Whether ultralight backpacking, ultralite hiking, backpacking ultralight, backpacking lightweight, fastpacking ultralight or whatever -- one thing is clear and common -- find ways to Reduce Backpack Weight !
This page features ultralight hiking and backpacking types of information and dialogue, particularly related to long-distance and multi-day travel in the backcountry.
Although there are other places at this website for publishing innovative backpack weight-reducing ideas, some will find their way to this page -- those successfully used and submitted by long distance packers may very well end up here.
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NOTE FYI: This page was one of the first pages created on the internet in support of ultralight backpacking - ultralight hiking. It was published between 1995 and 1996 and was maintained thereafter for several years. That is why you will not see more recent ultralight backpacking contributions posted on the page. The Backpacking Lightweight website is large and ultralight hiking techniques, tips, and practical experiences of many folks are now presented in a myriad of places throughout the website. Much of the ultralight backpacking content is now contained in the Lightweight Backpacking Discussion Forums (which by the way, are not limited to lightweight hiking but include an entire spectrum of Backcountry topics - hence the forum's new title "The Backcountry Forum"). Also, we just want to remind you that the Lightweight Gear Store, over the years, has developed into a very good source for lightweight and ultralight hiking and backpacking gear.
Ultralight Hiking PhilosophyBeyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking, by Ray Jardine, July, 1999.
The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook--Innovative Techniques and Trail Tested Instruction for the Long Distance Hiker, by Ray Jardine, Second Edition, 1996.
NOTE: This book is currently out of print, but you can order it as such through the Backpacker's Bookstore, and Amazon.com will try to find a copy for you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: (6/97)
The following review, however, is of the Second Edition, 1996.
This book is a thought provoking reference for long-distance ultralight hiking.
Some folks who have approached this book as if it was a general-backpacking field guide have questioned some of Ray's techniques as unsafe or impractical. Keep in mind the title and focus of this book. Its sub-title is "Innovative Techniques and Trail Tested Instruction for the Long-Distance Hiker".
Although much of the instruction in the book is applicable to many, if not all, backcountry activities -- and especially ultralight backpacking -- it is not intended to be a general guide to backpacking. It is specifically focused on innovative ways to achieve success in long-distance travel -- and the Pacific Crest Trail, in particular. If you purchase this book, please keep that in mind.
The book covers a myriad of subjects critical for backcountry travelers--with special focus on long-distance travel--related to planning & preparation (e.g., goals, training, first aid, equipment, pack weight, itineries, resupply, etc.); and the journey itself (e.g., enjoyment, security, hiking pace, stealth camping, bugs, animals, the elements, etc.). In my opinion, there's enough substance in the book to justify its price tag.
Although you may not agree with everything Ray Jardine says--and even if you do, techniques that work for him may not work for you--he has successfully conveyed his experiences which contribute greatly to the body of "ultralight hiking knowledge".
However, I maintain that, although Ray's techniques are good and useful for some of us, they are not necessarily appropriate for all of us, especially, if our backcountry adventure is just getting started. In that vein of thought, here are some mitigating comments.
DON'T STAY HOME--GET OUT, EXPLORE, LEARN, GROW !
KNOW YOUR OWN LIMITATIONS & STAY WITHIN THEM
CARRY APPROPRIATE QUALITY GEAR
Read the book with objectivity, take what you can use now, and leave the rest--perhaps, for a later time. REMEMBER: If five-pound, clod-hopper, waffle-stomper boots make you feel safe in the backcountry, then just do it !
NOTE: You can purchase here, Beyond Backpacking : Ray Jardine's Guide to Ultralight Hiking
Ultralight Tips for Weight-Reduction & Long-Distance Travel (from you):-------------------------------------------------------------
BOOTS / SHOES:Chris Townsend
Subject: Ultralight Backpacking Shoes (a.k.a. Trail Running Shoes)
I've just read the stuff on Ray Jardine's PCT Hiker's Handbook and thought I'd like to comment on the question of footwear.
I did the PCT in 1982 in traditional style over 5.5 months. My pack weighed in the 50-70lb range. However I did most of the walk in running and trail shoes. I set off in stiff welt-sewn, three-quarter shank leather backpacking boots that weighed 5lbs. After a few days my feet were swollen, sore and blistered so I changed to my New Balance running shoes, carried for camp and layover day wear.
I carried the boots through most of the first 500 miles, only donning them in snow at the highest elevations. I then wore them through the snowbound Sierras but sent them home in northern California. By then the running shoes were trashed so I bought a pair of Asolo approach shoes and did the last 1000 miles in these.
I've been convinced of the value of ultralight hiking footwear ever since, regardless of the weight of the pack.
