11 Ultralight Trekkers Share How They Are Packing Light

Ultralight packing requires that you make some hard choices. Not just about what you bring, but also about the bag and gear that you buy and use.

To improve how we pack, we have talked with 11 experienced ultralight trekkers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 11 have years of experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

The 11 Ultralight Trekkers

Kai “kImperator”
My name is Kai, I am known in the online hiking communities as kImperator. I am an ultralight hiker from the South of Germany. I started as a traditional backpacker, but then switches fast to into the ultralight hiking style. I wanted to have the freedom of going light and enjoying the nature without a bulky load. I left most of my gear at home and had great hiking trips.

Half a year after, my first ultralight tryouts I went to a longer hike to central Sweden. In my mind, I was not ready to do this hike with ultralight gear and chose a bit of my traditional hiking gear. Therefore, I needed a bigger (and heavier) backpack. So I was in Sweden with traditional and heavy gear. The weight on my back reminded me every step, that I did not wanted this kind of stress on my body any more. I also knew that there is one other way to do this kind of trips. Since then I hiked trip in ultralight style and had a lot more fun!

I am addicted to traveling to Sweden. The land, nature and people are awesome and so I visited the country for three years in a row and the next trips were also planned.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

In addition to the normal ultralight hikers I carry a wide inflatable sleeping pad with and a very warm and comfortable sleeping quilt. Enjoying a hiking day after a hard night is very hard for me. A comfortable sleeping setup is not only improving my sleeping, but also increasing the covered kilometers on the day after.

I like to get good pictures of my trips and my smartphone camera does not fulfill my needs in low light condition. The better camera is not improving my hiking, but adds more value to my blog posts.

How do you bring things with you?

I got three different bags with different sizes, the first one is with around 25 Liters is made from a friend. This pack is good for one to two nights in warm summer. If I need a bigger capacity due to more food to carry or a big warm winter sleeping bag, than I choose my Laufbursche Huckepack with 40 Liters. In three seasons, I can add up to five days of food with this pack. If even this is too small, I will size up to my next bigger pack, which is a Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack with 55 Liters. I need this amount of volume only, when I have to carry two weeks of food or for winter backpacking.

If I only had only to choose one backpack, I would take the Hyperlite Mountain Gear. This pack has a roll top, so your can vary the volume from around 30 to 55 liters.

Inside of my packs I got some waterproof dry-bags, one for clothings, one for my sleeping bag (or quilt). In addition to this, i also pack the the small stuff like toiletries accessories waterproof bags.

The first steps in ultralight hikings are pretty easy. Go out for some hikes and after each hike go through your gear and remove the items you haven’t used (except the first aid kit). If you removed all the unused gear think about the gear you rarely used. Perhaps you could improvise with other gear to get the same results. Then try it out if this works for you. If it works, you could leave these items also at home. If you repeat this process a few times, your pack weight will start to decrease. If there is nothing left to remove, you could start to replace the heaviest items with ultralight ones. In the last step, you can replace the backpack with an ultralight one, because only at this stage you see, which volume is needed for your gear and supplies.

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

My top tip for others who want to be an ultralight hiker, but are scared of leaving so many stuff behind is quite simple – try it out!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” Laozi.

Visit Kai’s website

Aarn Tate
I am from NZ.

I have learnt my living designing Outdoor Equipment all my working life, for over 40 years. For many years, I was a freelance designer, and worked in Australia, NZ, Europe & USA . Since 2003, I have been the designer for my own brand in NZ.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

An Aarn U Flow Bodypack – That is a pack with a slim side profile, U Flow movement systems and counter balancing front Balance Pockets or Balance Bags.

The most useless thing people bring are backpacks with deep side profiles and movement restricting harness systems.

How do you bring things with you?

I carry an Aarn U Flow Bodypack.

I pack compact heavy items, and items needed often or quickly in the front Balance pockets, eg, water, snacks, sun cream, mitts, sunglasses, heavy food items, fuel, stove, etc. In the pack, I place light bulky gear eg. clothing, sleeping bag, tent, air mat, etc. This brings the centre of gravity of the load very close to the centre of gravity of the body both horizontally and vertically giving a natural upright posture with no leverages on the shoulders or back. In combination with the U Flow systems built into the harness and hipbelt, unprecedented freedom of body movement and load stability is also experienced.

Without the leverages on the body the forces acting on the body are only those from to the weight alone and so the impact of the load on the body is significantly reduced. Extensive Sports Science research and a huge body of outstanding testimonials has proven the superiority of a naturally balanced load.

Aarn U Flow Bodypacks are the most efficient, comfortable, stable, practical, agility facilitating and healthy way to carry load on the human body. They challenge traditional thinking on pack design.

