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About Ultralight Backpacking

A brief primer on the nature of ultralight backpacking and how to pursue it!


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

What is ultralight 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 ultralight backpacking is simply the art of carrying as little as possible while enjoying these activities.

How much weight do I need to carry to be considered an ultralight backpacker?

A question open to debate, for sure! A few years ago, it was generally accepted that an ultralight backpacker was one who carried less than about twelve pounds of gear (not including food, fuel, or water) for a typical summer backpacking trip. However, as ultralight backpacking gear gets even lighter, and backpackers become more skilled, we are seeing backpackers enter the backcountry with as little as five pounds of gear – and sometimes, even less. At these weights, the hiker can still carry shelter (tarp), a lightweight down sleeping bag, raingear, and stove, so they aren’t necessarily “roughing” it from a wilderness survival point of view!

Who manufactures ultralight backpacking gear?

Many manufacturers, including Patagonia, Marmot, and MSR, offer ultralight backpacking gear as part of their overall product line. However, some of the most innovative ultralight 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 ultralight backpacking gear for the mass market, of course, is GoLite.

Where can I buy ultralight backpacking gear?

There are a number of sources for ultralight backpacking gear. Often, you can find ultralight 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 ultralight backpacking equipment.

Where can I learn more about ultralight 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 ultralight backpacking information:


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