Howdy campers. This is the first in a series of articles relating to going Ultralight. Ultralight backpacking is by no means a new concept. I have found articles about cutting weight that date back to the mid 70’s. However, as technology has advanced on all outdoor gear related fronts, going ultralight is easier than ever, and the easiest way to begin is to dive right in. We’ll start with the easiest ways to cut weight first.
Although I’m sure that many people have successfully managed to drop weight from their pack little by little, the majority of people benefit from simply jumping in with both feet. Please understand that I am not advocating dropping your current rig and setting off on a trip with a fleece sleeping bag liner wrapped in a tarp with a packet or Ramen noodles. But, a drastic reduction gives you the immediate sense of what going ultralight can do for you, but lets do it smartly.
Let’s start with the low hanging fruit here. First, look at your sleeping bag. This is the one piece of gear that will always warrant a well researched investment. Yes, a high quality, lightweight down bag can cost $500 or more. But, think of this as a lifelong investment. I will be reviewing some wonderful bags in the coming weeks. But, if you don’t want to make this decision now, rent one from an outfitter like REI. It’s also an excellent way to try out a few. A good bag should keep you appropriately warm, and unless your heading out into sub zero temps, be under three pounds (and that’s liberal, 2.5 is even better).
Next, consider your pack. Is it an eight thousand cubic inch giant weighing in at seven pounds by itself? It might be time to ditch that relic for shorter trips. If you don’t want to make an investment in an excellent lightweight pack like Mountainsmith’s Scream, then ask your trail mates if you can borrow one, or again, rent one.
The final easy way to cut weight is to look at your shelter system. Generally dome tents are quite heavy for their size. If you’re still rockin’ the dome, once again, take a look at some of the new lightweight shelters by companies like NEMO, GoLite and MSR. If you’re going in a group or with a partner, cozy up and share. Distribute the pack weight among yourselves and enjoy the lighter load. A tarp can definitely provide adequate protection in most cases, but this is a bit of an acquired skill. Bring one along on your first few ultralight trips. Learn to rig and use it. If it lets you down the first few times don’t get disheartened, you’ll get it. But, give yourself a safety net until you feel comfortable.
Until next time, I’ll see you on the trails.
Quick Tip: There’s nothing (so far) that super glue, duct tape and some gorilla glue can’t fix.