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 Ultralight Backpacking vs Traditional Backpacking

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Hiking Trail Information

Ultralight Backpacking Secrets

By Steven Gillman

Ultralight backpacking? I remember when I first cut my toothbrush handle in half. I thought I was going light then, with thirty-five pounds on my back for a weekend backpacking trip. Now I am going heavy if get near fifteen pounds.

The biggest change was when I reduced the weight of the "big three." These are your backpack, sleeping bag and tent. This article, however, is about some of the "little" things I have learned along the way. They include weight-saving tricks, but also ways to be safe and comfortable as well.

Ultralight Backpacking Tips

- To have warm hiking shoes in the morning, put them under your sleeping bag by your legs, or even in your sleeping bag if you have a plastic bag to put them in. I sometime keep my shoes warm by using them as a pillow - it is more comfortable than you might think. Point one shoe each way, so they cradle your head, and lay a shirt or other piece of clothing over them.

- Use less stove fuel by cooking out of the wind. Block the wind with a improvised windscreen of some sort. Cooking time can double in even a slight breeze.

- Evaporative heat loss results from evaporation of moisture (this is why your body sweats to cool off). To reduce this form of heat loss, you need to stay as dry as you can. Wear your rain gear when walking through wet bushes, and don't sit directly on snow.

- Conductive heat loss results from heat being conducted away from your body by direct contact with colder things. Don't sit directly on cold rocks or snow - use your sleeping pad, or sit on a log (wood is less conductive than rocks).

- The lightest pan? You probably won't find it in backpacking catalogs. Every titanium pan I've seen weighs more than the cheap aluminum pan I bought in a local dollar-store. They make backpacking pans too thick. I removed the handle and added a wire hanging handle to my soup pan, and it weighs about two ounces.

- A light seat cushion can be made from a sleeping bag pad. Use an old basic blue foam pad. Cut a square about 12 inches square out of it. This will weigh about one ounce (3/8" pad). It makes a nice waterproof seat when you want to sit on a wet rock, log or on the ground. Pack it against your back inside your pack and it will also pad you from any sharp or clunky items.

- The cold wind might chill the front of your body, even though your back is hot and sweaty. When this happens, put your jacket on backwards, and leave it opened. This will keep your back cooler while protecting the front of your body.

- When it is hot, soak your hat in every stream or water source you pass. A wet hat is like a little air conditioner on your head. Try a wet bandana around your neck too. This trick works best in dry climates.

- Attach alligator clips to the top of your pack, and you'll always have an easy way to hang clothing to dry while you hike.

- If your damp clothes haven't dried by morning, put them on - unless it is too cold. They'll dry quickly once you start hiking. Drying them this way is generally safer than allowing damp clothes to accumulate in your pack.

- One way you can lighten your load is to carry high-calorie foods. Suppose you need 12,000 calories for a weekend trip. This could weigh from fifteen pounds down to four pounds, depending on the foods you select. Mixed nuts, for example, have twice as many calories per pound as bread. Plan for some variety, and balance the weight savings with decent nutritional choices, of course. Ultralight backpacking can still be healthy.

Copyright Steve Gillman. The ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets" has 150 more of these backpacking tips scattered throughout it. To get it for FREE, as well as gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, visit =>

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Like this article?  You may also enjoy:  Hiking Shoes- Light & Cheap by Steve Gillman, Do Walking Sticks Conserve Energy by Steve Gillman and Breakfast Recipes by Steve Gillman


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