What is Ultralight backpacking?
We are frequently asked to talk about the differences between ultralight backpacking and lightweight backpacking. The focus of ultralight backpacking involves choosing the lightest weight gear for your own needs. That includes ultralight backpacks, ultralight tents, and ultralight sleeping bag.
Beyond selecting ultralight gear, ultralight backpacking can be approached as a philosophy. A common ultralight backpacking philosophy is to keep all items as light as possible, as simple as possible, and to leave behind all unnecessary items without eliminating important items like a first aid kit. Ultralight backpackers also have a desire to cover greater distances each day on the trail.
Ultralight backpackers adopt an ultralight philosophy for personal reasons. Most ultralight backpackers view this as a personal challenge, and take great pride in their gear selection, their abilities, and the trips they have taken. Also, every ultralight backpacker we have ever talked to does not criticize backpackers who choose to carry heavier base weights.
It is important to understand you should never have to sacrifice safety to save weight! Ultralite backpacking is practiced by extremely experienced backpackers who have years of trail experience and have extensively educated themselves for backcountry travel and safety.
How much weight do I need to carry to be considered an ultralight backpacker?
A universally accepted definition for ultralight backpacking has not been agreed upon, but for three season backpacking a base weight of under 10 pounds is commonly accepted as the threshold for what is considered “ultralight”. Lightweight backpacking base weights are closer to 20 pounds.
Of course winter and technical backpacking situations require more equipment, but using lightweight or even ultralight techniques for those disiplines are more frequently referred to as a “fast and light” or “fast and lite” approach to mountaineering.
Who manufactures lightweight backpacking gear?
Unlike lightweight backpacking gear which is starting to be manufactured by more mainstream companies, ultralight backpacking gear is made by what are considered cottage manufacturers like Bozeman Mountain Works, Oware USA, Gossamer Gear, and Brasslite, or is homemade.
Where can I learn more about Ultralight backpacking?
You can visit the the websites of ultralight gear manufacturers, and there are are also some excellent Internet resources for ultralight backpacking information: