New to Ultralight

1:38 p.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm interested in getting into ultralight backpacking, but I don't really know much about it or the things I need.

I plan to do mostly weekend trips, but weeklongs sound fun too and I want to try them. So about packs: how big should I go? I've looked at the Black Diamond RPM and some people have said that it is big enough for what I want to do, and then other sites say that a bigger pack is the way to go. So assuming I bought the RPM, what kind of gear should I get so that it all fits? I wouldn't like the total weight to go over 25 lbs.

3:10 p.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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25 lbs for the gear alone or for the total hiking needs? My pack,sleeping bag,sleeping pad, and tent weigh in together at about 12 lbs. Water weighs 2 lbs to the liter. My stove weighs about 5 ox with fuel. cook pot and spook about 4 oz. So that's still only about 17.5 lbs with out food and my camera gear. I figure about 2 lbs a day for food and my camera gear weighs about 2 more lbs. And I usually carry 2-4 bottles for water, using only two at a time filled, the other two are for areas between where water is less plentiful.

3:44 p.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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25 lbs for all of it. I just pulled the number out of the air, to be honest.

Gary, what pack, sleepingbag, pad and tent do you have?

What stove?

What types of food do you take with you?

6:31 p.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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I have a Mtn Hardware backpack called the Foray weighs about 4 lb

My sleeping bag is by Golite and weighs 1 lb 4 oz, 800 fill down 20 degree rating

My pad is a simple Ensolite pad weigh about a pound

and my tent is a North Face Mtn 25 about 7 lb

I use a Pocket Rocket stove with 4 oz canisters that last me easily a week and use a 1 quart cook pot and nylon spork

I take grocery store foods like Mac & cheese, Top Ramen, Lipton Noodle or Rice mixes, Granola,Tuna,crackers,block cheese, Gatorade, cashews, instant oatmeal, powdered milk, instant cocoa, etc. I don't buy backpacker foods like freezedried, but have used MREs in the past.

I usually go on 1-2 week to 30 day trips at a time. I have stayed out as long as 28 days at a stretch, come in to resupply and go back out for another month, doing this for 6-9 months a year Sept- May since 1982.

I also carry a Canon XTi digital SLR with a 18-80 lens, spare batteries and a folding solar panel if staying out for a month at a time. It weighs about a pound and folds to 8x11 inches, unfolded is 4x2 feet.

I also bicycle tour for transportation from last job to backpacking areas when I travel. Never had a car! I take Greyhound when I am in a hurry or going cross the US, usually just work in Wyoming or Arizona and go to Utah to hike. 3 months work to support 9 months vacation for 34 years now.

To me backpacking/bicycle touring is my life. Work is just something I have to do a few months a year to make my adventure travel's go.

10:01 p.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Gary, thanks a bunch for your input and answers, you're a great help.

I've been doing some research and have found an oportunity that I have questions about, so off to a new thread.

2:03 a.m. on July 11, 2010 (EDT)
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I recommend you head over to It is the pinnacle of UL information.

8:07 a.m. on September 17, 2010 (EDT)
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MATTRESS: Neo-Air 3/4 Length in homemade stuff sack--- 9.5oz.

FOOTPRINT: Polycryro--- 1.5oz.

TENT: Mountain Laurel Designs one person net tent---8oz.

TARP: 6x10ft. silnylon with 6- cords & cordlocks--- 10 oz.

BACKPACK: Gossamer Gear Gorilla. after alterations--- 1lb. 5oz.

SLEEPING BAG: Sierra Designs Wicked Light 800 fill--- 1lb. 6oz.

STOVE: Anti Gravity Gear, Tin Man Special--- .4oz.

POT W/LID: Open Country 2/3 Liter, homemade lid---4oz.

CUP: plastic one cup--- .2 oz.

UTENSILS: Lexan spoon & fork--- .2oz after alterations

PRIMING PAN: and eye dropper--- homemade---.1oz.

LIGHTERS: Two mini bics--- 1oz.

