44 Ultralight Backpacking Tips That Actually Make Sense for Thru-Hikers

Going ultralight is the holy grail of modern backpacking. Yet so many ultralight backpacking tips I read on the internet are downright silly, or at least unrealistic for thru-hikers. For instance, I’m not going to schlep my spices around in a tic tac container, adorable as that looks, because I don’t carry spices in the first place. Likewise, the idea of me having the forethought to pre-order enough dehydrated tooth powder to supply my dental hygiene needs for six months is ludicrous.

So I’ve compiled a list of common-sense ultralight backpacking tips to reduce your base weight in ways that actually make sense for thru-hikers. Even employing just a handful can lighten your load substantially. As a bonus, many of these hacks are budget-friendly.

READ NEXT – Ultralight for Under $1,000

44 Common-Sense Ways to Lower Your Base Weight

Lighten Up Your Big Gear

Ultralight backpacking tips

Ultralight backpacking tips: Lighten up big gear.

These items make up the bulk of your base weight and have the most potential for huge weight reductions.

1. Quilt Instead of Sleeping Bag

Quilts have grown wildly in popularity in recent years—last year, more than half of the participants in our annual Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey preferred quilts over traditional mummy bags. Not only are they significantly lighter, but quilts are far less constricting, and many hikers find them more comfortable.

2. Tarp or Trekking Pole Tent Instead of Freestanding

Swapping dedicated tent poles for trekking poles, which you’re probably already carrying, is an easy way to save weight. Single-wall varieties are naturally the lightest option. If bugs and privacy aren’t a major concern, you can go even lighter (and cheaper) with a simple tarp.

Ultralight tent fabrics like DCF will be the lightest options, but minimalist silnylon tents and tarps are still lightweight at a fraction of the cost.

3. Minimalist Pack

Look for a pack made with durable, ultralight materials and a simple design: typically a large roll-top main compartment, a mesh back panel, minimalist padding, and water bottle sleeves (there may or may not be hip belt pockets involved). Ultralight backpacks can weigh less than two pounds. Frameless packs are even lighter but not as beginner-friendly.

READ NEXT – Best Backpacks for Thru-Hiking

4. 3/4-Length Sleeping Pad

The easiest way to reduce your sleeping pad weight by 25% is to get a shorter pad. For short people, a 3/4-length option is basically full-length anyway. And for taller folks whose legs hang off the end, simply place some folded-up clothes or your partially-emptied backpack underneath them.

Inflatable pads will cost more than foam pads but have a higher insulation-to-weight ratio. If you want the most ultralight sleep system possible, go inflatable.

Minimize Luxury Items

Ultralight backpacking tips

Ultralight backpacking tips: Eliminate luxury items. Photo courtesy of Emran Kassim.

5. Eliminate camp shoes or just bring flip-flops.

A pair of Crocs weighs more than a pound, and you only wear them for a couple of hours per day at most—is it really worth it? Hikers who walk in trail runners often find them breathable enough that they don’t need a change of shoes in any case.

Or just pack cheap Walmart flip-flops, which only weigh a few ounces. (Though I would advise against walking around on steep or rough terrain in flip-flops.)

6. Eliminate common heavy, low-calorie backpacking foods.

Some of the most popular thru-hiking foods are actually not that calorie-dense. It’s hard to eliminate all of these low-calorie staples, but the more you can dilute them with more energy-dense (>125 calories/ounce) foods, the better.

Common offenders:

  • Tuna packets (30-40 cal/oz)
  • Flour tortillas (85 cal/oz)
  • Cheese (100-120 oz)

More energy-dense alternatives:

  • Nuts and nut butters (170-210 cal/oz)
  • Olive oil (250 cal/oz)
  • Protein bar (130-150 cal/oz)

7. Eliminate battery bank for short trips / short-duration resupplies (like AT).

My battery bank weighs almost half a pound. While I love being able to use my phone worry-free, I often leave the bank behind on trails with frequent town stops.

By leaving my phone off or in airplane mode most of the time, a single charge easily lasts me four or five days (and my phone is no spring chicken). Using guidebook pages to assist in navigation will extend your battery life significantly.