Backpacks significantly disturb the posture, balance and movement of the body. Backpacks create leverages on the torso that act to distort the natural curve of the spine. Backpacks are a stressful, energy wasting and restrictive way to carry a load.

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

The least effort and least stressful way to carry load on the body cannot be achieved by focusing on weight reduction alone, because how the weight is distributed in relation to the centre of gravity of the user is even more important in determining the impact and efficiency efficiency of carrying a load.

Visit Aarn Tate’s website

Judy Gross aka HeartFire
I was born and raised in Staten Island, NY. While this is still part of New York City, as a child in the 1960s, it was still very rural with lots of woods. I grew up exploring in the outdoors. After living in England for a few years, Louisiana and Texas for 20 years, I’m now in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville North Carolina.

My journey into Ultralight backpacking began of course on the Appalachian Trail. I first met the AT in 1999 when my twin boys were 14 years old and we drove from Houston to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We stepped onto the AT at New Found Gap, and the trail had been calling me to walk it ever since.

In 2006, I finally began a journey that changed my life (like so many others). A shoulder injury that year took me off the trail, but since that time I have logged many thousands of backpacking miles, always looking for an easier (lighter) way to hike.

In 2009, after moving to Asheville, NC, I decide to make a tent for myself (I’ve been sewing all my life, and after retiring from nursing I went to Design School, so the prospect of designing and sewing a tent was well within my capabilities). A friend suggested I make and sell kits so hikers could make their own tents, I decided I could make and sell the finished product instead, and so, the accidental tent company LightHeart Gear was born.

I have to say, to date, my favorite trail has been the Colorado Trail, although, my heart is on the east coast, and the Blue Ridge will always be home.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

I’ve paired down my gear to the basic needs, but when ever I’m out hiking, and have a ‘need’ for something, I start designing new gear. For instance, when I was in Salida Colorado once, my hiking partner and I had to walk over a mile to the grocery store and laundromat, I was using my food bag as a laundry bag and shopping bag, it got a bit heavy to lug around as it had no carry strap. I went home and designed a new food bag that has a shoulder strap so you can wear it as a messenger bag over your shoulder.

For me, it’s not just about weight, it’s about volume as well, I want my pack to be as small as possible, so multiple use items are important. I never go anywhere without a Buff brand neck gaiter. It doubles as my ‘pillow case’ at night with my down puffy jacket folded up inside. My phone has replaced a camera, pen and paper journal, guide book (though I do carry a paper guide/map for backup). And so, I also carry either a small solar charger or battery backup for the phone depending on what trail I’m on and the amount of sun exposure.

I also make all my own backpacking food – I cook and dehydrate all my meals, so my food weight is usually much lower than commercially packaged food. I make entries, side dishes, deserts, salads, smoothies, etc. I also have a Facebook group for Dehydrating Backpacking Food.

The question is what is the most useless thing I’ve seen people bring – Items I might never take may be of use to someone else, so let me re-phrase, things I’ve seen that I would never carry – Boom Boxes, blue tooth speakers, cast iron cooking pans, axes, giant tubes of toothpaste, six full rolls of toilet paper, etc. People pack their fears, and experience helps lower pack weight. I know I’ve changed quite a lot over the years. Things I said I would “NEVER EVER” do, I’m now doing = Trail runners instead of high top boots, pee rags instead of toilet paper, hiking in skirts rather than pants, etc.

How do you bring things with you?

My packing has changed over the years. At first, everything was organized in different stuff sacks, pockets, etc. Now, I use an Elemental Horizons in Kalais backpack. These are fabulous lightweight backpacks, made in North Carolina. I use a compactor trash bag inside the pack and my clothing and sleeping bag (and electronics) go inside that in the bottom of my pack. I do not put my clothes in stuff sacks, they get shoved in around the sleeping bag to fill up any spaces in the pack. I have three pairs of socks, one to wear, one spare and one for sleeping in that is always kept dry.

Depending on the time of year, and trail, I may have a t-shirt or a long sleeve base layer, I wear a button down nylon shirt to hike in as I find them cooler than clingy t-shirts, I wear a skirt (my own design) to hike in, and bring a base layer of long johns to sleep in. I have a rain jacket and rain wrap (again, my own designs) and a down puffy jacket. I always have a warm hat, fingerless gloves to protect my hands from sun exposure, and a wide brim hat for when I’ll be above tree line. Three bandanas – one is a snot rag, one is a pee rag and one is a spare. I wear a sports bra, underpants, and that’s it – no spares on the clothing. So my sleep clothes, down jacket and electronics go in the compactor bag, that gets folded over to keep everything dry and on top of that goes my food bag, stove (Jet Boil) and rain gear.

