Chapter 2: 201 Ultralight Backpacking Tips
An ultralight backpack means more fun. Enjoy floating down the trail instead of hauling heavy gear. You can have an ultralight backpack if you mercilessly analyze every piece of gear in your pack. Here are 201 tips to consider for reducing the weight of your pack. Some are big, some are small. That’s part of the secret. Small things add up. The old and obvious are mentioned because they are some of the most important. Have fun being a fanatic. If your friends make negative comments, invite them to lift your pack and compare it to theirs. Think of these tips as a buffet, and take what you like:
1. Buy a digital scale. You can find a good one that measures down to 1/10 ounce for about $30. You’ll be surprised at the weights of some items. You can take your light, portable scale into stores and make wise decisions before you buy. Do not fear sales people with little or no knowledge of the backpacking gear they’re selling. You’re now in control. Let them fear you.
2. Remove the excess weight from your body. Losing those unwanted pounds is probably the best weight reduction you can make. It doesn’t involve leaving any of your favorite equipment home. You’ll feel better, and there’s a net gain in strength and endurance.
3. It needs to be mentioned at least once. If you don’t need it, leave it home.
4. Avoid last-minute packing. If you hurry and pack at the last minute, you’re more likely to throw in things like extra clothing you don’t need.
5. If you’re backpacking with a companion, plan ahead and share the weight of the gear such as the tent and cooking gear.
6. Develop your sewing skills. Be creative. Some of the best, and most inexpensive, ultralight backpacking gear is the kind you make yourself.
7. Purchase a light backpack. Your pack is one of the best places to lighten up. You’ll need to reduce the volume and weight of every piece of gear to use the lightest pack. Your final result can be a pack that weighs less than 2 pounds. That’s a savings of more than 5 pounds over the big “load monster” packs.
8. Don’t buy a pack with too much capacity. You’ll be too tempted to fill it, and it won’t handle as smoothly if it’s partially filled.
9. Try using your pack without the hip belt. You might like it better.
10. Remove your pack’s sternum strap if you don’t use it.
11. Remove any manufacturer tags from the bag. In fact, remove tags from all your gear, including clothing. Save the care instructions from the clothing if you can’t remember how they’re to be washed.
12. Cut some of the length from the waist belt and straps on the pack. Remember to leave them long enough for when you’re wearing your bulkiest clothing.
13. If the pack has aluminum stays, or some other reinforcing material that can be removed, try carrying the pack without it. The really light pack you end up with shouldn’t need reinforcing. Think positively from the outset.
14. If your pack has large buckles or cord locks, find a way to replace them with lighter ones.
15. Don’t worry too much about the lighter materials in ultralight packs. These materials are still very strong. You can make repairs that are lighter than tape by using McNett Seam Grip. It works for sleeping bags, tents, and other gear, too.
16. If you need a pack cover, use one that’s very light, like the ones that are made from 1.3 ounce silicone-coated nylon. Or, use a lightweight garbage bag. Or, spray your pack with a waterproof coating. Your pack may already be waterproof. Check the manufacturer’s specifications. You might be able to save the weight of a pack cover.
17. Ultralight compression stuff sacks can help you reduce the volume of your gear. You may be able to lower your overall weight by using compression bags because you end up with a smaller pack.
18. Buy a sleeping bag that isn’t “overkill.” It’s surprising how many people buy a sleeping bag for low temperatures and then use the bag for summer camping 95% of the time.
19. Use a down bag. Nothing is more efficient for the weight. Don’t worry too much about the down getting wet and losing its efficiency. High quality bags are made with shell fabrics that have a very tight weave and are very water repellent, so they tend to protect the down. The down itself has natural oils in it. It works for the geese. Use your skills to keep your bag dry. Keep it in a waterproof stuff sack.
20. Have a small towel handy to wipe any condensation from tent walls. That will help your ultralight sleeping bag perform to its maximum.
21. A piece of very light and thin painter’s tarp plastic or a light trash bag can be used to keep condensation off the foot of your sleeping bag. The plastic or trash bag can have multiple uses such as keeping gear dry.
22. With a lightweight bag you can always add layers of clothing for extra warmth.
23. You can also use a silk liner that adds warmth and weighs as little as 4 ounces.
24. Switch your stuff sack for an ultralight one that’s made of 1.3 oz. silicone-coated nylon. They weigh as little as .6 ounces.