8. No books, no camera. Use your phone for that.

In direct counterpoint to the above, if you are very attached to entertainment media and/or photography, it might be worth the seven-ounce battery bank to keep your phone powered on, as it will save you the significantly heavier weight of a book or camera equipment.

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9. One set of hiking clothes. One set of camp clothes. that’s it.

Clothing is probably the heaviest chunk of base weight you carry besides your Big Three. Don’t make it worse by carrying an extra change of hiking clothes. The exception is an extra pair of dry hiking socks (key for blister prevention and general foot health).

Keep your camp clothes safe and dry in your pack so you have something warm to change into at the end of a cold, rainy day.

10. Leave the baby wipes at home.

Anyone else feel like baby wipes leave a weird residue on their skin? And/or that they’re just smearing the grime around without actually improving anything hygiene-wise? I say embrace your inevitable funk and leave the wipes behind. If you must have them, try drying them out ahead of time and then adding water to rehydrate them on the trail. Pack them out.

11. Cold soak to eliminate stove + fuel weight.

Carrying cold foods that don’t require rehydration probably won’t save you any weight since many of these foods are fairly heavy (tortillas, tuna packets, etc.). If you want to really maximize the weight savings of going stoveless, your best bet is to carry dehydrated food and cold-soak it.

READ NEXT – 6 Easy Cold Soak Recipes for Your Next Thru-Hike

12. Blow up your pad with your breath; leave the pump sack at home.

Most inflatable sleeping pads come with a giant pump sack you can use to inflate your sleeping pad more easily. I actually think they’re a bit of a pain to use, and more to the point, they’re needless extra weight.

Choose Gear that Does Double Duty

Ultralight backpacking tips: choose gear that does double-duty. (Eliminate one pot from this photo and you’re good to go.) Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash.

13. Snow stake instead of trowel.

Why pay $20 for a titanium pooper scooper when you could get a $6 snow stake for just 0.4 ounces more? Plus, the stake can serve as part of your tent setup (minorly inconvenient if you need a cathole while your tent is pitched but I’m sure it’s nothing you can’t handle).

14. Eat and drink out of your pot.

No need for an extra mug and/or bowl.

15. Wind pants double as rain pants.

Unless you’re in a really cold place, wind pants will keep you adequately warm in place of rain pants while weighing a fraction of what rain pants weigh. I like the two-ounce Montbell Tachyon pants.

16. Floss doubles as thread.

In addition to serving its original dental hygiene purpose, you can use floss as part of your emergency repair kit because it’s much stronger than thread for repairing rips and tears.

17. Fritos as fire starter. Bonus: extra snacks for emergencies!

So delicious, so flammable. Most thru-hikers don’t light many fires, but it’s good to be able to start one in an emergency. Rather than schlepping a dedicated firestarter, just include a pack of Fritos in every resupply.

18. Spare clothes inside stuff sack instead of pillow.

I normally just pack whatever clothing I’m not wearing to bed inside my sleeping bag stuff sack and use that as a pillow. I used to use a pack with a detachable brain compartment, and I would stuff my puffy jacket inside the brain for the ultimate comfy pillow. Sigh. I miss those days.

Choose Lighter Everyday Alternatives

19. Crystal Light container for sunglasses.

Weighs next to nothing and costs a lot less than an actual sunglasses case.

20. Wendy’s spoon instead of metal spoon. Just one.

You don’t need a whole cutlery set, just one spoon—you’re going to be using it to eat peanut butter and rehydrated mush, not salad and angel hair pasta. Tines are unnecessary.

21. Ziplocks and trash bags instead of dry bags.

Durable dry bags are thick and heavy, while ultralight dry bags are very expensive and puncture incredibly easily. I opt to pack all but my most precious gear (electronics, down sleeping bag) in ziplocks and top it all off with a trash compactor bag lining the whole inside of my pack.

22. Polycro Groundsheet

Not only are standard footprints expensive, but they’re also heavy. Try opting for an ultralight polycro groundsheet instead.

Polycro is a clear, thin, plasticky material that feels more apt for covering a bowl of leftover salad than protecting my tent floor, but it’s nevertheless surprisingly strong. Just don’t let it blow away in the wind before you weigh it down.