SWEATER: Montbell U.L. Down Sweater---9oz.

PACKA: Multipurpose rain jacket, wind parka, pack cover Altered--- 10oz.

SOCKS: One pair worn and one extra. Mereno wool--- 3.5oz pr.

SHIRT: Nylon fishing type. Almost always worn--- 5.5oz.

PANTS: Nylon Converta Type. Always worn---9oz.

SLEEPING SHORTS: Worn for mostly sleeping--- 3oz.

HAT: Braod brim Aussie style, always worn--- 3oz.

BANDANNA/HANKEY: Mostly in back pants pocket--- 1oz.

NYLON WALLET: With essentials in back pocket--- wt. varies, --- 2oz.

GUIDE & MAPS: In cargo pocket on pants--- 5oz.

LOG BOOK & PENCIL: In cargo pocket in pants--- 2oz.

GOLDENEYE MONOCULAR: In hip belt pocket--- 1oz.

MAGNIFIER: In hip belt pocket--- .1oz.

MIRROW: In hipbelt pocket--- .5oz.

COMPASS: In hipbelt pocket--- .1oz.

SUNGLASSES: Clip on fold up/fold down type. In hipbelt pocket if not worn ---.5oz.

EYE GLASSES: Always worn--- 1.5oz.

SHOES: Trail runners--- 1lb. 5oz.

MULTITOOL: In pants pocket.--- Micra--- 1.5oz.

FLASHLIGHT: Quarrow, klips onto hat. In hipbelt pocket--- 3/4 oz.

FLASHLIGHT: Pico E-Lite for backup. In pants pocket--- too light for my scale

WATER BLADDER: Platypuss 4 liter, converted to a hydration system--- 4oz.

TOWEL: One of those viscous types--- 1oz.

PERSONNAL ITEMS: Too numerous to mention but total--- 8oz.

FOOD: About 1.5 lbs. per day

WATER: Average 1 liter--- 2lbs.


I probably forgot a few things, but this is my general hit the trail list that has evolved over the 40 plus years of going out there.

10:06 a.m. on September 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Some Items I Forgot:

TREKKING POLES: Titanium Goat carbon fiber adjustable length--- 7oz.. PR.

CHAPS: Silnylon--- 2.5oz.

UMBRELLA: Folds down to 9in.--- 6oz.

THERMOMETER: Pen style in a special pocket I sewed to pant s--- 1oz.

FUEL BOTTLE: Plastic soda bottle---1 pt.

WIND SCREEN: homemade--- .2oz.

BALACLAVA: Fleece--- 1oz.

POT GRIPPER: --- 1oz.


PLASTIC MIXER BOTTLE: for mixing drinks i.e. gatoraid and such--- .5oz.

Thats about all of it, I`m too lazy to add it all up. If its over 25 lbs. I`m never going backpacking again!

1:10 p.m. on September 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I noticed you listed a Packa in your gear list.

I have not gotten one yet, I'm curious, how do you like the Sil/PU material?

How true to size do you think they are?

Cedar Tree is resuming his AT hiking soon and he will have a limited supply of Packas for a while, he has mediums & smalls. I am leaning towards a medium, but I usually can wear a small.

4:33 p.m. on September 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Another site you should check out is

The Lightweight Backpacker. Unlike Backpackinglight, it is not a subscription site. I'm one of the moderators there. Both of these sites have gear lists and sponsors who make and sell lightweight gear.

Also check out Ray Jardine's site, Ray is one of first proponents of ultralight backpacking.

There are many other lightweight sites as well. Just do a Google search for them.

7:28 a.m. on September 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Trout, Definitly go with a smaller size. They are more than adequate to cover all and the packcover part doesen`t vary. I had no choice when I got mine.

