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About Lightweight Backpacking

A brief primer on lightweight backpacking.


by Ryan Jordan | 2003-12-15 03:00:00-07

What is lightweight backpacking?

Backpacking, of course, is considered as “overnight human-powered wilderness travel”. To that end, many types of people enjoy backpacking, including hikers, hunters, canoeists, packrafters, cross country mountain bikers, and more. It follows, then, that lightweight backpacking is simply the art of carrying less gear while enjoying these activities.

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

A question open to debate, for sure! 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.

Who manufactures lightweight backpacking gear?

Many manufacturers, including Patagonia, Marmot, and MSR, offer lightweight backpacking gear as part of their overall product line. However, some of the most innovative lightweight backpacking gear is being manufactured by smaller cottage industry manufacturers, such as Bozeman Mountain Works, Oware USA, Gossamer Gear, and Brasslite. And, the company leading the charge in the development of lightweight backpacking gear for the mass market, of course, is GoLite.

Where can I buy lightweight backpacking gear?

There are a number of sources for lightweight backpacking gear. Often, you can find lightweight backpacking gear in your local outdoor outfitter’s shop (although, you may have to search to find it!). The Internet is also a good source. Online retailers such as, Backpacking Light, and Backcountry Gear specialize in stocking lightweight backpacking equipment.

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:


"About Lightweight Backpacking," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2003-12-15 03:00:00-07.