A lot of individuals assume that the important thing to being an “ultralight” backpacker is having the most costly, lightest gear available on the market. However I’m right here to inform you that the important thing to going ultralight isn’t in regards to the gear you’re taking. It’s about all the gear that you just AREN’T taking in your hike.

In 2017 once I went on my first thru-hike, I had all of the heaviest gear available on the market. My pack most likely weighed 45+ kilos, and it was actually uncomfortable lugging it round. After I launched into one other thru-hike in 2022, I made a decision I wished a lighter pack.

I purchased all types of ultralight gear and managed to get my base weight all the way down to about 20 kilos. Which, for me, was a significant enchancment on the time! However it’s solely after making some main gear modifications during the last 12 months that I’ve managed to get my base weight all the way down to about 10.5 kilos. And I didn’t purchase any new gear or make any “main” modifications to my pack to do it.

All I did was make some vital decisions to eradicate pointless gear and weight from my equipment.

Final 12 months I hiked 5,500 miles throughout North America on the Japanese Continental Path. My base weight was about 20 kilos to start out; by the top of the path I had lower that just about in half, dropping practically 10 kilos from my pack. Working with ultralight hikers alongside the best way performed a vital position in my lastly understanding what I used to be doing improper and what modifications I wanted to make.

Listed below are the objects I ended utilizing final 12 months to get my pack considerably lighter.

1. Camp Sneakers

Camp sneakers was once my final consolation merchandise. On the Appalachian Path, it was frequent to stroll within the rain for a whole day at a time and be soggy and uncomfortable. I used to like the luxurious of having the ability to take my sneakers off on the finish of the day and stroll round camp in my Tevas, which weighed lower than a pound.

However as I spent extra time on path, I spotted that camp sneakers weren’t definitely worth the weight. They could “solely weigh a pound,” however that mentality is what was stopping me from being an ultralight hiker. Each little piece of drugs “solely” weighs a small quantity. However it’s the mixture of all of these issues that stops you from dropping pack weight.

After I determined to cease carrying camp sneakers, it turned simpler for me to make different strategic decisions. Ultimately I’ve no regrets. There was solely ever a day or two on path once I missed my camp sneakers. I realized to not thoughts taking my sneakers and socks off on the finish of the day and easily sporting my moist sneakers round when essential. 


2. Further Clothes

The shirt I’m sporting on this picture was a city shirt I used briefly in Florida, as a result of it was from a bar known as Peg Leg Pete’s!

Eliminating additional clothes is the absolute best strategy to lighten your base weight. I spent many of the Appalachian Path carrying far an excessive amount of clothes. Most of it wasn’t even essentially for climate or emergencies; it was only for consolation.

After I lastly determined I wished to lighten my pack, I used to be suggested to have a look at my garments bag first. I used to be carrying a sleep shirt, sleep pants, sleep socks, a city shirt, and city shorts. This stuff not solely took up loads of house in my bag, however collectively additionally they weighed round two kilos!

It wasn’t till I acquired rid of all of them that I spotted how occasionally I used to be utilizing them. In summertime it’s sometimes method too scorching within the evenings to be sporting a long-sleeve high or backside to mattress. Plus, on loads of trails, city garments are a bit redundant. On the AT, PCT, and plenty of others, you should have entry to “loaner garments” or “city garments” at many hostels.

However even when you don’t, there are different options that I now desire.  Now once I get to city, I both put on my rain pants and shirt whereas I do my laundry or I take advantage of a neck gaiter/buff as a shirt whether it is too scorching to put on rain gear.

Laundry is usually a reasonably fast course of, so it isn’t an enormous deal to not have spare garments. The concept of carrying a set of garments throughout all the nation simply to make use of it as soon as per week when you wash your laundry is a bit loopy. I definitely don’t miss the load and haven’t discovered myself lacking these things.

Now my clothes bag is simply all the way down to the fundamentals. I nonetheless carry base layers in case of chilly climate and different emergencies. However I swapped them for a set of Senchi Alpha 60 high and bottoms. They’re comparatively inexpensive and solely weigh about 5 ounces collectively.

I additionally carry a puffy in case it’s extraordinarily chilly. My puffy is by Montbell and is on the upper finish of the worth vary, but it surely weighs underneath 5oz. If it’s radically chilly, I put on my rain pants and rain gear over my different layers. Rain gear may be very insulating and does a very good job of conserving you heat in an emergency.

I additionally all the time carry a beanie, a set of gloves, one additional pair of socks, and one or two buffs/neck gaiters. A buff is among the most versatile items of drugs. You’ll be able to put on it in your face whether it is windy and chilly, or round your neck to guard your self from the solar, and at the same time as a high once you’re strolling round city or doing laundry.

An instance of a greater ultralight pack towel. This light-weight puck unfolds right into a reusable towel.

