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Ultralight Backpacking: Your Answer to a Smart Trek

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Less is more being the recent trend or philosophy which is being followed by today's trekkers. Long ago in the 1960s when trekking started off as an adventurous activity by John Muir he did not take just water and bread on his hike; he went a step above with his hiking backpack. Backpacking is necessary. Whether you go a month-long trek, a 5-day trek in the wilderness or just a weekend getaway with your friends, you don’t want to carry the burden on your back and not have an amazing time and enjoy your surroundings! Going light is the new mantra to have fun and enjoy your hike way more than ever. It’s more comfortable, simple and plain. No hassles with the burden on your back tiring you down anymore with following the ultralight backpacking trend. 

Know More Here:

What is Ultralight Backpacking

In simple terms, ultralight is for playing with the frame of mind of the trekkers which means to pack light when you hit the road. Ultralight backpacking lets you enjoy the trails without a worry of burden! When you don’t carry a lot of gear with you, it means that you are smart and can take your own decisions with situations that happen on the trek with you. How to stay healthy, safe and comfortable in the trek is what you need to learn as you allow ultralight backpacking to enter your world. 

ultralight backpacking
Reduce the Burden on Your Shoulders

Ultralight Backpacking Tips

For starters, here are a few tips for backpacking light:

  • Make Changes:

Trekking gear can turn out to be expensive. So, the lighter you travel the smarter you get. As with time, when you trek, you do understand what is needed and what is not! As you trek more often start to replace the items in your backpack with lighter and more usable stuff. 

  • Replace your Gear:

When you do this, the most important aspect to keep in mind is the weight of the new item you buy. As you replace your old stuff with a new backpack, keep in mind that it is lighter and solves the same purpose. 

  • Make your own Gear:

Might sound not so cool; but here’s the fact - a lot of trekkers make their own gear. Sew your own backpack to be light and save bucket loads of money. But you can’t ignore the fact that ultralight hiking gear is not a durable solution. This is comfortable but not a conventional gear in the long run. 

  • Check the Weight:

Use a scale to check the weight of your gears to make it the perfect ultralight backpacks! Know the current base weight of the essentials you carry expect the consumables like water, fuel, and food. 

hiking backpacks
 Tips for Happy Backpacking

Going Ultralight with the Big Four

‘The Big Four’, what we mean here is the 4 main and essential things everyone hiking carries with them: Tent, Sleeping Pad, Pack and Sleeping Bag.  The smartest move you’ll ever make when you decide to go on a trek is to replace either or all of these 4 items with lighter gear. 

Ultralight Tents

Use a full mesh tent to keep insects and flies at bay when you sleep after a tiring long trek. This will also give the tent a cozy feel. Using a trekking pole support you can build an ultralight tent for single accommodation. This will not weigh more than one pound, however, a few weigh close to two pounds as well. 

 ultralight backpacking gear
Sleep tight in Ultralight Tents

Tarps -  An Option for Tents

The ultralight tarp can be created for an awesome rain shelter tent. For this, you will need some trees, guy lines, stakes or trekking poles, and you can stay safe in the rains. 

ultralight backpacking tent
Rain Shelter Tent  (source)

Ultralight Sleeping Pad - Hammocks

Instead of investing in a heavy sleeping pad, you can go ultralight with hammock! This is getting very common! When you venture out in the wild, you have to live with the wild, but not when you sleep! You can use rain fly or bug net to make your comfy hammock and sleep on it like a baby.

ultralight backpacks
Enjoy your trek stay in a relaxing hammock

Ultralight Backpack

If you want to become an ultralight backpacker choose a minimal padded, frameless 40 to 50 litre backpack and ditch the traditional 60 – 70 litre backpack which weighs almost 4 to 5 pounds. You can also choose a smaller variant of backpack which weighs 1 or 2 pounds for a comfortable move on your trek. 

best ultralight sleeping bag
Lose Weight with Ultralight Backpack

Ultralight Sleeping Bag

The ultralight sleeping bag is way more compressible and sleeker than the ones with synthetic fillings. However, make sure it is water resistant. 

