Light Weight BackPacking Basics

Let’s kick things off by taking a look at three philosophy points behind this series.

First philosophy point is that you can do this. Lightweight backpacking is not highly specialized, it’s not exclusive, it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can do it and this video series will help teach you how.

The second philosophy point is there’s no perfect style to lightweight and ultralight backpacking. Each piece of gear that you choose is gonna come with a range of pros and cons, so try and choose what’s best for you.

The third philosophy point is don’t sweat the small stuff. It can seem overwhelming when you first look at all the items in your pack and think about lightening every one. Try and focus on the big stuff and take it step-by-step.

Even the lightest bag in the world isn’t gonna do you any good sitting in storage so get out there and have an adventure.

Let’s get into the basics of lightweight backpacking. If you reduce the amount of weight that you’re carrying on your back, you’re going to feel so much more comfortable on the trail, and you’re also gonna save a ton of energy.

Lightweight and ultralight backpacking are pretty much the same thing, just with different weight distinctions. A lightweight backpack has a base weight of 20 pounds or less. Where an ultralight bag has a base weight of 12 pounds or less. The same concepts apply.

Many people are familiar with lightweight backpacking because of through hikers. Through hikers hike long trails end to end, often covering over 20 miles a day while they do it.

It might seem like you have to be a super human to cover that much ground and through hikers are really tough. The key is in weight reduction.

If you reduce the amount of weight that you’re carrying on your pack, you save a bunch of energy. What you choose to do with that energy is up to you. You can chill in camp, read a book, go for a swim, or cover more ground.

Ultralight equipment doesn’t have to be expensive. A lot of the manufacturers that produce some of the lightest gear, don’t sell their stuff in large outdoor stores, and they can pass the savings onto you. You can find them online and our gear recommendations document will help teach you exactly what the best gear out there is.

Another nice thing about ultralight backpacking, is that it’ll get easier the more you get into it. For example, if you leave some gear behind and switch from a traditional style shelter to an ultralight shelter, you’ve saved a lot of space in your backpack. You won’t need a heavy traditional style backpack to carry all that gear. All you’ll need is a nice light ultralight pack. You’ll save more weight and you’ll be even more comfortable.

Now that you’ve got a light pack you won’t need those heavy boots for extra ankle support. You can switch to lightweight running shoes, which is gonna make your walk much more comfortable, you won’t get blisters and you’ll save tons of energy.

Now that you’re ready to jump in and pack light, where do you get started? There are three ways to save weight.

First is by leaving home gear that you don’t need. Second is by replacing the heaviest items in your pack. Third is by seeing if there’s any items you can use for multiple purposes.

A good place to start is by finding the base weight of your current pack. Then you can set a goal for how light you’d like your pack to be.

To find your base weight simply load it up with all the gear that you usually bring on a backpacking trip. Leave out food, fuel, and water, which are variable items. If you’re new to backpacking, don’t worry about finding a base weight, you can just start out with a lightweight setup and save yourself the blisters and the backaches.

The next step is to go through your gear and cut out the items that you don’t need. It can be fun to go through a large outdoor store and look at all the cool gadgets but a lot of that stuff’s gonna add extra weight. For example, do you really need a camping chair? Could it be possible you get by with one cooking pot? Are you maybe bringing too much clothing? You can save a lot of weight by cutting out the stuff that you don’t need. A lightweight packing list can help out a lot with this. We’ll give you one in our gear recommendations document.

The third starting point is to go through your gear and replace the heaviest items. Starting with the big three. Your shelter, backpack, and sleeping setup are gonna be the three heaviest items in your bag. When I replace my traditional big three with the new ultralight shelter, backpack, and sleeping setup, I saved over 15 pounds.

When choosing lightweight gear you’ll often encounter a trade off between adding a couple of ounces, to maybe save a little bit of money, or add a little extra comfort. Choices are completely personal and they depend on your own goals. Just know, if you add a few ounces here and there, it can add up to a lot of weight in the end.

That should get you well on your way to becoming a lightweight backpacking pro. The rest of the videos in this series will take a much deeper look into the outlined topics and help you get as light as possible. As you get better at ultralight backpacking, always remember the three philosophies behind this series. You can do this, there’s no perfect style to backpacking, and try not to sweat the small stuff.

Alex Kafure

Alex Kafure

As South Floridian native, my first camping experience was right along the beach in the Florida Keys. Since then, it's been nothing but exploring what the rest of the world has to offer. From moving to the Pacific Northwest to now residing in Costa Rica, I've had the chance to experience all kinds of environments. The question that always lingers in my mind is, "where to next?" I can't wait to find out.

One reply on “Light Weight BackPacking Basics”

Very good article. I certainly appreciate this website. Keep writing!

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Camping Is Easy® was founded by lifelong friends who shared a passion for both the great outdoors and the gear required to enjoy it to the fullest. Erik & Alex now travel the world searching for the best camping spots all while reviewing the products they use along the way. Thanks for visiting!

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