Ultralight or Ultra Obsessed?

Who needs toilet paper? Should I bring that axe or hatchet?

Largest Pack I Have EVER Seen for a two day trip!!!

Largest Pack I Have EVER Seen for a two day trip!!!

Yes there are those out there that leave the mountain money at home because of weight! This is when you know you may have a problem!

Anyone that has spent a fair amount of time in the backcountry whether it be backpacking, skiing or climbing knows that old saying,”ounces make pounds“.  We have all looked at our gear and wondered if there was a better, lighter way. Surely buying lighter gear is possible, but costly.

I am a fanatic about gear.  I love gear.  Heavy and light!  But there are limits to my crazy pursuit to becoming lighter.  Comfort and efficiency is important for me to be happy and I am not going to sacrifice either for the sake of 0.1 oz.

How do I choose what to include in my pack?

The gear in my pack will vary based on the trip.  My gear for a multi-day canoe trip is far different from a long distance hike. I will key in here on how I approach my choices for long distance hiking.

  • If I don’t use the item in my pack everyday, then I don’t need to carry that item!
    • This does exclude my medical kit.
    • Consider that my comfort level is much lower than that of an average weekend hiker.
    • I don’t care if I stink or if my gear is dirty.  I’m not out there to impress.

Generally, I scrutinize each piece of gear I plan on taking even though I have used the gear successfully in the past. Even though I have a lot experience backpacking, and choosing each piece is almost second nature, I still take time to consider why I bring each item and how that item will be used.  Gear choices may not be quite as easy for the novices out there, but we were all novices at one time.

Here are some general ideas to get you started:

  • Evaluate each item of gear you are planning to bring for its functionality and usefulness. Is the axe a necessary item? Should I bring the 3l or 5l bag of wine?
  • Are there pieces of gear that can serve multiple purposes?
  • Can I ditch a piece and substitute another piece that has more functionality?
    • Ex.  I have ditched the pack cover.  The cover only has one use and I have never actually seen a cover that keeps a pack dry.  I have swapped the cover out for a trash compactor bag inside my pack.  I put all my gear inside the trash compactor bag and close the top up with a rubber band.
  • Now the fun really begins!  Time to weigh your gear.  If you are serious about lightening the load you need to know the weight of each piece of gear. Set up a spreadsheet and record your data. Below is the most recent spreadsheet I have put together for my Long Trail hike this coming summer.
Gear in Pack Weight in Oz Weight in lbs
GoLite Jam Pack 1 27.8 1.74
Sleeping Bag: Marmot Arroyo 1 27.0 1.69
Piece of Plastic 1 2.0 0.13
SOG Multi Tool 1 1.9 0.12
Cuben Fiber Tarp 1 7.0 0.44
Bug Net 1 6.0 0.04
Tent Stakes: .35 6 2.1 0.13
Cord 50ft 2.4 0.15
Trash Compactor Bag 1 2.3 0.14
T-Shirt: Target 1 2.3 0.14
Shorts: Target 1 3.0 0.19
Terramar Top 1 2.7 0.17
Thermal Bottoms 1 5.4 0.34
Marmot Rain Pants 1 9.9 0.62
OR Helium ii Rain jacket 1 6.4 0.40
Frogg Toggs Poncho 1 7.0 0.40
Socks 2 3.5 0.22
Compression Shorts 1 0.6 0.04
Beanie Hat 1 1.0 0.06
Headlamp 1 1.7 0.10
Stuff Sack Pillow 1 4.7 0.29
Medical Kit and toiletries 1 13.0 0.81
Camp Soap 1 2.0 0.13
Cook Pot: Titanium 1 3.8 0.24
Primus Tilite 1 3.6 0.23
Fuel Canister 1 6.5 0.41
Spoon: Small Lexan 1 0.4 0.03
Sawyer Squeeze 1 3.0 0.19
1 Liter Water Bottle 2 2.4 0.15
161.1 9.69
  • Is it time to invest in some new gear or are you making your first purchase? You don’t need to spend a lot of money to lighten the load.  Check out this blog post from Pmags: The $300.00 Gear Challenge. You really don’t need to spend a lot of money to be happy with your setup. Get out there, find out what works for you, and over time you will begin to develop your style and what works for you.
  • Here is a link to a great piece about being ultralight: 5 of the Craziest Things Ultralights Do To Save Weigh

After reading this you are probably wondering what is the craziest thing I have done to be ultralight?

I cut my toothbrush.  Crazy right? 

  • I actually cut my tooth brush down not for the weight, but to decrease the size so it would better fit with the rest of my toiletries.






One thought on “Ultralight or Ultra Obsessed?

  1. When I was young and markedly less wise, I operated under the policy of “rather carry a few extra pounds and be nice and comfortable.” Now, while still not appreciably wiser, I find that going ultralight gives me a newer sense of freedom, and an ultimately closer and more intimate experience in the woods. That being said, I think we should discuss safety, and where that falls in your decision making process. Carrying that goretex and extra change of clothes could save your life in certain circumstances.
    FYI when in certain National Parks in the back country – you’re encouraged to forego the toilet paper and instead use a “smooth stone” – I still use tp


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