Always keep following things in mind when you choose your sleeping bag:

  • Choose a warm bag which is good enough for you. Don’t go extra warm because that means extra weight. 
  • Don’t carry extra woollens! If you are cold wear a full knit hat or a balaclava. A bag with hood will get heavy.
  • Trekking quilt is becoming very popular amongst trekkers. A lot of hikers have started using this instead of a regular sleeping bag and consider it as one of the best substitutes to even the best ultralight sleeping bags!
backpacking light
Sleep in Featherlight bag (source)

Water, Fuel, and Food

Water, fuel, and food are the three essentials during trekking expedition. Check out the tips to stay light on a trek:


It is not recommended to carry bottles and bottles of water while going for the trek. Instead, it is, always advised to read about the trek and do a research on the water scene that is available on the route. 
Here are some tips which you can keep in mind:

  • Always make it a point you drink enough water before leaving the campsite of the trek and you should do the same thing every time you reach a water body on your route. In this way, you will always be hydrated and minimal water will also work which you can carry in your backpack.
  • Carry just one litre of water with you if you can stay with limited quantity and the trek has ample water supplies at regular distances. 
  • Some water filters weigh as low as 2 ounces. Carry water filters with you to be safe when you drink water from outside. You can also carry ultralight water purification tablets if the filter isn’t available. 
  •  Use soft plastic bottles of 1 or 2 litre capacity. The hard-plastic bottles are heavy and are not collapsible either. 
ultralight backpacking tips
Carry Less but Stay Hydrated


Carry food packets which require just boiling water to be made. This is quicker and easier than making a meal from a scratch. You will not have to carry a lot of food and fuel when you plan to eat this food. The only cookware which you will need is a titanium mug which can serve the purpose of both – cookware and a serving pot.

Livingit Tip:
Instead of spoon and fork, you can use a spork! 

Some ultralight fuel options which you can consider are:

  • An Alcohol stove is a great option. It weighs slightly more than an ounce. Carry the alcohol which you will require to cook the meals (per meal per day) in a bottle. Just make sure that the bottle is sealed well and is sturdy. 
  • Buy an aluminium can to make your stove. Carry fuel tablets as per your needs. 
  • If you are going in a large group you can plan on someone getting the integrated canister stove. This is heavy but does the work quickly. Boils water fast and in larger quantity. You can also carry a canister stove which is a small folding stove that weighs 2 or 3 ounces. This can be tricky as you don’t know the number of meals one canister can make. So, you will have to try and test before you are sure about it. 
ultralight backpacking
Cookware for Ultralight Backpacking


As you’ll be exerting yourself on a trek make sure you have enough food which is healthy and tasty and gives you a minimum of 3,500 calories a day. This will depend upon the miles that you cover in a single day. You also have to keep the trail, duration and how strenuous the trek is to carry the correct type of food. 

Here are some great ultralight food options:

  • Carry instant food. This is a great option for breakfast. Something like an instant oatmeal or coffee is a quick and healthy fix for a great breakfast. 
  • Stay healthy even while you trek. Carry fat-free and calorie free food on your trek. Carry a lot of nuts, chocolate, powdered supplements, granola bars, seeds etc. Make sure you have proteins in your food every day. 
  • Use zip locks to store the food! They are light and don’t take a lot of space. You can dehydrate your own food at home and carry them on the trek and eat as and when you like it. Carry the type of food which requires the addition of hot or cold water as it will be easily available on the trek. 
ultralight backpacking tips
Healthy Food Ideas for the Trek

Additional Ultralight Backpacking Tips

Always remember to pack safely and keep your essentials with you. Don’t lose on to anything which is important to reduce the weight of your backpack. Check out our top tips for the perfect and light backpack:

  • Keep a map handy always. You need an accurate compass, or a GPS or a handy device (watch) to show you directions and keep you on the correct path. They may take a light space or weigh slightly more but are important and need to be carried on every trek. 
  • Remember to carry a safety whistle always. Make sure it is loud and shrill so that if you require any help at any time it can be heard. This is for emergency purposes only. 
  • Carry a sun protection cream always. Be it any season you need to carry a minimum of SPF 30 cream with you and a lip balm to keep you protected. You can also carry sunglasses and a sun cap if needed. These are small items and can fit into your bag not making it heavy at all. 
  • Carry a torch with sets of batteries always. You need this every time it gets dark in your trek. This is slightly heavy and takes space as well but this is an integral item which needs to be with you on every trek. You may want to carry a small LED lantern too depending upon the type of trail and trek you are on. 
  • Light weight clothing is the latest type of clothing people carry and wear when they trek. Sweat absorbent track pants, DRI-Fit tees, and shorts are something which doesn't soak water and are a must when you trek. If you are doing a monsoon trek then it is necessary to carry this material clothing because they dry off fast, don’t stay wet and hence don’t weigh a lot. Even in winter treks instead of heavy jackets carry well-insulated thermals. 
  • Cary thing rain jackets, rain pants if you are trekking in the rains. These are thin materials (wind cheater) and don’t weigh or take up a lot of space. Remember to keep them on the top of your backpack for easy accessibility! 
  • Trekkers carrying ultralight backpacks wear trail running shoes or hiking shoes (light weight). You can also wear sturdy boots or non-waterproof footwear as per your comfort. 
  • Carry your own first aid kit. Make a small kit in a zip lock pouch with all your pills and essential tablets, lotions, and ointments which you will need or may need. You can keep this handy in the side or front pocket of your backpack. 
  • You also cannot forget to carry hygiene and cleaning items which you will need if you are doing a trek which is more than a day. Hand wash, hand sanitizers, toothbrush, toothpaste, wipes, toilet paper and a small hand towel is what you will definitely need. You can wrap these up and tie them so that they are all together and don’t take a lot of space. 
ultralight backpacking gear
 Essential Gears for Ultralight Trek 