In addition to being an excellent author of outdoor books (one of which "The Backpacker's Handbook" can be purchased in The Backpacker's Bookstore"), Chris has a very impressive long-distance resume':
1978 Land's End to John O'Groats
1982 The Pacific Crest Trail
1985 The Continental Divide
1988 Canadian Rockies End-to-End
1990 Yukon Wilderness Walk
1992 Scandinavian Mountains Walk.
1996 The Munros & Tops.
1996 and thereafter - check out Chris' website (link is above)
Subject: Trail Running Shoes
You don't mention the use of running shoes-especially trail running shoes- instead of boots. I have used them extensively outdoors and off trail and, as long as there is not alot of snow, I have found them to be superb. The Adidas Trailrunner (not the Lite version--although that could be an option--it is not as sturdy) is excellent, lasts for ages, and can be waterproofed.
It especially excels in wet, canyoneering situations (i.e., Southern Utah) where swimming with a pack is an issue because runners are all synthetic and dry MUCH more quickly than leather boots. I have found that, in about 90% of hiking situations, running shoes are supportive enough, LIGHTWEIGHT enough, sturdy enough and comfortable enough to outperform most boots any day of the week.
It's just a suggestion for an excellent homepage-your info is interesting and I agree with almost all of it. Try runners out for a while-with a light pack, you won't need the support of boots in most situations, and, if you hike alot, your ankles will be strong enough to withstand alot of bashing (see Ray Jardine's PCT book on hiking ultralight-he did the PCT with an average packweight of 12 pounds.) I have done a week's trip with 18 lbs. plus food-using high end gear.
Also, how about lumbar packs like the ones Mountainsmith (and now Gregory) make ? They are great for long dayhikes, ride well, and are lighter than backpacks.
COMMENTS FROM CHARLES:
Mike "Mucho Gusto" Buoy
Subject: Trail Running Shoes
This summer while thru hiking the AT, I choose to hike in trail running shoes. One Sport TRS comps. I have found that with these shoes as well as other light weight boots you can increase the amount of mileage you can get out of them by coating all the threads found on the seams of the shoe with super glue. It protects the threads and stops any fraying from spreading if it does start.
On my thru hike this past summer I never once blew out a seam much less had any of the threads even fray.
Thanks for the great page,
FIRST-AID / LAST-AID KIT:Richard Brunberg
Charles, I would be more than happy to include some of the hard-
learned lessons of the bush. The first one that comes to mind is
the first-aid kit. This is improperly named and, therefore, improperly
stocked. It should be called the "Last-Aid" Kit ! This is it folks. When
you are miles away from medical attention, you are it ! Take your
standard purchased kit and remove 60% of it.
Keep a few items of each that are included:
bandaids, anti-biotic ointment, etc. etc.
Then, go see your local physician and explain what you are
setting up and trying to accomplish with your kit.
MUST HAVE ITEMS:
Remember, the object of the exercise is to control the situation
until you can get to proper medical attention.
These items are from personal experience. My partner and myself have
both stitched ourselves up, in the field and attended-to some pretty
serious injuries. I know we like to keep it light, but there is no
help or supplies in the field. REMEMBER, If you didn't bring it, you don't have it.
COMMENTS FROM CHARLES:
Go tentless ! I use an Army issue poncho. It can be used as rain gear and makes a strong emergency litter when it is wrapped around two poles and snapped shut directly under the injured person. Only weighs one pound.
......there may be a lighter alternative to all those filters. Have you had
a chance to try Aqua Pure? It's a little glass bottle that's filled with iodine
crystals. The bottle is filled with water which creates an iodine solution. The
solution is added to "dirty" water at a prescribed rate (capfulls per liter), then
you wait 30 minutes and drink. This system is virtualy infallible and it's a
whole lot lighter that a filter. It doesn't clog, it's inexpensive ($12), lasts up to 2000
liters. Also, it tastes better than tablets, 1/3 the size of a small filter, quicker to use
than a filter, and it is difficult to break (unlike most filters).
My girlfriend and dog (Pete) used it for three months on the PCT last summer and
it was awesome. It has limitations as to the temperature of water, etc... so it is
probably more a warm weather solution to filters. Definitely a lightweight,
lowtech approach to fastpacking!
WATER CONTAINER:David Miles
I enjoyed your page. I am also attempting to carry a lighter pack.
Just thought I would share something that has worked well for me.
I live a stones throw from Mt. Whitney and Death Valley and always
have a water bottle with me (4-5 in each vehicle, etc.). I have tried
every kind that I could get/buy. Over the past 20 years I have found
nothing that beats the weight(~1.9 oz.) or durability or price($0.89)
of a 1 quart Gatorade bottle. I routinely freeze the same bottle
solid every day for months in the summer. I have never cracked a
bottle or lid (unlike Nalgene).
Steve & Lisa Weinzapfel
Subject: Water Bottles
I dropped both bottles (filled with water) from a height of 25 ft. After three drops the Free & Clear bottle developed a pencil lead size hole. After one drop of the Gatoraid bottle, the bottom exploded and the cap split.
Mike "Mucho Gusto" Buoy
Subject: Big Slams Rule!
Thanks for the great page,
Ultralight Backpacking Books & Recommended Reading