Your clothing weight may vary a little bit, depending on the time of year, elevation, or conditions that you’re hiking in. But, in general, a well-thought-out clothing system will keep you covered under almost any conditions.
Don’t neglect your clothing choices because it’s actually an area to save a lot of weight and space. When I first started ultralight backpacking, I didn’t worry too much about clothing, but when I dug into it, I was able to save three pounds by cutting out some gear and by lightening other items.
Lightweight clothing is all about fabrics and layers. For fabrics, you want light, quick-drying, synthetic fabrics that perform well under most conditions. For layers, you want enough so that you can put more on to stay warm or peel some off to cool down. But in general, never bring two items that are going to serve the same purpose.
Some common mistakes are bringing heavy pants and accessories. They’ll take a long time to dry, and they won’t be very comfortable to hike in. Heavy jackets can also be avoided, and materials like cotton won’t perform very well when wet. You’re also going to want to make sure that you don’t bring too many changes of clothing. With lightweight synthetics, you can always rinse them off and dry them very quickly.
Let’s take a look at a basic lightweight packing list. You start out with a rain jacket. If the weather looks like it’s going to be really cold and wet, you might consider rain pants as well. You also almost always want to bring a warm, wool or fleece hat and mittens. Nylon hiking pants are very comfortable, and you can even find options to zip off the legs so they can be pants or shorts combinations. If you like hiking in shorts, you can always go with a pair of running shorts that can be very light, and some of them even come with a liner built in, which will save you bringing an extra pair of underwear.
For your hiking shirt, you can choose a long-sleeve or short-sleeve synthetic shirt. Long-sleeve will help protect you from the sun and bugs a little bit better. If you’re trying to go ultralight, you might just pick one. You also want to bring a couple of pairs of synthetic underwear and a long-john bottom and long-john top for sleeping at night.
You’re going to want to make sure to bring a hat for sun protection. If you’re going to be in really sunny areas, get a brim that goes all the way around. A bandana will be useful for a lot of different situations, and a couple pairs of synthetic socks and a pair of gaiters will keep your feet nice and comfortable. You’re already going to be hiking in trail-running shows, so you might not need them, but in-camp trail shoes are optional.
Your rain jacket and your warm jacket will often be some of the heaviest clothing items that you bring, so let’s take a closer look at those. A common mistake is bringing jackets that are unnecessarily thick and heavy. You don’t need a mountaineering thickness on your raincoat. All you really need is a thin, light, waterproof material to keep you dry. You can find full rain-suits for less than 10 ounces, and they can be very affordable.
For your warm jacket layer, a down coat can be an excellent investment. They have fantastic warmth-to-weight ratio, they can weigh as little as six ounces or less, and if you treat them well, they’ll last for years. Choosing lightweight jackets can be a great weight-saver. When I switched from these heavy jackets over to a lightweight raincoat and a down jacket, I was able to save over a pound and a half.
This may seem like a small amount of clothing, but the truth is you don’t need much more than this to stay comfortable, even on a long trip. Clothing is a really personal choice, so choose fabrics that are light, that feel comfortable to you, and that you feel like you look good in. At the end of the day, you’ll be really happy you did.
Hopefully, that gives you some great ideas on how to stay comfortable and save weight. I’m Dave Collins for Clever Hiker-