25. Keep your sleeping bag clean. That will keep the efficiency high.
26. Keep your sleeping bag in a large storage bag when it’s at home so it will retain its full loft and maximum efficiency.
27. Air out your bag during lunch and as quickly as possible after you set up camp. Moisture can evaporate and the bag can fully loft.
28. Eat and drink before going to bed. That will help your body to efficiently heat your sleeping bag.
29. If your feet get a little cool, you can use things as light as plastic newspaper bags or grocery sacks to keep them warm. You can use the bags for dual purpose tasks, and they add hardly any weight. They can also be used for bringing wet gear and boots into the tent. The sleeping bag stuff sack can be used as a foot warmer.
30. Using an ultralight air mattress can reduce your pack weight and volume and increase your comfort. They can be as light as about 20 ounces for a full-length mattress.
31. You can have an air mattress with insulation in the tubes for only about 1 ounce more.
32. Leave any inflatable sleeping pad open as much as possible so the condensation inside will evaporate.
33. A closed-cell foam pad is light and easy to use. You can even cut away areas that you don’t need to save a few ounces.
34. The lightest air mattress available is called a balloon bed. No joke. The shell can be made from 1.3 oz. (or lighter) silicone-coated ripstop nylon. Sew 7 tubes (or more or less) into the 60” long fabric. Leave the ends open for inserting and removing the balloons. Insert Qualatex 60” balloons (model 260Q) because they’re the strongest. Use clear or white since they’re stronger than colored ones. The balloon bed can weigh less than 4 ounces. A pump can weigh 1.3 or 2.2 oz. Each night you’ll need to use new balloons, so figure 8 per night. Eight balloons weigh .4 ounces. This figures one for breakage. They don’t pop when you lay on them, but may pop when you tie them off. See more at www.balloonbed.com. Or make your own and get balloons and a pump at www.tmyers.com, www.larocksmagic.com, or others.
35. You can go crazy and use bubble wrap for your sleeping pad if you don’t need too much insulation or cushion. It’ll weigh about 4 ounces. There’s a variety that’s made with some nylon that is much stronger than the cheapest kind, but the bubbles still pop when you concentrate your knees or elbows directly on a small area.
36. Ultralight backpackers have come up with a lot of ideas for lightweight pillows. One of the most common is using your extra clothing for a pillow. One place to contain the clothing is in your sleeping bag stuff sack.
37. When you pack ultralight, you often don’t have much in the way of extra clothing. Some hikers use their pack for a pillow. It solves a second challenge of where to put your pack in the tent.
38. A small piece of foam with some of your gear underneath can serve as a pillow.
39. At .4 oz. you can get a pillow at Office Depot. It’s a 10 x 12” air wrap plastic packing “bubble” that you can blow up and deflate with a straw.
40. You can save a lot of weight by choosing an ultralight tent that weighs two to three pounds for the two-person tent, or less than two pounds for a one-person tent.
41. If you usually backpack with a companion, consider buying a one-person tent for those times you go solo.
42. If you already use hiking poles, you can save the weight of tent poles on some tents.
43. If you have an old tent you’d like to keep, you can save weight by replacing the poles with lighter carbon fiber poles.
44. If you have an old tent that you like which has a fly, you can save weight by using the old fly as a pattern and sewing a new fly from 1.3 oz. silicone-coated nylon.
45. You can save weight by using titanium tent stakes. The 6” titanium stakes are just .2 ounces each.
46. Save weight by leaving stuff sacks home. A few rubber bands around your tent are lighter than the stuff sack. Put rubber bands around the titanium stakes and band them to the poles to keep the stakes from poking holes in anything.
47. In some dry regions, you may be able to use a bivy sack or sleeping bag cover as your only shelter.
48. If you need bug protection only, the pop-up bug bivies weigh only 6.5 ounces.
49. For an even lighter solution to bugs, a square yard of no-see-um netting weighs less than an ounce.
50. Simple, lightweight tarps can reduce your shelter weight to a pound or less.
51. If you use a bivy, tarp, or poncho/bivy, you may want to have a mosquito head net to keep the bugs away. Of course, these can be used during the day, too. They weigh only .6 oz.
52. Some tarps serve a dual purpose by doubling as your poncho, too.
53. Creative cord tying from a tree or using an available stick with some tarps and tents can save the entire weight of poles.
54. The lightest ground cloth is the one you don’t take. Use caution when you set up your tent so you don’t need a ground cloth.