Detail of Gear Checklist Items

It is very natural to get into a dilemma on what all to carry with you during your trek. But, not anymore. We share a quick what to carry in your backpack checklist that will clear all air of doubts. Let’s get straight into it:

Backpack and Sleeping Gear

  1. Backpack: Carry one hiking backpack which is sturdy and big enough to carry all your essentials. Look out for the size and length of the backpack based on the number of the trekking days.
  2. Ziploc Bags: Don’t miss these babies! They are a savior in the wild. You can use these to pack your clothes, toiletries or even dirty laundry. Make sure you carry extra bags say 6-7 of Ziploc bags. 
  3. Lashing straps: This is an essential ultralight backpacking gear! Trekkers who are trekking for more than a couple of days will need these amazing lashing straps. These straps will help you buckle the sleeping bag on the backpack.
  4. Ditty bags: These ditty bags will come handy for organized souls! You can use them to pack and organize your personal items. Carry two of these bags.
  5. Small Stuff Sacks: This is another type of bag in which you can stash your personal items. You would need two of these small stuff sacks.

Clothing and Rain Gear

Apparels can easily weigh up your backpack. But if you are someone who religiously wants to go ultralight then check out our suggestions for clothes and rain gear:

  1. Thermal and Full Sleeve T-shirts: If you are trekking in the winters then thermals are a must have! Thermals will keep you warm in the cold and easily protect you from hypothermia. Also, carry two full sleeve T shirts that will come handy in the icy cold weather. 
  2. Trek Pants: You will need two trek pants and make sure they are ultra comfortable and lightweight. Afterall comfortable trek pants will help you climb the terrains easily.
  3. Lightweight Jackets: There is no harm to pack an extra layer of clothing. Make sure to pack one of woolen or insulated jackets and stay warm in the winters. 
  4. Rain Jackets: Check out the weather condition of your trek spot and if the weather is highly unpredictable, then do pack a rain jacket and stay safe in the rains. 
  5. Beanie Cap: Instead of woolen caps opt for full knit beanie caps. They are a must for winter trekkers or trekkers climbing high altitudes. This will keep you warm in cold temperatures
  6. Hand Gloves: Hand gloves are important not only to stay warm in the outdoors but even to provide you good grip! You can invest in woolen or waterproof hand gloves. 
  7. Footwear: Shoes are an integral part of trekking. If you don’t wear the perfect trekking shoes, cases of mishaps can happen. So check what all shoes are a must carry:
  8. Trekking Shoes: While picking trekking shoes, make sure you choose a feather light shoes that have good grip. Next thing that you should focus on is the comfort. One pair of trekking shoes is good for the trek.
  9. Socks: Trekking in high altitude can pose several challenges to your body. So it is best to be prepared for all challenges. Even a small pair of socks can make a big difference in your trek. Do carry 2-3 pairs of woolen socks. 
  10. Camp Shoes: After wearing trekking shoes throughout the day you need an extra pair of shoes that can relax your tired feet. So don’t forget to carry a comfortable pair of sneakers in your ultralight backpack. 
 ultralight backpacking
Essential Gear for Trek (source)

Best Ultralight Backpacks

Convinced about shifting to ultralight backpacks? Well, good decision. You definitely should enjoy the freedom of trekking with less weight and more zeal! So some of our favorite picks are - HMG 2400 SOUTHWEST, Gossamer GearMariposa 60, MLD Prophet, ULA Circuit, Zpacks Arc Blast, Granite Gear Crown 2 and Osprey Exos 48.

Summing Up

Ultralight backpacking is just like marriage. You need a lot of adjustment and commitment with what you have. If you go wrong anywhere, you are bound to suffer and with that we mean your shoulders! It’s important you stick around with the details in the article and love your trekking experience even more. 

Carrying an ultralight backpack is to reduce the load off your body and reduce the stress from your back. Studies say that this has let people trek more often and longer as they don’t carry a lot of weight with them. 

Ultralight backpacking is all about numbers! The weights you put in your bag and the number of items you carry is what this is about. If you are in the wild you should not test your endurance by carrying a lot of weight on your back but by exploring and trekking new heights! So, it time you go the smart way and get yourself an ultralight backpack for your next trek! 

So, it time you go the smart way and get yourself an ultralight backpack for your next trek! 

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