My emergency kit includes s small bobbin of Nymo thread – this is a very strong nylon thread that is used for beading, it will sew up anything, it’s much stronger than dental floss. I have one sewing needle and single edge razor blade in a tiny plastic box. I carry a few ibuprofen, a lot of Benadryl and an epi pen for bee sting allergies. A small amount of tape for potential blisters, a tiny toe nail scissors, a few ‘lucky charms – (a St. Christopher medal a friend gave me a heart shaped pendant, etc.) I have a full size tooth brush, a travel size toothpaste, and dental floss (without the container).

My sleeping ‘bag’ has become a quilt. I have two. The first is an Enlightened Equipment Revelation 30* quilt, but I found I was still very cold at 45*, I added some down to it, but now I also have a 0* Hammock Gear quilt which is toasty warm in the winter. I use a compression stuff sack (my design which saves over 1 oz in weight over the big box brands) for my quilt when hiking. I have a long handle titanium spoon, my only food utensil, and I eat out of ziplock bags. I have a 16oz titanium cup and make hot coffee (instant) every morning.

I also use a Platypus hydration bag, and a Sawyer filter, with the quick disconnect in the hose. I don’t have to take the bladder out of my pack to fill it.

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

Over the years, I have learned to not “tell” people how to pack, how to hike, or how to do anything. My best advice is to listen to what others do, be open to trying new things, if something doesn’t seem to work – change it. What works for me – my way of packing, may not work for someone else. You have to find just the right balance in your gear. It may not be the lightest stuff out there, but if it suits your needs, and you can carry it without any trouble, then that is what is perfect for you. If you need to “pack your fears” do so – then come back and loose those fears.

I will never go stoveless, nor will I use an alcohol stove again, while lighter than my Jet Boil, for me, it’s got too much of a ‘fiddle factor’. I see a lot of people going out unprepared for the realities of hiking – I think a combination of social media and movies have drawn a lot more people to hiking that aren’t prepared – either too much or too little equipment. I hope they go home, readjust to the reality of it and get back out. It’s a bit of a conundrum, on one hand, I’m so glad there are more people getting outside to enjoy the trails, and on the other hand, I wish the trails weren’t so crowded!

And, you just have to “Do It” waiting for the right moment, for the right hiking partner will keep you at home. When I plan to do something outside my comfort zone, I tell everyone about it – this way, I can’t back out at the last minute. Go alone, and learn to enjoy your own company.

Visit Judy Gross’s website

Evan Howard

I’m Evan and I run terrarosagear.com. I started it when I was living in Sydney but have spent the last six years, which have been the formative years of TRG in Melbourne. I got into ultralight hiking for the same reason most do – to have a lighter pack. This means you can go faster, further, higher or what ever your goal might be. You can also go at what ever pace you like but with less weight on your shoulders. 😀

My favourite places are the South West of Tasmania (Australia) and the Coast Mountains of British Columbia (Canada)

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

top 3 things

  • Very well stocked first aid kit with snake bandages – Because you never know when you may need to stitch up a nasty cut or apply first aid to a snake bite.
  • Small book – This is for waiting out storms that may be to bad to bother pushing on through. It can also be torn up and shared with companions or even used as fire stater in an emergency.
  • Extra long spoon – This thing is the best to get to the boot of the pot or into the premade dehydrated meals.

The most useless things I have seen people bring are usually extras of things like extra layers of clothes that will never be used or needed.

How do you bring things with you?

I’m really tough on bags and durability is something I look for in packs so for expeditions I use a industrial One Planet Pack (A legendary outdoor company manufacturing in Melbourne). This pack is heavy and heavy duty but is exactly what I want to have the structure to carry big loads in the mountains for multiple weeks.

For shorter trips, I have some of my own packs that I have done up ( I don’t offer packs for sale though) and a few other that I have picked up along the way.

In the bags, I’ll use stuff sacs to organize things. As well as making it easier to pack into the pack for proper weight distribution.

I always seem to have just enough room in the bag. A little extra space in Australia will get filled up with a water bladder. 😀

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

To get outdoors, you just have to do it. Maybe a friend can show you some places they have been or you can go along with the local outdoors club as it is important to do it safely and not get yourself into trouble. That said, that should not add to your fear of trying something as awesome as hiking, tramping ,trekking, bushwalking…. what ever it’s called where you’re from.

The important thing is to do what works best for you and find what gear works for you and the conditions your in. Different people will need different things to achieve the same thing. Much of the fun is learning all the never ending nuances of the outdoors.

Visit Evan Howard’s website

Carsten “Sauerkraut” Jost
I am from Germany and live in Southern Bavaria which is right in the mountains.