55. If you use a ground cloth, use one that’s a light as possible. An ultra-thin 99-cent plastic painter’s cloth is a light disposable option. Some people like Tyvek. Consider using 1.3 oz. silicone-coated nylon for your ground cloth.
56. If you use a ground cloth, be sure to trim it a couple of inches smaller than your tent. If it’s bigger than your tent, you can catch unwanted rain and funnel it under you.
57. Consider hammock camping. Hammocks can be as light as about 2 pounds, and there are some great advantages like being able to set up on uneven ground.
58. If you have a tent with a fly, you may be able to set it up with the poles and fly only, especially in late summer when there are fewer mosquitoes.
59. You can more effectively use tent options without netting if you repel insects by adding permethrin to your tent.
60. Shake the water from your tent before packing it on a damp morning. Let the moisture drain off while the tent is on a rock or tree.
61. Long-term weather reports from the internet can cut ounces from you pack. In dry weather you can leave some of the rain gear home. In warm weather you can leave some insulating layers home.
62. You can shave ounces by making some last-minute decisions about whether to carry things like rain pants. If the weather and conditions look good, you can leave items in the car.
63. If the weather is warm enough, some hikers like to leave the rain pants home anyway. Your legs will get wet, but they won’t be trapped inside sweaty rain pants.
64. Your rain pants can be lighter than 4 ounces if you use “chaps” that cover your legs but are open at the midsection.
65. Rain gear can weigh less than 10 ounces for top and bottom if you use the very lightest and most simple varieties. We’ve already mentioned combination poncho/tarps if you want a piece of gear that serves as shelter and rain gear.
66. One of the best lightweight clothing rules is “no multiples.” If you have one pair of pants, running shorts and/or rain gear are enough backup.
67. One very light short sleeve shirt and one long-sleeve shirt should be enough.
68. Avoid cotton. It doesn’t dry as quickly, so it could be dangerous. And even if it’s not dangerous, it’ll be heavier when it’s wet because the water weight won’t dry as quickly as other fabrics.
69. Very light synthetic materials and silk may allow you to leave heavier, bulkier fleece at home. A couple of silk layers under your rain gear may be enough for summer hikes. That’s a total of less than 6 ounces for 2 shirts.
70. Never wear jeans. They weigh about 1 ½ pounds and don’t dry well. Lightweight nylon outdoor pants can weigh as little as 8 ounces.
71. If you need more insulation, there are ultralight jackets made with down that weigh less than 8 ounces, about the weight of a T-shirt.
72. You can save a lot of weight by using running shorts that weigh around 3 ounces instead of heavier cargo shorts.
73. Leather belts can be quite heavy. Look for a light belt. A lightweight nylon accessory strap with a quick-release buckle works well.
74. Using silk can cut the weight and bulk of your underwear in half.
75. A lightweight watch cap (beanie or lightweight stocking cap) can weigh as little as an ounce. It’s great for extra warmth during the day or while you’re sleeping.
76. A full-brimmed hat for storm protection that’s made from silicone-coated nylon weighs as little as 1.2 ounces.
77. A baseball-type hat from lightweight ripstop nylon for sun protection can weigh less than an ounce.
78. A painter’s cap will give you cheap, light protection from the sun. They weigh about 1.3 ounces.
79. If a hat is too hot for you, use a visor to be cooler and lighter. Visors vary a lot in weight, so use a digital scale to find the lightest one.
80. Lightweight polypropylene gloves that weigh an ounce will give you some warmth.
81. You can use your extra socks as gloves, or for added warmth over light gloves.
82. Those plastic newspaper or grocery bags that we used for keeping your feet warm at night can be used to keep your hands dry.
83. Socks that are warm, comfortable, and help you avoid blisters are vital. Don’t try to go too thin and light if you tend to blister. But many popular styles come in various heights. So a shorter, lighter sock might give you the same function.
84. One of the best ways to save clothing weight is to use running shoes instead of hiking boots. The old saying of one pound on your feet being equal to five pounds in your pack is true. You lift your shoes with every step, so why not lift something light and comfortable?
85. Shoe laces that come with your running shoes are often too long. They catch on the little twigs along the trail. You might as well cut them off and save the weight. Burn the ends so they don’t unravel.
86. Keep your cooking gear light by using a kettle only. You can save more than half the weight of the cooking kit by leaving the plate and fry pan home. The ¾ quart kettle by itself weighs less than 5 ounces.