10:25 a.m. on September 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Oh and trout, The material is mostly like the silnyl. The inside is the pu coated area so that the seams can be taped. All in all this is a very nice product. I haven`t had much use of it yet but I can say it is not for warm weather hiking unless you don`t perspire much or are just standing around. But the fact that one can use it as a backpack cover and then stop the rain and vice-versa is still a great idea. The advertised weight is accurate and somewhat heavy but with the multi-functionality of it ,it seems as practical as any other combo. I removed and replaced the heavier cordlocks and cord and surprisingly lost 2.5oz. on mine. Good luck with yours, let us know how you like it. especially now that cooler weather is coming in.

2:11 p.m. on September 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks Brad.

8:37 p.m. on September 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Hello Jmerk,

Like you, I am also a beginner to lightweight backpacking and backpacking in general. I wanted to reduce weight without sacrificing comfort, and my skills are limited at best, so I could not use tarps and so on. So this is what I came up with:

Big 4:

Osprey Exos 46: 40oz

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32: 23oz

Ridgecrest Z lite: 10oz

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 Tent: 30oz


REI Peak UL trekking poles: 15.4oz

Petzl e+Lite headlamp: 1oz

Platypus 1 lt. bottle: 0.9

MSR Hyperpro Waterfilter: 7.4 oz

REI Collapsible Ti Spoon: 0.55oz

Snowpeak Giga Stove: 3.75 oz

One Ti pan/ bowl/ plate/ Cup/ what have you

I substitute/combine the Platypus with a Camelback depending on the availability of water. I have a Alpine Bivy which I prefer for warmer (and bug free) places. I find sleeping in a bivy in cold climate, uncomfortable because of all the trapped moisture.

Most of this can be acquired from REI, EMS, 100s of online retailers. So availability is usually not a issue. Just don't trust any of their salesman, because most of them do not understand the concept of lightweight. Its best to go to such places with a definite idea of what you want.

But then, what do I know? I am a newb! :)


Edit: The Giga stove is an excellent choice. Its lightweight, packs extremely small and has not failed me yet.

11:56 p.m. on October 4, 2010 (EDT)
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Good thing about going lighter (to me), is that the best gear is all made in the USA. And not sold at REI.

7:20 a.m. on November 18, 2010 (EST)
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It takes a lot of research, study and trial and error to hike ultralight. There are some people who probably shouldn't go ultralight as they don't have a clue and have no intention to get a clue about outdoor skills.

Example, I had pitched my tarp near the Appalachian trail in NY. It was good area to camp as there were lots of flat elevated areas. During the night others pitched camp nearby. Most had been on the trail since Springer Mnt, but even after 1200 miles, many didn't have a clue about where to pitch their tents and chose the lowest hardest ground in the valley.The area where they chose to camp looked to me like a dried pond.

It wasn't that there weren't any good place to pitch a tent, but they chose the absolute worst spot.

I was chatting with them at breakfast and one commented that they couldn't understand how the ultralighters could sleep under a tarp and proceeded to tell us about how many times they woke up in a puddle of water:-)

To them a freestanding dome with bathtub floor was the only acceptable backpacking shelter and wouldn't consider anything else.


These people need to carry 30+ lbs of weight as they would probably put themselves in danger if they went ultralight.

6:02 p.m. on November 18, 2010 (EST)
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To them a freestanding dome with bathtub floor was the only acceptable backpacking shelter and wouldn't consider anything else.


These people need to carry 30+ lbs of weight as they would probably put themselves in danger if they went ultralight.

 It all depends on where you are going to hike, and when. For me living in Norway it is not a question of choice, a tarp is only useful as a emergency shelter and not anything else. Btw I always carry a tarp when going for longer tours, just for safety and extra shelter if needed.

There was a debate on the norwegian hiking forum concerning the lightest possible equipment for a week hike in the mountains, and a tarp came up. But this was quickly abandoned as not suitable even for summer hikes in our mountains.

I'm also posting in the most used swedish forum for hiking, where they have one person with his own "lightweight" internet page. He posted a tour report just recently from the mountains, and even he had to use a tent.

And maybe it is also a question of money. For me anyway, I should gladly have invested in both a summer tent and a winter tent and a oneperson tent, but I had to limit my spendings to a "all round" tent for both winter and summer. So I'm one of these tentlovers for the sake of pure survival.