23. Smartwater Bottles Instead of Nalgene or Bladder

Nalgenes are heavy. Bladders are heavy and expensive and inconvenient. Just get two one-liter Smartwaters, and you’ll be good to go. Bonus: the mouth is the right size to mate with a Sawyer Squeeze.

24. Frogg Toggs Instead of Fancy Rain Gear

A Frogg Toggs rain jacket costs about $25 and weighs around six ounces. That puts it on par with the highest-end ultralight rain jackets on the market weight-wise at a fraction of the cost of any of those competitors. They’re not the most durable garments on the planet, but I put over a thousand miles on my ‘Toggs before applying my first duct tape patch.

READ NEXT – Why $20 Frogg Toggs Are the Ideal Thru-Hiking Rain Gear

Manage Your Consumables

ultralight backpacking tips

Ultralight backpacking tips: Manage consumables.

25. Bidet Instead of TP

Nothing could be more refreshing than spritzing your undercarriage with a healthy blast of ice-cold mountain water on a chill morning. The CuloClean bidet weighs just half an ounce, costs $10, and also saves you the weight of packing out excess TP.

Some diehard ultralighters recommend wiping with “natural materials” such as smooth rocks, leaves, and snowballs. This may be the purest form of ultralight pooping, but I really can’t imagine wiping my ass with a snowball. I’ll stick with my bidet, thanks.

READ NEXT – Poop Outside Responsibly with a Backcountry Bidet

26. Carry just the amount of food you need between resupplies.

Unlike water, humans can survive quite a while without food. If you’re on a well-trafficked trail with plenty of clear exit points for resupply, don’t oversupply—your food bag weighs enough as it is without you hauling a day and a half of extra rations for no reason.

There are some serious caveats here. If you’re on a difficult, remote trail or hiking in wintry conditions, you would be much safer packing an extra day of food. And of course, not everyone can forego food without incident due to medical conditions. Let common sense take the lead here.

27. More miles per day = less food weight per resupply. Get in shape before you go!

A hiker who can cover 15 miles per day will get to resupply 50% faster than a hiker who can only manage 10. Their food bag will correspondingly be 50% lighter. They will also get from one water source to the next more quickly and easily as well, reducing the amount of water weight they must carry at any given time.

28. Drink up at water sources and carry less.

Water is HEAVY, guys. Be strategic.

I always chug a liter on the spot when I stop for water. On a wet trail, I might only need to carry a half-liter or less between water sources if I make sure to stop and drink at each one, saving serious weight. On a dry trail, I’ll probably still haul as much water as I can carry, but I’ll still be grateful for the extra water I drank at the source as the day wears on.

Hiking at night or in the cool morning and evening hours will also help reduce the amount of water you need to get through a given section.

29. Store just the right amount of duct tape/leukotape by wrapping it on your trekking pole.

Don’t carry an entire giant roll of tape.

30. Streamline your first aid kit.

Even the premade “backpacking” first aid kits sold at outfitters are overkill.  If it doesn’t all fit inside a snack-size ziplock, it’s probably too much.

Reduce your worn weight too.

Ultralight backpacking tips: Reduce worn weight.

31. Trail runners instead of boots.

Trail runners weigh about half as much as boots. It’s often said that one pound of weight on your feet is worth five on your back due to the amount of energy it takes to move weight carried on the feet compared to the torso.

Trail runners also dry faster than boots, making your ultralight dream of not carrying camp shoes that much more attainable.

32. Wear lighter clothing.

For instance, tights or shorts instead of heavy hiking pants. It will be cooler and more breathable, too, so you hopefully won’t end up weighed down by 1000 pounds of rainwater and sweat.

33. Go commando.

Just sayin’.

34. Lose body weight before starting a trip.

This is a touchy subject since many hikers actually try to beef up a bit before starting a long thru-hike to give themselves some buffer against on-trail weight loss.

This advice is more geared toward people who are carrying extra weight to begin with. Rather than waiting for the trail to take it off for you, you can reduce your risk of injury and make the start of your hike easier by working it off in advance. (I say this knowing it’s far easier said than done for most of us.)