87. With titanium, your kettle can weigh under 4 ounces.
88. Stainless steel is heavy. Avoid it. Non-stick coatings make a kettle heavier than one without it. Decide whether the weight of the non-stick surface is worth it for you.
89. For your cup, use the plastic kind that have measuring marks inside. They’re four times lighter than a sierra cup.
90. Try using a lexan spoon only. You probably don’t need a fork. For cutting food you can use your pocket knife. File some of the excess weight from the handle of your spoon. Have some fun being a fanatic. Drill some holes in the handle.
91. Some hikers like a long Dairy Queen spoon because it can reach all the way into foil pouches and zip lock bags. Be ready to use some emergency chopsticks if the spoon breaks. Some people like chopsticks anyway.
92. Blacken the bottom of your kettle to cook faster and conserve fuel. If your kettle won’t do this naturally, use heat-resistant paint, the kind you use to paint barbeques and wood stoves.
93. Keep the lid for your kettle. You’ll save its weight by using less fuel.
94. Use a windscreen so you conserve and carry less fuel. You can probably use something that’s already in your pack so there’s no weight added. Or use something very light, like aluminum foil.
95. Use your digital scale to know the weight of a full and empty fuel canister if you use butane/propane. It’s surprising how far a small can will go. You can learn when to leave a full 7-ounce canister home.
96. For a scouring pad, keep it simple and cut it down to a very small size. Or, better yet, don’t take one at all. They tend to become bacteria magnets. Use goats beard -- the stuff that’s attached to tree bark. Or use pine cones or sand.
97. You may need a towel to handle your hot kettle. Keep one small piece of a rayon camper’s towel for kitchen use and one for your body.
98. The lighter, thinner towels you can find in grocery stores are even lighter than a rayon camper’s towel. These work well on your body because they can rinse so easily for washing up.
99. There are two main types of ultralight stoves. Titanium stoves that burn butane/propane fuel can be as light as 2 ½ ounces. Their small fuel canisters are 7 ounces. Or you can choose a soda can style stove that burns denatured alcohol. These can be lighter than 2 ounces. Their fuel is readily available and can be carried in very light containers.
100. Fiberglass is often used as a wicking agent in the soda can stoves. The thin fiberglass within foil can be used to hold hot stoves or kettles and can be used to hold heat in your kettle.
101. The lightest water container is a plastic soda, water, or Gatorade bottle. Of course, you’ll want to remove that heavy label.
102. Some backpackers like to stay hydrated by drinking directly from a tube as they hike. You can keep the weight of this system to a minimum by using only a bladder within your pack.
103. If you like to take salt and pepper, stock up on the kind that’s in paper packets in fast food restaurants. Keep them in small zip lock bags.
104. Book matches are about as light as any. Store them in a small zip lock to keep them dry.
105. It’s good to carry some windproof and waterproof matches, but the box they come in is heavy. Put some of the matches in a small zip lock bag and store the striker portion of the box in a small zip lock bag within so it doesn’t accidentally strike.
106. Freeze dried food is one way to reduce your food weight. But they are expensive and not always dense in nutritious calories. Freeze dried meals are often high in sodium, sugar, and fats. Read the labels. Learn what you like and what’s nutritious.
107. There’s a wide variety of weights among one and two-person freeze dried meals. Always check the weights to get the most nutrition for the least weight.
108. Eating vegetables is one of the biggest challenges on a long-distance hike. Learn which veggies you like in freeze dried form.
109. To reduce the weight and bulk of freeze dried meals, repackage them in lighter zip lock bags, and remember to keep the label and cooking instructions. Add a single piece of tape if you use a zip lock to avoid having zip locks pop open in your pack.
110. Some hikers cook in the foil bags that come with the freeze dried meal. If you do this, you can still repackage and use some of the foil bags more than once.
111. Experiment with trail mixes in your supermarket. Learn which ones you like and which ones are lightest.
112. Nuts are a part of what many hikers carry because they’re nutritious and high in protein, but they are heavy, so consider eating them first.
113. Sunflower seeds are a dense, nutritious food.
114. Always eat your heaviest food first. Some of the most enjoyable foods aren’t even considered backpacking food. But a nice steak cooked right on the coals of a fire is a fantastic treat the first night out.