I started changing from traditonal loads to lightweight and later ultralight loads during my 2004 thruhike on the Appalachian Trail. On a long-distance-hike, you pretty much have to go light if you want to improve your chances of finishing the trail. Going light on a long-distance-hike also shows you that many prejudices about an ultralight equipment philosophy are just not right.

In 2008, I thruhiked the Pacific Crest Trail and fell in love with it. So, yeah… the PCT is my favourite trekking destination. If you can´t do the whole thing, then go for shorter sections.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

  • 250ml Nalgene container to turn powdered milk into foamed milk. Absolutely necessary for your trail cappuccino 🙂
  • Trekking umbrella. Protects you from light rain, protects you from the sun, can be used as a windshield for your stove, can be used (if you turn it upside down) to get your stuff organised if the grass you are sleeping on was wet — even made a black bear run away by opening and closing it fast…
  • Big bag of Doritos. Strapped on the back of the pack it looks unusual but the chips just taste soooo good. Gives you the feeling of eating something “civilised”.

Most useless thing…. In general, I consider heavy traditional gear as useless and I met many hikers that would not change in the beginning of their hikes as they were trusting the retail sales guy more than their fellow thruhikers.

How do you bring things with you?

I carry frameless ultralight bags.

I used the old Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus without the frame on the PCT (2400 miles) and the Nordkalottleden (500 miles).

Now I do have a bunch of packs from Gossamer Gear and I like them a lot.

I usually put everything in stuff sacks or at least groups of gear, Clothing -> one stuff sack, food -> one stuff sack, electronics -> one stuff sack…you get the idea.

I choose individual packs for individual hikes based on the terrain and resupply situation. I might carry a really small bag in summer when resupply points are not far apart. In autumn, in northern Scandinavia with resupply points being far apart I will carry a larger pack.

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

Start with leaving stuff behind that you might not need. Take a look what other ultralighters are doing and give it a try. Experiment and see what works for you. Staying open minded is key. You can test on the weekend and figure out if it would work on a longer hike.

You are not everybody else so pack in a way that suit your needs. If that means stealing an idea here and there and being like everybody else that´s ok.

Being stubborn about your gear choices is something many people do wrong. If you asked really experienced thruhikers, e.g. Triple-Triple-Crowner Lint, they will tell you that their gear changes all the time. The factors that affect your choice of gear are e.g. personal preference, climate, terrain etc…

Forget about the perfect gear list. It keeps you from getting outside. I did my first treks when I was 14 and I wore jeans and cotton stuff. It didn’t kill me. Most backpacking trips are not the die-hard-expeditions. You can start right now and change/buy gear based on the experiences you made.

Visit Carsten “Sauerkraut” Jost’s website

Rod java
I’m a simple West Coast hiker. My back yard is the California Sierras.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

I never leave a hike without my StickPic. I whip it out for only those special moments on the trail I want to re-live 20 years from now. I also never leave a hike without my bottle of Tabasco sauce.

How do you bring things with you?

I fit everything for seven days inside a Expedition sized Bearikade bear canister. This includes sleeping bag, tarp, clothes, food and cooking equipment. Did you know that you can carry seven days or more of round tortillas in a bottom of a Bearikade?

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

My only suggestion to being prepared is to intentionally hike is less than perfect weather. This prepares you mentally and physically.

Visit Rod java’s website

Tobias Adolph “Limitcamper”
I’m from Germany/Berlin, and that is where I am at the moment. I had my first outdoor experiences in the military in my early 20’s. Through that I came in touch with the “Survival-topic” and did some trips with friends in Scandinavia and Poland.

Mostly without food or just emergency rations but heavy outdoor gear, because we didn’t knew it better and focused on military gear because we were used to it.

I can tell you, to only eat catched fish and blueberries for five days gets kind of boring…
To carry 16kg on your back without food and water seems kind of hilarious to me, today 🙂

After the trips I always tried to reduce the gear and weight and endet up with less stuff but also less functionality, if you go minimalist in military gear it means like you go with the bare essentials like a fat knife, steel bottle, heavy duty poncho, a blanket and something like this. That was the only way to reach something around 5kg with this type of gear.

As I tried to change to lighter equipment, I discovered the “Ultralight-topic” which changed everything. I realized that I could go with full gear but with the same weight of the “survival-kit” I just mentioned and thought: Let’s do that instead.

I could have carried 10kg of food and water on the trips in Scandinavia, but nevertheless I am glad that we made those extreme trips which push you to the limit.

Those are valuable experiences, as they ground yourself and remind you how good your life is, with the easy accessable fresh water and food.

During the following years, I slightly switched to Ultralight Gear and even to Super Ultralight Gear, which is 2,5kg Baseweight. Since the gear started to go lighter and lighter I thought bike-trips would be fun now and startet Bikepacking.

