Ultralight Backpacking Gear: For the 21st Century Hiker

Ultralight isn't just a fad; it's revolutionizing backpacking, and it's time you joined the movement. The following are a few pieces of ultralight backpacking gear you can pick up to vault you into this fascinating new style of backpacking. These items alone will make a big difference to your pack weight.

Your New Sleeping System: Check out Big Agnes for cutting edge sleeping bags that incorporate pads into the system for a warm, comfortable night's rest. In the past, these two pieces of gear were independent. Big Agnes' system brings them together, with the pad sliding into an integrated sleeve at the bottom of the bag. While eliminating unnecessary down in the part of the bag under you (saving weight), it also keeps you glued to the pad. Who hasn't woken up at 4 AM to find their sleeping pad mysteriously across the tent? Big Agnes manufactures their bags down to %uFFFD20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your New Pack: Shed the 5 pounds of a standard Lowe Alpine or Gregory pack and strap into the Golite Pinnacle Pack. At 1 lb, 9 oz, you'll barely notice the weight on your back. All of Golite's products are designed to "re-use" each piece of equipment in as many ways as possible. In their packs, for example, your Thermarest pad can serve as padding for the back, while socks waiting to dry are stuffed into the shoulder straps. When closed, the entire pack is waterproof, saving you the weight of carrying an extra pack cover. This consolidation of gear is a perfect example of the whole idea behind ultralight.

Your New Stove: Whether you build your own or purchase one from the multitude of sites offering fancier versions, the denatured alcohol stove is one of your best ultralight options for preparing food in the wilderness. Lightweight at anywhere between one and six ounces, this truly amazing product is a simple alternative to the MSR stoves we've all used for the past 20 years. The main disadvantage is in lower heat output (approximately half that of normal stoves). That means a longer wait time for dinner. On the other hand, they run on denatured alcohol, readily available from hardware stores across the country, require no maintenance, and are free if you build your own (or less than 20 dollars from online retailers like www.brasslite.com). Also consider that you won't have to lug out empty metal canisters.

Your New Shoes: Heavyweight hiking boots are a thing of the past. Many ultralight enthusiasts actually wear regular running shoes, but more practical are the water-resistant, breathable shoes made by Salomon and Montrail. Consider the old adage that a pound off your foot is ten pounds off your back; this isn't a place to skimp.

Your New Tent: For this one, you may need to break free of the idea of a "tent": for hard-core minimalists, there's the bivy sack, but more common for ultralight shelters is the tarp. If you don't relish the idea of stringing up a piece of plastic, various outdoor manufacturers are making highly-advanced tarp shelters that function more like tents but shed a lot of extra weight. Otherwise, you can take a look at the mainstream ultralight backpacking tent varieties, of which there are many, from North Face to Sierra Designs to Walrus to Mountain Hardwear. For more information, take a look at our ultralight backpacking shelters or backpacking tents pages.

The move to ultralight backpacking gear doesn't have to come overnight -- take your time and accumulate lightweight equipment steadily. Your best bet is starting with a new pair of shoes. This is where you'll get the most bang for your buck. Over a couple of hiking seasons, transform your pack into an ultralight setup you can be proud of. And don't pay attention to your jealous friends!

All pages on this topic:
Ultralight | Fastpacking: Carry Less, Go Further | Top 10 List for Lightweight Backpacking Gear | Ultralight Backpacking Gear: For the 21st Century Hiker | Ultralight Backpacking Shelters | Ultralight Backpacking Shelters
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