Manipulate your conditions to boost warmth without a heavy sleep system.

ultralight backpacking tips

Ultralight backpacking tips: Manipulate your conditions to boost sleep system warmth.

It’s important to your safety to have a warm enough sleep system, but that doesn’t always mean opting for the beefiest bag around.

35. Choose a protected campsite.

Sleeping above treeline or on a windswept promontory is pretty cool, but on a cold night, you might be better off at a lower elevation surrounded by nice wind-blocking trees and boulders.

One caveat to the lower elevation thing: remember that cold air is dense and tends to pool at the bottom of narrow valleys, so you may be better off staying higher up on a side slope than at the valley bottom in that case.

36. Eat fatty foods right before bed to stay warm.

A hot, fatty meal will give your metabolism a little extra boost and help keep you warm all night long. (Any hot food going into your core will, of course, be helpful, but the more caloric fuel you give your system along with the heat generated by your stove, the better). I’ve woken up sweating on single-digit nights after a hearty mac-and-cheese dinner. It’s amazing.

37. Slip your pee bottle inside your sleeping bag for a little extra warmth.

a) Don’t get out of your nice, warm tent and go outside to pee on a cold night. That sounds terrible.

b) Don’t let all that warm pee go to waste! Slip your (very tightly sealed) pee bottle into the foot of your sleeping bag and use it to keep your feet warm for a while. Every little bit counts.


38. Sharing is caring.

Share your tent, water filter, stove, guidebook pages, GPS device, etc. with a partner, and you’ll split the weight in half. Just make sure you’re definitely going to stick together.

39. Mini Everything

Mini Swiss Army knife, mini Bic lighter, mini toiletries, etc. You get the picture. Don’t waste weight on full-size anything.

40. Swap headlamp strap for DIY shock cord strap.

Many headlamps have a removable headband for just this purpose. You can often get lengths of stretchy shock cord from an outfitter. Simply thread it through the holes and add a tension adjuster.

41. Ultralight Wallet

A snack-sized ziplock or DCF pouch works perfectly as a wallet. Throw in your credit/debit card, ID, insurance card, and a bit of cash, and you’re good to go. DO NOT bring your Costco membership or your library card, or the ultralight gods will smite you for sure.

42. Trim your gear.

If you really want to maximize your weight savings, take your already ultralight gear and make it even lighter through the magic of scissors. Trim the straps on your pack to a shorter length, remove tags from clothing, snip your toothbrush in half, etc. You’re not going to save pounds with this technique, but if you snip enough stuff, you may save a few ounces.

43. Repackage your food and other consumables.

Really a necessity if you want it to all fit in your food bag. And this likely goes without saying, but avoid foods that come in heavy packaging and are hard to repackage, such as peanut butter in a glass jar or anything in a metal can.

44. Use a kitchen scale.

The weights published by manufacturers are just averages—actual product weights may vary from the published specs. For some items, it’s nontrivial to even find published weights, and if you start cutting bits off of your gear, it gets really complicated.

A kitchen scale will help you determine what each item in your pack definitively weighs. With this information, you can build spreadsheets and itemize your pack weight (if you’re into that kind of thing) to see where there’s room for improvement.

Moral of the Story

Maybe you’ll use all the ultralight backpacking tips you can to bring your base weight below the 10-pound ultralight benchmark, or maybe you’re comfortable with a base weight under 20 pounds, and you just need a few tweaks to get there.

Remember, there is no “right” pack weight that you must strive to attain no matter what. The “right” base weight is determined only by you—your comfort level, abilities, and individual needs will be the biggest indicator of whether you need to reduce your pack weight.

Featured image: Graphic design by Jillian Verner (@yourstrulyjillian).