115. Foods like packaged peanut butter and string cheese are nutritious and healthy, but heavy enough to be in that category of eating as soon as possible.
116. Dried apricots and some fruit leather aren’t really that light. Know the weights, and if you still want to take them, eat them early in your hike. For instance, banana chips are far lighter than dried apricots.
117. Some backpackers like to use energy bars instead of traditional meals, partly because no cooking is involved. It’s easy and you can hike more hours during the day. It pays to read the labels, because some energy bars are loaded with sugar which means empty calories.
118. A granola, oatmeal, or cereal breakfast can give you a quick start in the morning since you don’t have to cook. You’ll save fuel weight, too.
119. Dried soup mixes can be found in any supermarket, and it’s an easy food to test at home. Experiment to find what you like and what’s easy to fix.
120. Pretzels, crackers, tortillas, and healthy taco chips are good foods for the weight and you can munch on them without slowing down to cook.
121. Of course, a hike isn’t a hike without beef jerky. It’s high in flavor and protein and low in fat.
122. Tuna and chicken are becoming more available in small, foil pouches.
123. Consider buying a food dehydrator. You can experiment and find which foods are the lightest and taste best.
124. Powdered sports drinks can help you replace electrolytes. Find the ones that are lowest in sugar, since sugar gives you empty calories.
125. Remember to take your vitamin pill. It can’t replace a meal, but it supplements your efforts.
126. Always carry some spare food in case of emergency, but make it some of your lightest food since it’s not likely to be used.
127. Consider using a gallon size zip lock as your trash bag. Since some of your food containers will be thrown away when they’re wet, leave the trash bag open as often as possible to let liquids evaporate.
128. Because water is one of your heaviest and most necessary items to carry, it’s best if you know where it is so you don’t have to carry so much. A reliable trail guide is far lighter than unnecessary water.
129. Having extra water in your car will help you carry and treat less water. Drink up just before you leave the car, and have enough to drink as soon as you get back to the car. It’s simple, but many hikers don’t do it. Keep the water in the trunk to stay cool.
130. For any of the water treatment methods, if the water is murky and heavy with particulate, you may want to pre-filter with a coffee filter or cloth. A coffee filter is extremely light.
131. There are lightweight methods for each of the six main ways to treat water. Boiling is slow and tedious, but this method doesn’t take any extra weight for your cooking water. If you use a wood fire, boiling is the lightest method.
132. Bottles of iodine tablets weigh only 1.1 ounces full.
133. Iodine treatment can be as light as .3 oz. if you put your tablets in a 1-dram bottle. If you add a vitamin C to improve the taste, it will add only about .1 oz. more.
134. If you use chlorine dioxide (Aqua Mira) and use the small, one-ounce containers, the weight will be only 3.1 oz. when they’re full.
135. If you use a filter, it can weigh less than an ounce if you use the McNett Emergency Frontier filter.
136. Bottle filters can weigh as little as 5 ounces including the bottle.
137. If you use a pump filter, remember to pump all the water out after each use so you’re not carrying extra water weight.
138. The lightest of the ultraviolet light water-purifying devices weighs only 2.4 oz. and can be recharged and perform 20 treatments per charge.
139. You can use sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) in emergencies. Two to four drops of it will treat a quart of water. So, a very small and light supply of bleach could treat a lot of water. But websites that talk about this form of treatment always use the words “emergency use” and don’t give details about overall effectiveness or the effects of long-term use on your body.
Body Care and First Aid
140. For insect protection, put only the amount of a good DEET-based repellent you need into a ¼ or ½ ounce container.
141. If you like spray applicators, the spray top from a Ben’s DEET repellent bottle will fit the ¼ and ½ ounce Nalgene bottles. You can also find other spray tops that will fit the small Nalgene bottles in places like the sample section of your grocery store. Sample shampoo bottle spray tops often work.
142. Treat your clothing (and even your tent and pack) with Permethrin before you leave home. It’s a weightless and effective way of keeping insects off all the areas of your body that are covered with clothing.
143. Keep your first aid kit in a zip lock bag. That’s lighter than most original containers. Or, build your own kit with a goal of making it fit in a small zip lock bag.
144. A good starting point for a first aid kit is a tiny list of basic first aid procedures.
145. Your first aid kit should include light versions of bandages, gauze pads, alcohol pads, antiseptic pads, moleskin, butterfly bandages, and triple antibiotic ointment.