3. A Multitool

I used to like my multitool and I carried it on all my thru-hikes for over 8,000 miles. For probably the most half, I solely ever used it for the knife, however I appreciated the consolation of understanding that I had it for a lot of different makes use of too. However I by no means used it for something apart from the knife!

Sooner or later a hiker confirmed me what they used for a knife as an alternative. They carried a small, foldable field cutter that weighed lower than an oz.. It was excellent for reducing the occasional factor like tags, tape, or cheese. In distinction, my multitool weighed over 5 ounces and was rarely used.

I had by no means even thought-about eliminating it as a result of it “solely weighed 5 ounces.” However after I spotted there was a lighter various and eradicated it from my equipment, I spotted how occasionally I’d been utilizing it.

4. Pack Cowl

After I first acquired into thru-hiking, I believed that a very powerful factor on path was conserving your backpack and kit dry. I figured a pack cowl could be extremely efficient at conserving my backpack dry. It wasn’t till I used to be out on path in a torrential downpour that I spotted it wasn’t as waterproof as I’d imagined.

So I made a decision to ditch the rain cowl altogether and go together with a a lot lighter, virtually weightless, possibility. Now I take advantage of a polycro bag inside my pack to maintain my gear dry. It really works similar to a trash bag and I’ve by no means had a failure but. You could possibly use a trash bag as nicely when you don’t have entry to gear retailers or aren’t in a position to have one thing shipped to you.

With all your gear inside a liner bag in your pack, you don’t have to fret about getting rained on. I all the time know my stuff is protected and sound in my pack, and most significantly, that it’s all dry!

Views from Massachusetts as I’m coaching for the Continental Divide Path.

5. Tyvek Groundsheet

Throughout my preparations for the PCT in 2022, I heard about Tyvek and the way hikers use it as a groundsheet for his or her tents. It tends to be way more sturdy than a typical groundsheet and weighs even much less.

My piece of Tyvek weighed someplace between 4 and 5 ounces and was the right measurement for cowboy tenting. I carried it round for many of the 12 months however didn’t cowboy camp very ceaselessly on the AT.

After I did sleep in shelters or cowboy camp, it was nice to have a sheet to guard my gear from the bottom. Nevertheless, I started to ponder eliminating the groundsheet altogether due to how occasionally I used to be utilizing it.

Ultimately, I compromised with myself. I swapped my Tyvek for a polycro groundsheet. It’s a a lot lighter various, weighing hardly an oz.. That signifies that I can use it as ceaselessly or occasionally as I need and don’t need to really feel as responsible for carrying it round. 

6. Camp Range and Cup

Final 12 months once I completed the primary 4,000 miles of the Japanese Continental Path, I made a decision to make loads of modifications to my equipment. Ultralight hikers had been telling me for months to eliminate my range. As a result of I used to be heading into hotter climate in Alabama and Florida, I made a decision to provide it a strive.

Going stoveless is usually a unbelievable strategy to drop pack weight! You now not have to hold the range, cup, and gasoline canister. That may shave nicely over a pound out of your pack.

After I was mountain climbing the Florida Path, I didn’t miss my range in any respect. There have been sufficient shops and gasoline stations close by the path that I might get scorching meals ceaselessly. I had no regrets about eliminating my range for this phase of the path.

That being mentioned, for sure lengthy hikes I’d personally use a range once more. I plan to deliver a range once I embark on the Continental Divide Path this summer time, for example. I battle to eat calorically dense meals whereas on path, and consuming a big scorching dinner helps me to offset that.

Nonetheless, when you don’t thoughts going with out scorching meals on occasion, eliminating your range system is a unbelievable strategy to drop a pound off of your base weight.

A cheerful hiker who loves being “ultralight.”

7. Small, Seemingly “Weightless” Gadgets

The principle method that I dropped practically 10 kilos from my base weight over the previous 12 months was not by eliminating anybody or two large objects. Certain, eliminating kilos of clothes, sneakers, pack cowl, a heavy knife, and my range, definitely didn’t damage.

However it was truly the smaller objects that added as much as make the most important distinction in my pack weight.

Tent Stakes

At one level, I used to be carrying round 10-12 tent stakes for “emergencies,” when in actuality my tent solely requires 6 stakes to be arrange correctly. Now I solely carry 7-8 at a time. This nonetheless accounts for emergencies however is a bit much less radical. Tent stakes may not appear very heavy, however every one is round 0.3oz, so it provides as much as eliminate just a few.

Hygiene and First Assist

I additionally went by my private care objects and first assist and stored solely what was actually important. One main space of elimination for me was my first assist equipment. I had all the time been so anxious about getting injured on path and never having the mandatory instruments to fix myself.

