A picture of hiking gear - What Is Ultralight Hiking?

What Is Ultralight Hiking? (Explained)

Ultralight hiking is all about minimizing the weight of your gear and embracing a simpler, more streamlined approach to hitting the trails.

Read on to find out lots more about this fascinating take on our favorite hobby!

Ultralight hiking VS Traditional Hiking?

Ultralight hiking differs from traditional hiking in that it places a greater emphasis on reducing the weight of your backpack and gear.

By carrying less weight, you can move faster and cover more ground with less effort. Traditional hiking, on the other hand, tends to prioritize comfort and convenience over weight reduction.

Both types of hiking can be enjoyable and rewarding, but they require different approaches and mindsets.

Why Go Ultralight?

By minimizing the weight of your gear, you can move faster, cover longer distances, and experience nature in its purest form.

No more backaches, no more unnecessary stress—just you and the great outdoors. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a newbie, embracing ultralight principles has the potential to transform your hiking experience.

Benefits Of Ultralight Hiking

  • Increased freedom and agility on the trail.
  • Reduced physical strain and fatigue. Allowing for longer, faster, and more enjoyable hikes.
  • Ability to cover greater distances and explore more remote or challenging terrain.
  • Enhanced connection with nature by shedding unnecessary distractions and focusing on the essentials.
  • Improved overall hiking experience with a lighter and more comfortable backpack.
  • Minimized risk of injury and improved joint health due to reduced weight carried.
  • Greater flexibility in choosing campsites and rest areas, as you’re not limited by heavy gear.
  • Boasting points over your mates about how light your pack is.
  • Opportunities for creativity and personalization in gear choices and techniques.

What is Ultralight hiking

How To Choose Ultralight Gear

Getting your hiking gear down to Ultralight status can seem confusing, but is surprisingly simple! You don´t need to go completely feral and sleep in leaves or spend thousands on the latest tech. Getting your pack weight down is just some good planning.

Read on to find out more about choosing the perfect Ultralight hiking setup.

Ask Yourself These Questions…

Do you need a tent?

The need for a tent depends on the accommodation options available on the route. Are there huts or hotels that you can stay in or will you need to camp?

If it’s the latter and the weather is mild, a lightweight tarp, bivy sack, or hammock might be ideal! However, if you anticipate harsh weather or camping in areas without shelters, a lightweight backpacking tent would be a wise choice.

If you are in a group, consider using a multi-person tent and splitting the weight between backpacks.

Do you need a sleeping bag and camping mat?

If you are planning on camping we would say that a sleeping bag and camping mat is essential for providing warmth and comfort during overnight hikes.

Look for lightweight, compact sleeping bags specifically designed for backpacking. Consider the temperature rating based on the weather conditions you’ll encounter.

What’s the best backpack size?

The ideal backpack size depends on the duration of your hike and the amount of gear you’ll carry. For ultralight hiking, aim for a backpack with a capacity of around 30-50 liters. This size should accommodate your essentials while encouraging a minimalist approach.

What are the weather conditions you’ll be hiking in?

Knowing the weather conditions will help determine the gear you need. Check the forecast for the area and season you’ll be hiking in. Prepare accordingly with appropriate clothing, rain gear, and any specialized equipment required for extreme conditions.

How difficult are the trails?

Trail difficulty varies greatly. Research the trail’s terrain, elevation changes, and overall difficulty rating. This will help you assess the physical demands and plan accordingly. It’s always a good idea to practice ultralight hiking on easier trails until you get your gear list dialed in.

Do I need hiking boots, or will light hiking shoes or trail runners be okay?

The choice between hiking boots, light hiking shoes, or trail runners depends on personal preference and the terrain you’ll encounter.

For easier trails with well-maintained paths, lightweight hiking shoes or trail runners can be sufficient. However, if you’ll be hiking on rocky, uneven terrain or carrying a heavier load, hiking boots may provide better ankle support and protection.

Will I need to cook, or are there restaurants on the trail?