146. If you replace a needle with brass safety pins in your first aid kit, you won’t have to worry about the needle poking you or your equipment. You can treat blisters with a (disinfected) safety pin. The brass ones last longer before they start to rust. A few tiny safety pins can be a part of your repair kit, too.
147. If you want cotton swabs in your first aid kit, remember the hollow-tube style are lighter than the solid ones.
148. A portion of a roll of surgical tape is a great, light way to be able to make large bandages if needed. It’s also part of your repair kit.
149. A little wide athletic tape can be lighter than moleskin in preventing blisters. This tape can also be used for bandages and repairs.
150. Your aspirin and/or ibuprofen can be kept in small zip lock bags.
151. If you use antacids, they can be kept in small zip lock bags.
152. Anti-diarrhea tablets (loperamide hydrochloride) can be a life saver. A few with the packaging trimmed weigh almost nothing and can save a lot of inconvenience and the weight of lots of toilet paper.
153. A little Benadryl in a tiny container or in tablet form can give lightweight relief from insect bites.
154. Small zip lock bags should be considered for storing any small item. The small 2 x 3” zip locks weigh 3/100s of an ounce each, and the 3 x 5” bags weigh 9/100s of an ounce each. After you eat the food that you have stored in zip locks, the bags can be used for other things.
155. You can repackage your biodegradable soap in ¼ or ½ ounce containers.
156. Hand sanitizer is a good way to avoid stomach problems caused by dirty hands. You can carry a small amount in a ¼ or ½ ounce container.
157. If you can find a high SPF sunscreen that is a liquid instead of a gel, it’s easier to use from a small container like the ¼ or ½ ounce bottles. With a liquid you won’t have to dig with anything like you would with a gel to get the last bit from the container.
158. Look for good SPF lip protection in a smaller-than-average tube. You can find some that weigh .2 oz. instead of .4 oz.
159. Store your toilet paper in a zip lock bag so it stays dry. Take it off the roll so you never carry that “heavy” cardboard core. Use white, non-scented toilet paper so you don’t attract animals.
160. For your toothbrush, look for one that has a small head. They vary a lot. Cut off part of the handle, and yes, drill a few holes in the handle. It’s fun to be a fanatic.
161. If you want to use regular toothpaste, get the sample sizes. Use small amounts when you’re hiking. It’s easier on the environment and you’ll carry less. For most short hikes you’ll have plenty of toothpaste if you use the first half of the tube at home.
162. To pack a little lighter, use tooth powder. It’s usually made up largely of baking soda. You may want to keep it in a very small plastic container. If you put it in a zip seal bag, the powder tends to get in the grooves of the closure and makes it difficult to work.
163. If you use dental floss regularly, measure it out and cut it for the number of days you need. The wax style stores well in small zip lock bags. Dental floss can be used for repairs, too.
164. If you take a comb, of course you’ll want to cut it in half.
165. A mirror can be handy not only for grooming, but emergency signaling. The light, acrylic plastic mirrors weigh .8 ounces. They are 2 ¾” x 4 ¼”. You can cut one with a utility knife and a file, so you have 2 mirrors. It will now fit in a 2 x 3” zip lock bag that will keep it from getting scratches.
166. Many hikers enjoy not using a deodorant for a few days. But if you’d like to pack some, you can find Arrid Extra Dry in many stores. Repackage only what you need in a tiny, plastic container.
167. Most medications can be kept in a small zip lock bag.
168. Your flashlight can be as light as ¼ ounce if you use one of the little “squeeze” lights. The kind with a positive on/off switch are much easier to use. Carry two and you’ll still be incredibly light in this area and have a backup and more hours of light.
169. Use lithium batteries to save weight. They cost more, but last longer.
170. If you use the little “squeeze” lights, trim the excess packaging from your extra batteries, but don’t take them out of the packaging and let them rub together. They’ll lose their charge and be worthless.
171. If you want a beefier flashlight, a model with 2 AAA batteries can be as light as 1.5 ounces.
172. If you like a headlamp, it can be as light as 1.1 ounces.
173. Trim your map to only the portion you need. Be sure to keep emergency exit routes and any other necessary information.
174. When using a guidebook for one of the long trails, take only the part that’s needed. If you’re hiking a major portion of the trail and mailing food drops, you can cut the book into the appropriate parts. Then you can throw away the old ones or mail them back home as you get to each new package.