I worked a lot on my Bikepacking-Kit, did some big trips and adventure races and ended up with my german website www.bikepacking-unlimited.de because at that time there was not much about Bikepacking in Germany.

That’s my story 🙂

My favourite destinations at the moment are the Alps in the south of Germany, the elbe sandstone mountains and still scandinavia.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

At the moment, I am experimenting with multi use bottles, because if bottles can replace some piece of gear in your bags you can save a lot of space, which is crucial on bikepacking kits.

  • Titaniumbottle (Maxi) – It carries water and replaces the cooking pot, since I only need to boil water for freezerbag-meals. In combination with a foldale wood stove (bushbox UL) which takes up literally no space you save up the space of a whole cooking kit in your bag.
  • Waterfilterbottle (Lifestraw Go) – It has an integrated Waterfilter, so you save up the space for an extra waterfilter in your bags. It also saves time since you only need to stop at a river, fill the bottle and cycle on. Right now, I am working on a system to suck the water out of the bottle without using my mouth because I want to use it for cooking.
  • 3. Formcard – It is a creditcard sized piece of bio-thermoplastic, which goes soft if you put it in hot water. After that you can shape it for a few minutes. When it cooles of it hardens again. You can repeat the process. I didn’t needed it yet but I think it can be very helpful if you need to fix something broken. The card weighs 14 grams.

    Useless stuff:

    I saw a lot useless things people bring, especially chairs and tables, outdoor coffee machines, big expedition tents. Ok actually we all love comfort and the things are mostly useless because they are to heavy for the what they offer. Since there are chairs like the Helinox Zero which weighs about 500 grams even I think about taking a chair 🙂

    How do you bring things with you?

    For hiking trips I used Laufbursche backpacks.

    For Bikepacking I use a mix of Gramm (frame, toptube and seatbag -> gramm-tourpacking.com) and Alpkit (handlebar 13l Drybag and 1l drybags for gearcages at the fork -> alpkit.com).

    I also often use the Alpkit Gourdon 20 for commuting, bikepacking and summer hiking trips with SUL gear.

    It is cheap, simple and waterproof.

    I organize things how I need them, sleep and cooking gear less accessible because I only need it when I set up camp. Snacks, Tools, First ad kit, rain gear, additional clothing on top/easy accessible.

    I have always too little room in my bags because thats the challenge, I always try to reduce in packsize. Smaller bags set limits and force me to take less and make decisions on what’s most important.

    What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

    Reduce in quantity, reduce in weight, reduce in size.

    Think about what’s really necessary to sleep outside and try to reduce the number of pieces you take.

    Multifunktional pieces help to achieve this.

    Once you have your kit, start to reduce the weight and size of the pieces. For example: lighter/smaller tent, lighter rain jacket, lighter/smaller pot.

    You can also transfer weight, for example take a lighter sleeping bag and increase it’s warmth by wearing your additional clothes at night.

    What ultralight trekkers do wrong?

    I don’t know, I think most of them are very aware of what they carry but maybe do not use it often enough to see what works best and what not.

    Overnighters are the best way to improve your gear and to gather experience. They are also easy to organize, you can do it on a weekend or even after work if it fits your job and routine.

    For example: I can shower at work and have a place to store spare clothes. With a minimal amount of gear on my bike I can cycle right out of the city after work, enjoy a nice summer evening at a beautyful lake and can be back to work on the next morning.

    And I can tell you – you feel much more relaxed at work. Even if you do not sleep that well in the beginning because you are not used to sleep outdoors, you will definetly feel yourself like you did something special 🙂

    Visit Tobias Adolph’s website

Daniel Galhardo
For the last five years, I have called Boulder, Colorado, my home. I was born and raised in Brazil, but when I was 17, I came to the US as an exchange student, living in California for the first several years. I have now lived in the US for about half of my life.

I grew up spending a lot of time outside, mostly fishing with my parents. From a young age, whenever we went fishing I took great pleasure of wandering off and hiking through the woods on my own. I think seeing what was on the other side of the bend on a trail, or what was to be found beyond the next grove of trees, was what hooked me into hiking.

As a teenager, living in Southern California then, I started becoming interested in going a bit farther, so I started figuring out backpacking. And, to go further I quickly learned it was important to go light.