The need for cooking equipment depends on the length and remoteness of your hike. If you’re hiking for a short duration or in areas with access to restaurants or food stops along the trail, you may opt to eat prepared meals. However, for longer or more remote hikes, carrying lightweight cooking gear and food supplies is usually necessary.

Can I share gear such as first aid kits or food with my hiking buddy?

Sharing gear like first aid kits or food with your hiking buddy can help distribute the weight and save space.

However, ensure that you both have the essentials covered and communicate effectively about shared responsibilities. Additionally, consider any personal dietary restrictions or medical needs when sharing food or medical supplies.

Do I need trekking poles?

Hiking poles are not mandatory but can provide added stability, balance, and support, especially on steep or uneven terrain. They can help reduce strain on your knees and improve overall endurance.

Consider your hiking style, terrain, and personal preference when deciding whether to bring hiking poles.

Like, want or need principle

Before packing each item into your bag, think about if you like it, if you want it, or if you need it. Try to pick only what you need. You will be surprised how much you can remove from your pack!

Once you have asked yourself these questions,  you can start looking for gear that meets those needs.

Weight-to-Value Ratio

Consider the weight-to-value ratio for each piece of gear. Ask yourself how much value the gear provides relative to its weight. Aim for gear that offers significant benefits while keeping weight to a minimum.

Look for lightweight materials

Ultralight gear is made from lightweight materials like nylon, polyester, and carbon fiber. Look for gear that is made from these materials as they are strong and durable, yet lightweight.

When shopping for ultralight gear, be sure to check the weight of the item. In our experience the lighter the item, the higher the price tag. But hey, that’s the price you pay to be the highest hiker on the hill!

If you are on a budget, buy last season’s discounted gear. Often the weight is the same but the design has changed.

You want lightweight gear, but you also want gear that is sturdy and durable. Look for gear that strikes a balance between weight and durability. These days fabric and equipment technology is crazy when it comes to weight and strength!

Buy Multi-Purpose Gear

Opt for gear that serves multiple functions. For example, a lightweight rain jacket that can double as a windbreaker or a trekking pole that can be used as a tent pole. This approach reduces the number of items you need to carry.

Clothing Choices

Focus on lightweight, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying fabrics for your hiking apparel. Layering is key, as it allows for versatility in adapting to changing weather conditions without carrying excessive clothing.

Perfect Your Sleeping System

Look for lightweight sleeping bags or quilts that are suitable for the expected temperature range. Consider insulated sleeping pads made from lightweight materials like inflatable air pads or closed-cell foam pads.

When trying to go ultralight with your sleeping system remember that a bad night’s sleep leads to a terrible day. In our opinion, adding a few grams for comfortable sleep is well worth it!

Read reviews

Before making a purchase, read reviews from other hikers who have used the gear.

This will give you an idea of how the gear performs in the field and whether it’s worth the investment.

Here are some good places to check:


How has ultralight hiking changed and evolved over the years?

Ultralight hiking has undergone significant changes and evolution over the years.

In the past, ultralight hiking was primarily reserved for experienced hikers who were willing to sacrifice comfort for weight savings. However, with advancements in gear technology and increased awareness about the benefits of ultralight hiking, more hikers of all skill levels are embracing this approach.

Ultralight hiking has become more accessible and safe, with hikers being able to maintain comfort and safety on the trail while still reducing their pack weight.

Downsides To Ultralight Hiking

  • Reduced comfort due to sacrificing certain features for weight reduction.
  • Potential fragility and decreased durability of ultralight gear.
  • Smaller carrying capacity, limiting the amount of gear and supplies.
  • Higher cost compared to heavier alternatives.
  • Limited versatility in extreme weather conditions or challenging terrain.
  • Limited gear options for specific activities or specialized needs.
  • More meticulous planning and organization are required to ensure essential items are not overlooked.
  • Potential trade-offs in functionality or convenience for weight savings.
  • Increased reliance on proper technique and skill to compensate for minimalist gear choices.

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