Lightweight Backpacking

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Lightweight BackpackingA common definition of "backpacking" is overnight human-powered wilderness travel. It is a combination of hiking and camping. Several years ago it was common to find traditional backpackers struggling to carry between 60 to 80 pounds, or even heavier loads. There is a direct relationship between the weight being carried and the distance that a backpacker can hike in a given day, and how comfortable the backpacker will be while covering that distance. As you do more backpacking or begin going on longer trips a natural progression will be toward packing lighter. If you frequently participate in backpacking you have probably considered carrying less weight.

It follows, then, that a simple definition of lightweight backpacking is simply the art of carrying less weight while enjoying these activities.

There are numerous ways to carry less weight while backpacking, and there is a difference between lightweight backpacking, and ultralight backpacking.

The Lightweight Backpacking Philosophy we embrace at ProLite GEAR emphasizes the following:

  1. Scrutinize gear, clothing, and food selection to fine-tune minimum packing needs.
  2. Aggressively seek out smaller volume, lighter-weight, high-quality/high-performance gear and clothing.
  3. Seek clothing and gear that can serve multiple purposes (multiple gear use).
  4. Educate yourself on backcountry travel and safety, being well prepared for changing weather, wildlife encounters and whatever else may happen.
  5. Use lightweight techniques to keep travel through the backcountry low-impact on both yourself and your environment.

At ProLite GEAR you will find information about lightweight (and ultralight) backpacking; weight-reducing tips; gear that can be used for multiple purposes; general packing information; gear checklists; backcountry ethics; and much, much more.

How much weight do I need to carry to be considered a lightweight backpacker?

The answer to this question is frequently debated. Our position is that there isn’t a catch-all answer for every backpacker. Each backpacker must find the right weight to carry for themselves. Often times reducing pack weight means going without luxury or comfort items that make your in-camp experience more enjoyable. However, some backpackers select lightweight gear so that they can still take a few luxury items with them, or so that they can carry additional "comfort" food and still be within their goals for total pack weight. A few years ago, it was generally accepted that a lightweight backpacker was one who carried less than about twenty pounds of gear (not including food, fuel, or water) for a typical summer backpacking trip. Enjoying the fruits of lightweight backpacking can be as simple as trading in your 6 pound tent for a 4 pound tent, your 4 pound sleeping bag for a 2 pound sleeping bag, and your 7 pound backpack for a 3 pound backpack. And just like that, you’ve saved 8 pounds and probably have not lost any functionality of your gear system.

You should never have to sacrifice safety to save weight!

Who manufactures lightweight backpacking gear?

Many well known manufacturers, including MSR, Osprey, Granite Gear, and Montbell, offer lightweight backpacking gear as part of their overall product line.

Where can I learn more about lightweight backpacking?

Practice! Get out there and do it! There is no better instructor than the school of wilderness hard knocks.

There are, however, some excellent Internet resources for lightweight backpacking information:

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