My main reasons for backpacking are generally fishing, although sometimes I like to have mountain tops as my goal. Most of my trekking trips I plan by finding a blue line (stream) and following it. I love fly-fishing when I’m out there, getting to find out whether there are fish in a stream, what kind of fish and seeing what they are. My favorite destinations are currently found in the Indian Peaks wilderness in Colorado.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

Definitely a tenkara fly rod and kit! I love fly-fishing and backpacking and when I first discovered tenkara, a simple Japanese form of fly-fishing that uses ultra-light and super portable telescopic rods and a very minimalist kit (you just need a rod, line and fly), I found I could fly-fish anywhere I went. I think combining fly-fishing with backpacking makes hikers pay very close attention to their environment in a way nothing else does; fishing arouses the hyper awareness in people and makes you see things you wouldn’t otherwise. I should disclose, nine years ago I introduced tenkara to the US by creating the company Tenkara USA to get people to fly-fish. Folks can learn more at www.tenkarausa.com.

Besides my tenkara rod, I like carrying a good quality compact camera. My favorite is a bit old now, but I love my Sigma DP2 camera. Super light, simple, a bit quirky, but takes great images. I have a collection of cameras but keep going back to this quirky one and most images I get published are taken with it.

Lastly, I really like carrying a silk liner for my sleeping bag. It doesn’t weight much but feels very nice when sleeping; it can raise your sleeping bag’s temp rating when it is cold and if it feels warm you can open the sleeping bag without getting too cold. Before I got one I thought it would be a silly luxury but a friend convinced me to give it a try.

I think most people I backpack with are good at not bringing useless stuff…but perhaps the most useless thing I see people bring is a speaker to play music outside. I totally detracts from the noises of nature I enjoy when I’m outside and can be plain annoying sometimes.

How do you bring things with you?

I’m not very consistent with the pack I use, it depends a bit on the trip and what I may be bringing along.

Generally speaking, if I’m doing an ultra-light trip just to get out and hike (and fish a bit too), I favor my Gossamer Gear pack. It’s super light, so right off the bat I can save some 2-3 lbs. I think my pack is about a 35ish-L size.

On my last outing we wanted to bring a packraft along, so that adds a bit to the base weight and I like to have a better frame for my pack. I had a 50L Gregory pack that I really like. It has good access points but is pretty light for its features and carries very well too.

My packing is pretty simple, standard heavy stuff on bottom and closer to back support kinda thing. I don’t use a lot of organization bags or anything like that as that adds weight…and even if it is little it adds up.

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

The two more practical tips that come to mind are to simplify and plan your water…there are probably many others but these two are simple reminders that can help save on weight.

Simplify! Nowadays it is super common to see folks racing to buy the lightest version of some luxury they think they need, when in reality they probably don’t need it to begin with. I’m not against carrying luxuries, but ask yourself if you really need to bring that XYZ item along.

Plan your water! Water weighs a lot, and I have seen people carrying a lot of water even if they may have access to water along the way. When looking at a topo map try to think of where you will be able to refill along the way.

In terms of recommendations for getting out of the doors, I could say, just do it!, but I understand fully well the intimidations of getting out the first time, more often, or to tackle an ambitious goal. We can spend a lot of time thinking and planning and never doing it. If someone is getting started, go ahead and just start small and go a short distance at first and just get more mileage. If someone is trying to get outside more often, just setup a system and enjoy even very short trips. I really enjoyed the videos Ryan Jordan from BackpackingLight created a while ago where he would just go out for 24 hours. Here is one of the videos:

Getting out the doors is always tricky, but it becomes easier when we break it down into very achievable trips and build up from there if we so desire.

Visit Daniel Galhardo’s website

Benny “Plug-it In” Braden
I’m from a little town in east Tennessee called, Oliver Springs and I currently live about 10 miles from there just outside of Harriman, TN.

I’ve always had a love for hiking and spending time in the woods. As I grew older, I stepped away from it for a bit to do some volunteer rescue and ems work. I spent well over a decade in the rescue field alone. With doing everything from swiftwater rescue (state wide response team and instructor), dive rescue, vehicle extrication and EVOC instructor and more.

But during that time, I’ve seen and done some things that stuck with me. Things that were not good for me mentally. After a while I figured out I had PTS (Post Traumatic Stress). I became hiking again and going on longer backpacking trips. Afterwards, I felt different. I finally felt like I could cope with it. And before I knew it I was into hiking long distances.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Smokies since they are so close, but sections of the Florida Trail are absolutely beautiful along with the Art Loeb Trail and Foothills. As I’m writing this, I’m preparing to leave out for the Long Trail and the John Muir Trail. So I clearly expect those to take the top spot.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

I always bring my Zpacks wind shell, my GuaSha Orthopedic tool and Hygienna Solo bidet. Odd list, right?

