Author: Tina Eckerlin
I have always been a bit of a gear nerd, and have always sought out new and better gear.
If you saw my gear storage, you might ask "why do you have 11 tents?"
Well, I have tents for full family camping trips, winter tents, army tents, solo-backpacking tents, tarps, bivvies....
The bottom line is I love gear.
The right gear for the right trip is important for safety, but don't forget comfort!
Lightening my backpack load was always something I thought of, even in the days before things were classified as ultralight. These were the times when you used a couple of bread bags to line and waterproof your wet and heavy hiking boots. An era when flannel, denim and wool was hiking attire. When I carried my external frame old school pack with a base weight of 40+ pounds. Yes, I still have one.
If you are new to the ultralight backpacking world, your pack weight without food, fuel and water (consumables) are considered your base weight. An ultralight (UL) base weight is considered 10 pounds or less. A lightweight (LW) base weight is considered 10-20 pounds.
The outdoor world and technology have changed. The UL world is creating some of the lightest weight to tensile strength fabrics, for tents and backpacks. Cookware has also come a long way from cast iron skillets to ultralight titanium cookware.
There are many hikers out there with sub 6 pound base weights. During my initial goals of going UL, I aspired to get as light as I could.
It was almost a game going UL. A very addictive game.
We all know that the lighter your pack weight, the less strain on your body and joints - the more miles you can do.
If you are getting older, are not in the shape you were twenty years ago or have back problems, injuries or other physical disabilities, going UL a simple solution to be kinder to your body.
I tried the tricks like cutting my toothbrush in half and drilling holes in it to save 4 grams. I chose the thinnest foam pad I could find, made the lightest tarp, cold soaked my food in a peanut butter jar, and used my pack as a pillow and slept in my hiking clothes to save added weight. I managed to get my base weight down to 7.5 pounds.
After having children, suffering with fibromyalgia and other ailments this seemed like the easiest way to help my body.
Going ultralight or lightweight is definitely going to help you. Shake down your gear: what do you really need? What can you switch out for lighter items? Moreover, what do you really want?
Sometimes what others consider luxury items, are in fact essential items; at least for me.
It turns out that even though I can hit a sub 8 pound backpacking base weight, I suffer for it. I still go out for bushcraft survival-type trips to push limits, but feel I have found my happy place in my lightweight backpacking gear.
I have discovered that I don't like cold coffee. I NEED a hot cup of coffee in the morning, therefore carry a stove. I require a thick and cushy air mattress and not 1, but 2 pillows in order to get a good nights sleep.
I tend to hike in eastern Canada and need camp shoes because my trail runners are soaked- all-the-time. I carry night clothes and a notebook.
I only cowboy camp during the winter because the insect population will eat-you-alive otherwise.
So now, my base weight is about 12 pounds for 3 season backpacking which I still feel is amazing. My rule is trying to go ultralight while having full-comfort.
I know I can still shave a few pounds off my gear. I could lose at least a pound by getting a new tent. Now, only to come up with a reasonable excuse to give my partner to add a twelfth tent to my collection!
The lesson here if you are new to the UL world, is to scrutinize your gear: get rid of what you don't need and switch out what you can. Make it work for you. Find that happy place between ultralight and ultra-comfort.
The pack weight and the gear you use needs to be as individual as you are. If you are a bigger person, then your clothing will weigh more. You may wear contact lenses and carry a pair of glasses. What works for you?
Test out different gear, learn about the environment you will be in and decide if like me, if you need 1 or 2 pillows?
Have you made the UL journey? How did you lighten your pack load?
Make sure to leave us a comment below and share your thoughts!