to prepare for your first backpacking trip is by hiking as much as you possibly can leading up to the big day. You’ll want plenty of ‘rehearsal’ time on your feet. Test out and break in all your gear thoroughly. Take a few one night trips to test your sleep system as well.
This especially applies to your shoes and socks choice. Day one of your inaugural backpacking trip is not the time to find out your shoes rub the wrong way and give you major blisters! Preparation is key.
You’ll want to make sure everything is dialed in how you want it. From how you pack your bag to how much food you’ll need each day. The first day of your backpacking trip is not the time to find out what works and what doesn’t for you. The more you prepare, the more fun you’ll have when the big day comes.
Related content: 49 Ways to Lighten Your Backpacking Load
Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.