The Zpacks wind shell is vital on those slightly cool mornings or when it’s a little windy. The windshell weighs only 1.9 ozs. Since I battle planters fasciitis, my GuaSha Orthopedic tool is a HUGE life saver. Every evening once I’m at camp I do the Graston technique on my feet and message them afterwards. A soak in a cool mountain stream is the icing on the cake. For me this is a vital tool for me to be able to cope with the planters fasciitis. The tool weighs only .9 oz. And finally the Hygienna Solo bidet. This, number one is more sanitary than TP and has less of an impact on the ecosystem. It also allows me to actually be clean…. down there. Each day I can clean all the sweat and nastiness off from down under, which helps to prevent chafing. Plus, the Hygienna Solo, small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap and dry towel only weighs 1.3 ozs. I carry a simple water bottle to use with the bidet.

The most useless things I’ve seen other hikers bring are a cast iron skillet, folding cot, folding chair and binoculars.

How do you bring things with you?

If I’m doing a longer hike (five days and longer), I carry the Zpacks Arc Haul backpack. It’s a 60-liter pack that weighs 24 ozs. My particular pack is made from a black on black gridstop. Zpacks made only one of those to test the material out. It’s a very expensive material. Anyway, long story short, I ended up with it and it’s my primary pack now. It has plenty of room to care everything I need. I also use dry sacks and stuff sacks and zip pouches from Zpacks to organize all of my gear.

Otherwise, I carry the Zpacks Nero Backpack. The Nero is a 38-liter frameless pack that’s made out of DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabric) that weighs 10.9 ozs. It’s perfect size for a weekend trip, day hikes or maybe a FKT hike (Fastest Known Time).

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

Don’t pack for your fears. Prepare, but don’t over prepare. I know, that doesn’t help you known. But if you think about it, it makes sense. If I’m afraid of bugs then I’ll pack a bottle of Deet, bug net, etc. If I’m afraid of getting cold then I’ll pack extra clothes, heavier sleeping bag, etc. Do your research for where you are going. Prepare for the information you gathered. There’s nothing worse than over packing and carrying more weight than what’s necessary.

If you want to encourage folks to get out and hike. It’s important to share what you know, but don’t be pushy about it. What works for me may not work for others. It’s constantly a trial and error when it comes to gear. I’ve wasted a lot of money on gear that didn’t workout for me. But I evolved and my pack weights got lighter as I learned. Pretty soon I figured out if my pack weight was lighter, then I could walk further and it was much more enjoyable. That in itself is why I went ultralight.

My average baseweight is 6lbs or less (depending on the hike).

Visit Benny “Plug-it In” Braden’s website

Maria Elfe Weinmann
My name is Maria Elfe Weinmann. I am from South Germany (Baden-Württemberg) but at the moment I live further north in Germany in a little town called Welver. My passion is long distance hiking since 2010.

I never really was much into hiking before that. But at a point in my life – when I had to think about how to proceed (professionally as well as personally), but had no idea how – I just went for a ‘time out’, gave all of my unnecessary stuff away, gave up my apartment and just started walking from my former doorstep westwards. At that moment I had no destination. I just wanted to see how far I could go. So I ended up doing the St. James Way from Germany to Spain. It was such a wonderful time and I got hooked to long distance hiking.

Other trails followed like the Pacific Crest Trail (2012), the Continental Divide Trail (2015) and the north part of New Zealands Te Araroa (2016). All of those trails have been wonderful and every trail has its own charm, its own character, its own challenges. So I couldn’t really say which one I prefer, or which would be my favorite trekking destination.

Looking around in this world, I can see so many trails in so many countries which are worth hiking …. but I know I will unfortunately not have the time to hike them all. So I just do one after another, travel back home, earn some money while dreaming about the next trail.

Since I couldn’t finish the Te Araroa, because of an injury, this trail is still on my agenda.

I wouldn’t call myself an ultralight hiker. I just try to keep the load on my back as small as possible. I see it more like a development, like an evolution. Like every time when I need new gear or I have to replace equipment, I try to find a better ‘fitting’ piece and if possible – a lighter one. So step by step I try to improve my gear.

Looking back on my first long distance hike, I just have to laugh about the stuff I was carrying with me. Having no clue about hiking or hiking gear I just went into an outdoor store and came out completely overloaded with a huge backpack, a pretty heavy sleeping bag, even heavier leather boots and a completely wrong choice of clothes.

Well, I didn’t know better.

But you learn while you are hiking. You find out what you really need and what you might rather leave behind next time and what ‘luxury’ items you are willing to carry, even if they are not really necessary for the hike at all.
You talk to other hikers about their gear and experiences and you figure out which of this information is useful and which isn’t, what might work out for you and what doesn’t.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

To complement the poor diet on a long distance trail I have vitamin and mineral tablets with me. Besides that I carry a camera because I like to have high quality pictures and I am willing to pay the price: More weight because of the camera and the batteries. Furthermore, I carry a satellite communicator and GPS navigator for my own safety and for my family’s peace of mind.