But I'm happy with my Hilleberg Nallo 3GT even if it is not the ultra perfect solutions in all situations, it is the best combination of pro and cons for my use. :)

About the debate for the ultra lightest one week equipment, the total ended up with 10 pounds including food. But clothes on at the start was not included, as well as water since all water in the mountains is drinkable.

7:17 p.m. on November 18, 2010 (EST)
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Hi Otto, Ever see this site?

11:19 p.m. on November 18, 2010 (EST)
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I love the hiking in finland site, very well done.

6:30 a.m. on November 19, 2010 (EST)
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Regarding tarps in Norway:

"But this was quickly abandoned as not suitable even for summer hikes in our mountains."

Tarps have always been popular shelters for backpacking in Norway, Alaska, Northern Canada, etc... When it gets down to it, there really isn't much of difference in the hands of someone experienced with tarps.

Some tarps may be more suitable for winter backpacking at high elevations.


The arguments against tarps are usually based on type of tarp and/or how people pitched their tarp. A rectangular tarp setup in an A-frame is common and although it sheds snow well, it could be too drafty in winter wind. But that is not the only way to pitch a tarp.


A tarp in a pyramid pitch and pitched tight to the ground can be warm and shed wind, rain and snow well.


8:00 a.m. on November 19, 2010 (EST)
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I'm skeptical. How do you pitch a trap to shed wind, rain and snow in high winds above treeline? A lot of territory in Otto's (and my adopted) turf is treeless, and the weather can get really bad. This is both a safety and a comfort issue. I used tarps only for my first years as a hiker and also did the JMT and High Sierra Trails with only a tarp (and no stove), but I was always either down in the trees or, in the case of the Sierra, taking advantage of good summer weather (On that trip I actually only used the tarp twice in 25 or 30 days, the rest of the time I just slept out). But to quote a line from a favorite musical, "You gotta know the territory!". Here in Norway I use the huts a lot (a credit card is a lot lighter than a tent) but there's no way I would plan on camping out above the trees with just a tarp.

Oh and what about bugs? I once "slept" under a tarp on the tundra in Denali NP in Alaska. Sometime during that long bright night I pretty much made up my mind it was time to get a good tent.

9:05 a.m. on November 19, 2010 (EST)
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Re: I'm skeptical.

Regarding "I'm skeptical.".


You may be thinking of your typical rectangular tarp pitched to break wind of protect against falling rain.

There are lots of tarp designs out there and lots of examples of bomb proof all season types and pitches.

Bugs? Again, bug bvys or net inner tents. These often have a floor to protect against water/snow. Basically creating a double wall tent that weighs less and is more flexible.

Wind? Pyramid shaped tarps have proven to be more wind resistant than dome shelters and shed snow well.  Pyramids usually use straight poles or more often trekking poles. These are far less likely to snap than the bowed dome tent poles. In a pyramid, the wind force gets transmitted to the guy lines, not the cross poles. Of course you have to be more careful about how secure you pitch a pyramid, but that is not an issue if you are aware of it.


I'll try to post some links later if people need examples and explanations.

12:33 p.m. on November 19, 2010 (EST)
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It takes a lot of research, study and trial and error to hike ultralight. There are some people who probably shouldn't go ultralight as they don't have a clue and have no intention to get a clue about outdoor skills.



I've chosen to a remove my original thoughts and edit my post just to get along and not take issue with this statement. Nuff said.

9:11 p.m. on November 20, 2010 (EST)
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To pay tribute to the OP I have taken the list for norwegan mountain conditions, no safety risks were to be taken. (3 seasons, not including winter!) Here is the list, then you may see what item is interesting for your conditions and weight saving.

