Ultralight Backpacking: Beginner’s Guide


Ultralight backpacking is grounded on the less is more philosophy. This is built in the belief that you don’t have to bring heavy gear and a lot of stuff just to be assured of your comfort and safety when you are backpacking. At the end of the day, the more important is what you bring and how you bring them.

Traditionally, backpackers carry an average weight of 30 pounds, including their food and water. If you want to go ultralight, you have to reduce this to at least 6 to 11 pounds. You have to let go of some of the items in your backpacking checklist and prioritize the more important ones. It is also crucial to invest in gears that weigh less without compromising their functionality.

If you want to try backpacking light, read on and we’ll let you know how you can do it like a pro!

Use the Right Bag

When you plan a backpacking trip, one of the first things that you will buy is a bag. Not just any backpack will suffice. Especially for ultralight backpacking, choose one that keeps the weight at a minimum while having enough space for everything you will need. Your comfort is also an important consideration.

Most people, when looking for the best backpacking backpack, tend to focus on those with 60 to 75-liter capacity. For ultralight backpackers, however, 30 to 50 liters will be more than enough.

Be Smart About Your Shelter

Whether it is a backpacking tent or camping tarps, choose ones that are as lightweight as possible without compromising their functionality.

Forget about dome tents! They are spacious and comfortable, but they are also generally large and heavy. So, ditch the dome in exchange for a more compact and lightweight alternative. There are ultralight one-person tents that weigh only one to two pounds. Be mindful as well about the construction and materials of the pole or support as they contribute to the overall weight of the tent.

Speaking of building your temporary shelter, a sleeping bag is a must-have. If you are looking for a lightweight backpacking sleeping bag, down is the best material of choice. It is also compressible, which makes it easily fit in a small bag. On average, they can weigh one to two pounds.

If you want to save more space and lose more weight, the best backpacking quilts are worth considering. It has no insulation from the backside unlike a sleeping bag, which is also what makes it more compact.

The selection of the site where you will be pitching your tent is also crucial. For instance, it is important to pick a place with natural wind barriers, which will help to keep you warm. This way, you can minimize the need for gears that are meant to provide warmth.

Related Review: Lightweight Backpack

Plan Your Cooking System

Backpacking food is essential for your trip. This gives you the energy to get going. While you can always opt to bring pre-packed meals, some people love to cook. If you insist on cooking, the backpacking light requires you to be more mindful of the cooking gear that you are bringing, making sure that it does not contribute much to your load.

Choose alcohol stoves for backpacking that are compact and lightweight. If possible, forget about the stove. Instead, learn how to start a fire in the woods and cook with minimal gear. Often, you will just need one compact pot to prepare the food that you will eat.

Mind Your Safety

While ultralight backpacking is all about reducing weight, you should do so without compromising your safety. Forget about bulky GPS units with batteries that can easily drain. Go old school and use a compass watch for a versatile and functional accessory.

As experts would say, pack light but pack safe. This means that some items should be non-negotiable when you are backpacking.

A lightweight but loud whistle is a must in case you need rescue. A low-weight headlamp is also necessary, especially at night. Do not also forget protection from the harmful rays of the sun. Spraying a mosquito or insect repellent is also crucial to keep the bugs out. You should also demonstrate preparedness by having rain gear ready in case there’s an unexpected change in the weather.

Think About Food and Water


Speaking of cooking, food and water are among the most important resources you will need on your backpacking trip. As you think of backpacking food ideas, choose ones that are filling to provide the energy that you need without adding a lot of weight to your bag. Bring foods that are dense in calories so that you won’t easily feel hungry. If you are cooking, plan meals that do not require a lot of water, especially if the water is a scarce resource on where you intend to go.

Dehydrating your food at home will also help. You can create meals you can enjoy ahead of time and make them compact so that they won’t take up much space or add a lot of weight to your bag.

As for the water, take note that one-liter weighs approximately 2.2 pounds. It is best to invest in backpacking water filters so you can drink at multiple sources without worrying about contamination. Plan your refills strategically so that you will never go thirsty while backpacking. If there will be no water sources, however, choose a lightweight water bottle so that it won’t add significant weight to your gear.

Dress Down

From your shirt to pants to shoes, among other items of clothing, you also have to plan strategically for ultralight backpacking. The goal is to keep the weight down of whatever you are wearing but while making sure that you do not give up functionality. Especially during the winter months, wear clothes that will keep you warm despite being lightweight.

For your warmth and comfort when backpacking light, it is best to limit what you are wearing to three layers – base layer, insulation layer, and outer layer. If it is not cold, you can wear just one layer depending on the temperature. You can cut down on the other stuff if you know that you will not need them.

Research Your Destination

This is perhaps the most important tip for anyone who plans to go backpacking light. The more you know about your backpacking destination, the easier it is to prepare. For instance, learn about the water supply in your route. This way, you will easily determine how much water you need to bring.

As a part of researching, you should also know the weather from where you are going. Do you need down jackets? Or is it enough to just wear a base layer? The temperature will dictate the right clothes you should wear.

Globo Surf Overview

When it comes to backpacking for beginners, one mistake most people commit is to bring more than what they need. They think that this equips them with the essentials and prepares them for the worst. In reality, this is making things more uncomfortable and difficult. With this, learn the basics of ultralight backpacking. Never be burdened by the weight of your gear next time you go on a backpacking adventure.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:

More Backpack Reviews:


  1. The Guide to Ultralight Backpacking, GoEast.EMS.com
  2. Ultralight Makeover, BackpackingNorth.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!