The most useless things I saw people bring on a trail….mmmh… Well, that’s difficult to say, because what’s right and useful for one person, might be completely unnecessary for another person (see me and my camera). It’s all depending where and which trail you are hiking and under which conditions and what your personal preferences are… but on the trails I hiked I saw:

  • those little shovels (do they actually have a name for that?) for digging the hole for your private business
  • weapons: I saw a guy hiking armed with a ‘Rambo-style’ knive plus a gun on the CDT
  • wristwatches:I never had the need to know which time it is on the trail, and all the other functions (barometer, altimeter…), those watches might deliver, are covered by my GPS navigator. Actually, I found three high quality outdoor watches on the PCT.

But like I said. Everybody is carrying their own kind of ‘feel good’ item. This might be a book, a french press, a weapon or just a camera.

How do you bring things with you?

At the moment – and for the last two hikes – I carry still the same backpack an Osprey Exos 55.

I am still looking for a lighter backpack (one of those nice frameless ones) but couldn’t find one which fits my purpose: Carrying gear and food for up to 14 days while still being comfortable to carry. But I am searching and when my backpack is worn out I will try another one – if I find one that I like.

The size of your backpack is depending on the trail and the length of the sections you are hiking. My Osprey was pretty good for the CDT but I had a lot of room in it on the Te Araroa. And – that’s the problem – if you still have room in your backpack YOU WILL FILL IT! Even if you don’t need to.

I try to organize the things in my backpack after common rules like putting heavier stuff closer to your center (like your back) and arrange the lighter stuff around it. Other than that, I try to put the things – I will need at that day of hiking – in the outside pockets (like food) or handy right on top of the backpack (like rain gear) so I never need to unpack my backpack before nighttime.

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

It’s important that everybody has to make their own experiences with hiking, packing and choosing gear. Everybody has to find out what works best for them and what doesn’t. If you are not experienced in hiking, just start slowly and safe!!! Don’t go on a trail unprepared but with ultralight equipment. That might be cool but maybe soon you will find out what you left behind and what you should have packed…. but then it might be already too late.

All equipment – it doesn’t matter if ultralight or not – works out fine as long as the trail conditions are fine. But what if the conditions aren’t perfect anymore? Don’t hike ultralight at the expense of safety!

So please be always prepared and well informed (as good as possible) about the trail and the current trail conditions. Adjust your gear and your skills to those terms.

Go out for some day hikes near civilization before you go on long distance trail far away in the wilderness.

Don’t overestimate yourself.

Don’t underestimate the trail, the nature or the weather.

Make sure you know how to use your gear BEFORE you are on a trail.

Listen to others but don’t have blind faith. They are just hikers like you – more or less experienced and some of them like to show off. But you know your skills, limits and fears best!!! Don’t take a risk!!!

It’s your hike, it’s your life, it’s your responsibility!

Don’t be afraid about hiking, but be prepared … and you will have one of the most wonderful experiences in your life! It’s hard to describe the feelings you will have on a long distance trail, it’s hard to describe how a trail can change your whole life. Go and try it yourself!

Visit Maria Elfe Weinmann’s website

Jack Brauer
Live in Colorado, currently traveling in Peru! I’m not necessarily an “ultralight” trekker as I carry camera equipment and enjoy my basic comforts, but I do try to buy and use the lightest gear possible since it’s no fun to carry a super heavy backpack in the mountains. Favorite trekking destination is anywhere in the U.S. Rockies (Colorado, Wyoming, etc.).

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all trekkers bring?

Besides the common gear, I bring camera equipment and tripod, homemade dehydrated food, and sometimes an umbrella. The camera gear obviously allows me to take (hopefully) nice photos, the homemade dehydrated is much more delicious and satisfying than the freeze dried stuff, and the umbrella is great for hiking in rain in warmer weather without getting all sweaty in a rain jacket. The most useless thing I’ve seen people bring is beer (well, not totally “useless” but at least liquor has a better value/weight ratio!). Also camp chairs — just sit on the ground or against a tree.

How do you bring things with you?

I use a Seek Outside Exposure pack for long trips with more gear/food. For shorter trips I use an Osprey Stratos 50. I organize my stuff using lightweight stuff sacks and Ursack bear bags for the food. Space-wise is usually just right or maybe a bit tight.

What are your top tips for other ultralight trekkers?

My recommendation is to get as light as gear as you can, but don’t sacrifice basic comforts just to be ultralight. For example, I think the comfort and convenience of an enclosed double wall tent is worth the extra weight vs. something like a tarp or floorless pyramid tent.

Visit Jack’s website

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