Backpack: (Z-pack Blast 20), 173 g, 160 USD
Sleeping mat: (Jysk) 126g, 40 NOK
Sleeping bag: (Sir Joseph Koteka 290), 495g, 4000 NOK
Tent: (Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite) 720 g, 299 USD 
Stove: (Snow peak ultralite) 59 g,
Kettle: Firelite 475ml Titanium Trapper's Mug, 47 g 
Fuel: (100g cannister Coleman) 175 g, 60 NOK 
Cutlery (Sea to summit spork), 6 g, 12kr 
Food (Real Turmat for brekfast/dinner) 1805 g, 650 NOK 
Drinkingwater  (Platypus 1 L bag). 30 g, 300 NOK 

Light jacket (MontBell Ultralight Thermawrap Jacket) 246 g, 145 USD 
Long Johns: (Nettingtrouser) 140 g, 320 NOK
Gloves/mittens: (Arcteryc woolgloves) 30 g, 200 NOK 
Cap: (Devold woolbalaclava) 40 g, 200 NOK 
Extra socks: (Smartwool Hiking Medium Crew): 72 g, 200 NOK

Knife: (Buck Knives Hartsook) 15g, 30 USD
Tape (Scotch) 50 g, 150 NOK 
Rope: (for extra sholace/tentline etc) 30 g, 50 NOK 
Matches: 10 g, 20 NOK
Map and compass80 g, 120 NOK + 150 NOK 
1.aid packet: 85 g, 11 USD 
Waterproof packsack(garbage sack) 64 g, Take from roll at home! 
Toilet paper: 20 g, Take from roll at home! 
Toilet articles (Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap) 43 g

Totalt without food: 2756 g
Totalt including food: 4561 g

Jmerk you need to "americanize" the list, ie include like water purifying system, bear cannister aso, and maybe find some alternatives to local items like Jysk mat and Real Turmat. It is just brands here in our country, sure there are similar alternatives in the USA. PS: In Norway we do not need a headlamp in the summer, this item must certainly be included for your use.

@Tom D: I saw the site but I am unsure what part was relevant to my post.

@brooklynkayak: I am sure that tarps are ok in some of the areas you mentioned, but here it is not giving the neccesary protection. And if you make that tarp and take the weight of poles and bugnet and pegs, I doubt that you save much in weight compared to the Terra Nova tent above. It is a double walled tent that gives protection of both elements and insects. Of course there was a debate over this in the forum, but the conclusion was tent! Remember ther was not to be taken any safety risks just for saving a few grams.

They have just recently started a similar thread concerning the necessary equipment for a 5 days tour in the winter. Conditions is -20c (-4F). This will also be interesting for us winter buffs.

10:40 p.m. on November 21, 2010 (EST)
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Otto, nothing in particular, just thought it was interesting to see a Euro site on lightweight camping with reviews of gear we never see on this side of the pond.

12:15 a.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for the world wide thinking "outside of the tent/ box".

I thought I was going to die last summer with a 55 lbs pack at the start of a Mt Rainier climb. Most definitely one must be prepared for the worst weather.  I don't think this trip falls under the subject of UL.

I'm not the type who repeats these grand adventures for several reasons.  'May try others, but I don't have to do repeats. For future mountain climbing, I am interested in making my pack lighter.  I'm pretty happy with my three season backpacking load.

Thanks again for the resourses.

7:59 p.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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@Tom D: As we live in a more internationalized world, it is just a few clicks on the mouse to have any item from anywhere in the world. We in Europe have always been looking into other countries, as Europe is so small with so many countries. Good equipment will earn its place no matter where it comes from.

@skinewmexico: If you look at the list above, you will see that the tent is from england, the bag is polish made. Maybe the rest is US made, or more correctly have the company headquarter there. My feeling is that most of the stuff is produced in the far east.

8:15 p.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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Good thing about going lighter (to me), is that the best gear is all made in the USA. And not sold at REI.

Ski, are you referring to cottage industry type gear? You know, the kind designed, developed, and assembled by "some guy or gal in their home or garage"?


11:59 p.m. on December 9, 2010 (EST)
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Exactly. I like the idea that my ULA pack helped make a payroll in Utah.

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