Ultra Light Backpacking

American Long Distance Hiking Association--Backpacks
Ten Pound Ultra-light Backpack
View of Mount Adams and Adams Glacier from Pac...
View of Mount Adams and Adams Glacier from Pacific Crest Trail near Divide Camp. (Washington, USA) The foreground rocks are, I think, part of the Takhlakh lava flow… something like 3,000 years old. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: The Franconia Ridge, a section of the...
English: The Franconia Ridge, a section of the Appalachian Trail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association
Five Pound Ultra Light Backpack

Last year, I attended the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) conference in No. Adams, Massachusetts. There is also a sister organization known as the American Long Distance Hiking Association. They meet on the west coast at a different time.

Of the many workshops I attended, one dealt with ultra light backpacking. There are pros and cons about going ultra light, but over the years more and more hikers have gone lighter, and when they do, many become ultra light converts. The person holding the five-pound pack on his little finger is Monty Tam, who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with an average pack weight of less than five pounds!

Backpack weight refers to baseweight and does not include water, food, or trekking poles. But it includes everything else. Monty’s list of gear is shown below. Although I admire monty’s ultra light system, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Probably because I’m older and want more comfort and backup.

Another ultra light backpack was shown by Carl Rush (sp), and I believe he said his pack (seen in the other picture) weighed ten to twelve pounds, depending on options. His gear list is at the bottom of this post. Again, trekking poles, food, and water are not included in baseweight.

Do what works best for you. Many hikers out there still carry close to fifty pounds. I did the Appalachian Trail in ’03 at about 44 pounds. On the Pacific Crest Trail in ’07, I struggled to reduce pack weight and got it down to 35 pounds. Now, with the newer materials and studying what others like Monty and Carl do, I hike with a baseweight of 25-30 pounds. I don’t feel I’ll ever get below 25 pounds.

Stay in your comfort zone. Be prepared for changes in weather and bring backup gear. Most of all, enjoy yourself.

Ultra Light Backpack for hikers

Ultra light hiking--backpacks


Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020. www.RayKAnderson.com

6 thoughts on “Ultra Light Backpacking

  1. Ray-

    It’s good to read your post again.

    Have any hikers followed the shoreline of the U.S. ? Seems to me that going from ice cream stand to ice cream stand would be in the spirit of lightweight hiking.


    Sent from my iPhone

  2. This past weekend, I hiked to Colchuck Lake and spent the night, with a pack that must have totaled 40 to 50 pounds. It was brutal. The hike is short (4.5 miles each way) and gains about 3,300 feet of elevation. On June 1, most of the ground near the lake was covered by snow. I brought a lot of warmth, and I brought a heavy camera. I’m shocked at just how much the camera slowed me down.

    In general, I’ve gone light, but not ultralight. For example, I’m using a 15 ounce inflatable NeoAir mat to sleep on. This is 6 times as heavy as the list, above, but it’s comfortable and warm.

    1. I know what you mean. I do not compromise on my mattress. I tried the light Ridgerest accordion foldout and found it very uncomfortable for sleeping. I also use an inflatable mattress and sleep so much better with it. Happy trails!

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