175. Many hikes tend to be on very established trails. A compass is one of your essential items, but many hikers carry heavy compasses that are overkill. On some of the biggest trails like the PCT, CDT, and AT, the only question if you’re off trail is, “Do I want to head due east or due west to get back to the trail.” You can carry a compass that is as light as 1/10 oz. For 3/10 oz. you can have a compass that is marked every 5 degrees, is liquid filled, has a luminous dial, and a rotating bezel.
176. Some hikers love to carry their heavy “all-in-one” utility knife. For that weight you can carry a knife that weighs 3/10 oz. and 10 to 20 other pieces of gear.
177. Have a separate pair of sunglasses for backpacking, a pair that weighs less than an ounce. Chances are a small, frameless pair will be quite a bit lighter than your regular sunglasses. The lightest storage protection is probably a zip lock bag.
178. There are a lot of things you can use for fire starter. Your cooking gear might be enough. Dryer lint is an old favorite that is very light.
179. You may never need an emergency blanket, but it’s cheap insurance for only 1.8 oz. and it can serve other purposes such as a ground cover or a dry place to sit.
180. Your emergency whistle can be as light as .2 oz. for a small plastic version or .1 oz. for the light aluminum style.
181. Choose a utility cord that is thin, but strong. You can have strong cord that weighs only .4 oz. for 25 feet.
182. A few rubber bands make a nice utility item and add very little weight.
183. If your regular watch is very heavy, get a cheap plastic one for backpacking. Many hikers like a light and an alarm and don’t need much else. If you get one with only those features it will be inexpensive and light.
184. Some hikers won’t leave home without duct tape. It works for a number of repairs and can be used for first aid. If you tape some to the outside of your pack, be sure it’s not melting into a ball in the sun. Some brands do better in heat. You can find duct tape in “flat packs” of 3 or 5 yards.
185. There are hikers who must have a trowel for bathroom use, but you can save weight without one. The wilderness provides its own trowels. They’re called sticks.
186. A pencil and pen are important items to have. You may need them to leave important messages on the trail. You can place a message in a used zip lock bag on the trail and it will be protected from rain. Find a very small pen or even a thick plastic pen refill that works as your pen.
187. You’ll need to carry your car keys, so have a separate one made that can be drilled out and filed to lighten.
188. Your car key would be a terrible thing to lose, so add some bright Mylar from a party balloon or a piece of bright cord or yarn.
189. If hiking poles appeal to you, check around until you find the lightest. You may not want all the features that add weight. A pair should be under one pound. Specialty companies are bringing this weight down even further.
190. Umbrellas work in sun and rain. They can be as light as 5.5 ounces.
191. If you’re doing an “in and out” hike, you might be able to save purification time by caching (hiding, storing) some water part way into the hike. Be sure you can find it on the way out.
192. If you’re hiking one of the long trails, become an expert at what to send to re-supply points. Keep a supply of what you may need with your support person at home so you can call or send a note and have it sent to your next supply point. Carry postage, or include it in your food drops in case some of your supply points don’t sell postage. If you have postage, you can send unwanted gear home.
193. Some people like to take a lightweight paperback for reading. One way to lighten your reading material is to burn it as you read it.
194. If you need reading glasses, get a separate pair for backpacking. You’ll find that the very thin ones, the kind you buy in a tube case, are very light. These are often sold in airport gift shops.
195. If you have trouble with foggy glasses, you may not need to carry a special anti-fogging liquid. Try the old skier’s trick that is used on ski goggles – spit on them.
196. When you stop to rest and want a clean, dry surface, try using a Tyvek envelope or a small piece of closed-cell foam.
197. You don’t want to leave your wallet in your car, so plan ahead and take only the cash you need, your ID, a credit card or two, and possibly a phone card.
198. Leave your jewelry at home. It’s probably not that heavy, but you wouldn’t want to lose it out there.
199. Find the lightweight camera that works best for you. Some of the disposable models are very light. If you’re more serious about your photography, lighter models with more quality are available. Take your digital scale when shopping.
200. Leave extra clothing in your car. When you return, if you’re especially wet or dirty, it’ll feel great.
201. Leave your cell phone in your car. You don’t need it hiking and probably won’t have coverage in many areas. If it’s in your car, you can call home for messages as soon as your hike is over.
There you have it, 201 ultralight backpacking tips. Hike light. Have fun.
1. Get a haircut!
2. Trim your nails!