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Comments 26

  • CAPT Gary Andres USN ret : Jul 15th

    Kelly…..you seem like someone with a great sense of humor….probably matched only by your sense of adventure! I’m a male, mid 60s, retired military and retired federal wildlife law enforcement officer. Many of these items you listed, I did do/use on my failed attempt at a AT Thru-hike. (Failed why? An old Navy back injury flared up “ten miles from nowhere”! That, and I found myself looking at the AT as nothing more than a 2200 mile long “petri dish” of human bacteria, mixed in with an endless party from Georgia to Maine). I now am a committed SectionHiker…and I’m cool with that…in fact, I do all my AT SectionHiking off season,”, leaving it to a younger generation during high summer. And that No. 10 on your list? Well, it speaks to my problem with high summer hiking…but ‘drying out wipes and adding water when needed’? Ingenious. And I never knew that about Fritos. While I limit intake of such snacks to maintain my “healthy self”….I do so love the damned things! I’m not sure a small bag would survive my first rest stop. Huh….my mouth watering just thinking on that salty, crunchy, tasty “crack snack”! Yum! Great article…wishing you many smiles with the miles!!!

  • Baron Groznik : Jul 15th

    Most of this is sensible advice, with one ridiculous suggestion (bottle of pee to keep warm? Really? What could possibly go wrong?) and one tip that is downright dangerous and irresponsible. I’m referring to not bringing battery backup for your phone. Dumb, dumb idea, shame on you for suggesting that. GPS, not to mention your phone camera, are real drains on your battery, even for newer phones. Having enough battery to keep your Gaia or CalTopo going is crucial, the difference from staying on trail or getting hopelessly lost. For sure, you should bring a compass and keep close track of where you’ve gone, but let’s get real. The wilderness can really spin you around, ESPECIALLY IN SNOW. And anyway, even if you’re hiking down a super clear trail, as I mentioned, your camera will definitely chew up your phone battery, and you could lose out on some great shots. And yes, airplane mode and all that etc etc. But you need to keep the phone on to track your progress.

    I hope people read these comments and ignore your battery suggestion. And I’m fairly certain most folks aren’t stupid enough to sleep with a pee bottle.

    Therma Rest’s air bellow weighs next to nothing, spares your pad from the moisture of your breath, and makes blowing up a pad helluva lot easier.


  • BSteele : Jul 15th

    Good stuff here. The tip on the CuloClean bidet was huge, (I hate packing up and packing out poopy TP), and just ordered one!
    Maybe instead of ditching the battery pack, just pick up a newer one? They get lighter every year. Half a pound sounds excessive these days. Mine weighs 3.5 oz, will recharge my phone fully at least 3 times, and is worth it for peace of mind when I use my phone for gps, camera, kindle books, and trail beta.

  • thetentman : Jul 15th

    My tip is to use only single wide rolling papers. And a mini bic.

  • John Staehle : Jul 16th

    Ive been backpacking since the 1950s and old army surplus equipment and have fully experienced all of the updates in technology. One thing every article on backpacking leaves out: Use Common Sense. Most people have a natural instinct to employ it, those that don’t are always being found barely hanging on to life or worse. If you don’t know, Don’t Go! Enough said! Because all of the things mentioned here don’t mean a thing if you go off somewhere not knowing!

  • Dirty Rabbit : Jul 16th

    Eliminate stuff sacks that gear comes in. Your sleeping bag and pad will be squashed in your pack, so no need to carry the extra weight.

    Use your hiking clothes as a pillow (bring a gallon bag to contain them).

    Eliminate underwear and opt out expensive hiking pants/shorts for a swimsuit. Not only will you dry faster, the extra leg room can prevent chafing, and the drawstring on the trunks will easily adjust to your shifting waistline.

    If you do bring a bladder, cut off the excess plastic. Make sure to sand the edges to avoid cutting yourself.

    If you’re hiking in dangerously cold rain and can’t grip your trekking poles, pee on your hands. Do NOT do this if the temp is below freezing – no need to be Harry Dunn.

    Bring a small tube of superglue. This may be the most important piece of gear as you can repair just about anything.

    Bring short charging chords for your devices.

    Minimize your first aid kit to the bare essentials as true emergencies cannot be fixed without proper medical attention. Also, make friends with nurses as they have the best wound-care gear.

    Let me know what else I missed. Safe travels.

    See you out there,
    Dirty Rabbit

  • Rocketman : Jul 16th

    A warm fleece cap to sleep in keeps you from needing a heavier low-temp bag.
    Fleece jacket rolled inside a buff makes a better pillow than using your stuff sack.
    If you want to bring a bidet, make sure you’ve practiced with it. A lot.
    I just carry a razor blade in my first aid kit instead of a knife. Can’t remember when I actually needed a knife.
    Skip the solar panels.

  • Ewen : Jul 17th

    Believe me, you will destroy your pad blowing it up by mouth.
    I stopped using a pump sack on a 3/4 length inflatable mat. It ended up full of mildew. You don’t want to blow into that.
    Get a big enough pump sack and it can double up as your pack liner.

  • Gauge : Jul 17th

    Rain skirt

  • Chris : Jul 19th

    If you’re using a bidet bring a small bottle of sani. You will need it.

  • METICULOUS : Jul 21st

    I think a lot of this is spot on, but I did want to share a couple of thoughts based on my own experience. …

    #5. Eliminate camp shoes or just bring flip-flops. I would say Yes, a pair of crocs really is worth it. At least in Maine. When in Maine you’ll find several streams that will have to be forded. Going in your boots is a sure fire way to get blisters, and I wouldn’t recommend fording in bare feet. It’s hard to see sharp rocks in some of those streams. My hiking buddy brought Flip-Flops one year, and imagine my surprise when I saw a Flip-Flop float by me just out of reach. He spent the rest of the trip wearing his boots in camp, fording rivers in his boots, and dealing with blisters. Crocs secure on your feet when using the back strap and they, and your feet, will be dry in a matter of minutes when you hit the other side.

    #24. You are correct that Frogg Toggs are not durable. I tried using them for camp pants one year and I didn’t make it a week before there were holes in the seat. I suppose if you were only using them for rain gear, they’ll probably work fine, but they’re terrible for double duty.

    #34. Lose body weight before starting a trip. I cannot agree with this enough. Before my last hike, I lost 40 pounds. That’s ten pounds more than my pack weighed when full up on water. The difference in experience, both in training hikes and the real hike, between this year and last year, was night and day.

    Happy Hiking!

    • HillSlug98239 : Jan 29th

      Indeed – I’ve tried several different options with camp shoes, and I’ve landed on using Crocs. I hike in trail runners, and I’ve spent a week straight in wet shoes & socks. I generally camp early enough in the day that I’m going to be in those camp shoes for at least an hour or two in the evening & again in the morning, and I want something I can comfortably walk around in. I also like being able to easily slide my foot into them as I’m stumbling out of my hammock in the wee hours of the morning to pee.

      My Frogg Toggs coat lasted just a couple of days. As I was taking off my pack, a carabiner on a shoulder strap tore a 12″ gash down the side of the jacket. On the plus side, the jacket was well-ventilated for the rest of the trip. I usually carry an umbrella, so I only need rain gear if the temperature is very cold or the rain is coming down hard. I’ve since switched to a Gatewood Cape, but I’ve not needed it since I bought it. (I have no doubt that my luck will run out soon.)

  • Rick Lohr : Jul 21st

    I spent many hours wandering the isles of several national grocery and hardware stores looking for “trash compactor bags” to use as a pack liner only to find that no such thing exists (at least in the stores I checked). By pure coincidence I happened to stumble upon a “CONTRACTOR bag”, a heavy-duty bag used in the building industry to bag up sawdust, nails, and other construction debris. It served its purpose on the AT but was a bit oversized and heavy and I ended up replacing it with a lightweight, clear-plastic bag from Zpacks which has worked out well. Perhaps it’s time to clear up the compactor vs. contractor issue. If there truly is a compactor bag out there, please let me know but, with due diligence, I never found any such beast.

    • Cheri : Jul 27th

      There really is a compactor bag. I got mine from Ace Hardware. About 6 to a box. Heavuer than regular bags, lighter than Contractor bags. But then I just started using the Exped Schnozzle. It’s my pack liner, blows up my pad and is my laundry bag.

  • Brian : Jul 26th

    Stick with the trowel and skip the snow stake. The trowel is lighter and a trowel like the BoglerCo can double as a stake in a pinch.

    • Stephen Marsh : Dec 30th

      Not to mention I’ve hiked with a snow stake and

      (A) it makes a miserable trowel.

      (B) on the AT it makes a miserable tent stake.

  • Buck : Jul 26th

    The one commenter is showing their age (youmg) to suggest leaving a backup battery is dangerous. Most AT, PCT, etc., hikes were completed well b4 the invention (and subsequent societal decline) of our beloved do-everything phones. I never take mine. I lived. Folks are losing their ability to use basic orienteering skills map reading, etc. It has gotten to the point folks can’t get across town without Google maps. The “shame on you” comment was over the top. Oh how did the worls.survibe without phones?

  • Blake : Jul 26th

    Reading articles like this reminds me of the variety of opinions in the world and the persistent human flaw thinking that what works well for one will work well for everyone. I’ve been lucky enough to hike 20,000 miles and hate quilts, love crocs, think eliminating cheese is always terrible idea, is disgusted by the food cold soaking produces, despises 3/4 length pads, values a few more ounces for a much more comfortable and supportive pack, would definitely encourage battery backup as almost everyone relies on their cell phone for soooo much including many people who use it as their only navigation aid, and the list goes on. The reality is you need to start backpacking somewhere, with usually too heavy of a pack, but other than that you will figure it out. There is definitely NOT a one size fits all solution to backpacking. Do what you want, carry what you want, just go outside and have fun! No need to be comparative about miles per day or pack weight.

    • Cheri : Jul 27th

      Well said.

  • Mike Clelland : Aug 6th

    There is a book with, essentially, these same tips and a lot more. Titled: Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips! (easily searched)

    This book has cartoons, something this article lacked.

    Oh, and I wrote the book. And it’s funny.

    Mike Clelland

    • Ruth Morley : Dec 30th

      Mike, it is as clever as it is useful! I can’t count how many times I’ve referred to this book. Thank you for writing it.

  • Cowboy : Aug 15th

    Your big 3– shelter, sleep system, and backpack are what count the most in the weight department. DO NOT SACRIFICE COMFORT AND SAFETY for a pound or two. To each his own, HYOH, and yes a lighter pack makes for easier hiking, but a short sleeping pad might cost you a much needed better night’s sleep, plus R-value loss in chilly weather. Stoveless is a growing trend, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that miserable face of wanting as I eat my hot steamy dinner. Bidet, are you kidding me! Their functionality for feces is questionable, plus, how heavy is toilet paper(rhetorical)? Cheap rain gear, only in high summer. I could go on and on but remember this. 30-32lbs with a liter and a half of water and 3 days of food in cold weather is comfortable for 90% of hikers. In warmer weather, trim 3-5lbs off and your doing twenties daily. Get the big three right and keep your base weight down and you’ll be fine. After all, it’s between the ears that counts the most.

  • Russ1663 : Aug 27th

    Hi Kelly. Thanks for the overview list. I am in compliance with about one third. Yes, the Ultra Light Gods smote me; had shoulder surgery from a fall, had COVID and a knee is in rebellion. I will try to make improvements. Best of trail luck to you

  • DismalDave : May 22nd

    Been hiking since the 60’s. Ultra light back then was a tube tent. And mountain house instead of vienna sausages.

    #25 I’d suggest trying the snow. Best stuff ever. Did that on a NOLS course that I took before LNT existed (and you). We decided to not use tp for the month course. Surprising what you can use. Skunk cabbage is great. The tp takes a few years to break down. That’s why it comes out with you. When working with kids we have them take a zip-lock and cover it with duct tape. That way they can put the dirty tp in it and not have to look at it. A lighter version is a mylar bag like chips come in, but then you need something to bind it shut. Or just forgo the duct tape. And, duct tape isn’t really used on ducting.

    Even better skill is to take your son who was on cross country for 4 years and every time he complains about you going slow put more of your stuff in his pack. Works really well. Takes a bit of time to build to that skill level. But worth the 18 years it took to get there.

  • Freddy : Aug 11th

    Great article, but your percentages on the food carries are off. A hiker walking 15 miles a day will need to carry 2/3 (or 33% less) of the weight of food carry compared to a hiker walking 10 miles a day, the faster hiker will reach the goal in 2/3 (or 33% less) time. The slower hiker needs to carry 50% more food compared with the faster hiker and it will take him 50% more time to reach the goal.


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