However with time, I spotted that you just both want just a few small objects to bandage your self, or you should press the SOS button and obtain main assist. Now my first assist equipment consists of a small roll of sports activities tape, a small gauze bandage, and a packet of Neosporin.

I all the time carry a small capsule bottle with an array of important medicines. For me meaning allergy medicine, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Excedrin, and iodine. On earlier thru-hikes, I might need carried an entire lot of all of these issues. However now I simply carry just a few of every sort of medicine. Simply sufficient to get me to the following city the place I might both buy extra or obtain correct medical consideration.

If I used to be in a vital emergency I might use a buff or a bandana to make a tourniquet. But when the scenario was actually that dire, I’d use my most crucial piece of ultralight gear, my 3.5-ounce satellite tv for pc communicator with its SOS function.

There isn’t any want to hold extra first assist if you are thru-hiking, in my view. All of these little bottles and objects add up rapidly.

One factor I now not carry whereas thru-hiking is a bottle of cleaning soap. Some individuals will disagree with this, and everybody has their very own private desire. However I made a decision I didn’t want to hold round a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s anymore. I take advantage of hand wipes and sanitizer to maintain myself clear on path, and once I get to city there’s all the time cleaning soap accessible to bathe and do laundry.

I discovered that my emergency Bronner’s simply took up house in my pack. It’s true that washing with cleaning soap and water is the one strategy to kill viruses akin to norovirus, however I’d moderately apply higher cleanliness habits and keep away from touching soiled surfaces in shelters and privies than carry a bottle of cleaning soap. I additionally don’t like to scrub with cleaning soap close to water sources, which is one thing hikers are likely to do once they carry cleaning soap round.


The Anker wall block I take advantage of. The twin ports permit me to cost a number of electronics directly and I can carry fewer cords.

Another small objects eradicated from my backpack had been extra charging cables. For a very long time, I had additional cords, which I acquired when shopping for a brand new pair of wi-fi headphones or different gear. However on the finish of the day, you may solely cost a finite variety of electronics directly.

I carry a dual-plug Anker wall plug, which permits me to cost one USB-C merchandise and one USB-A merchandise at a time. I additionally carry a small USB-C to USB-A adapter. Because of this I can cost a number of important objects directly, akin to my telephone, energy financial institution, or inReach Mini.

I nonetheless carry a 20000mAh energy financial institution, which permits me to cost my telephone and headphones as a lot as I would like whereas on path. I discovered that carrying one Anker 20000 brick is a bit less complicated than carrying two Nitecore 10000s as some hikers do. That’s as a result of I solely require one port to cost my energy brick, moderately than needing two ports to cost them each concurrently.

This little piece means that you can convert a USB-C cable for use in a USB port.


There are definitely extra odds and ends that I now not carry that I’m forgetting to say right here. I discover that you just handle to accumulate all types of random little objects over the course of a thru-hike. For hundreds of miles I carried round a small cork ball that I by no means as soon as used.

Each time somebody requested me why I carried round considered one of my small trinkets, I’d declare that it was as a result of it weighed hardly something in any respect. However collectively the handfuls of small objects that I used to be carrying round amounted to an entire lot of weight. It’s onerous for me to think about that my pack as soon as weighed practically 10 kilos greater than it does now. Particularly contemplating the truth that I actually consider I’ve each single factor in my backpack now that I might probably want on an extended hike.

It’s the Little Issues That Rely

My pack (heart) simply earlier than beginning the CDT this summer time

I’m not extremely ultralight by any means, however these small steps have helped me quite a bit.

For me, going “ultralight” wasn’t about getting the most effective and costliest ultralight gear. I bought over $1,000 of ultralight gear in 2022, and my pack was nonetheless extremely heavy. I dropped probably the most pack weight once I got here to grasp what the true requirements are, for me, in backpacking. It took me hundreds of miles strolling throughout the nation to grasp what consolation objects actually are and what number of of them I ought to have.

Simply because I used to be in a position to carry a heavy pack alongside a whole thru-hike, that didn’t imply that I ought to. Early on in my backpacking profession, I took satisfaction in how far I might stroll with a heavy backpack. It made me really feel sturdy. I’ve met many different thru-hikers who really feel the identical and carry their massive pack all the best way to the top.

However when you might hold your pack lighter and make your total hike simpler, then why wouldn’t you? The identical satisfaction that I used to soak up my large backpack I now absorb my smaller backpack. I’m happy with myself for having the ability to quit consolation objects that I used to assume I couldn’t reside with out.

For years I packed all of my fears into my backpack. I had an merchandise for each potential incident that may come up, although they hardly ever ever did.

Now once I hike, I really feel gentle and free. I’m not anxious about something in any respect, as a result of I do know that I’ve actually all the pieces that I would like in my pack. Even in probably the most chaotic of conditions, my gentle backpack accommodates what I have to survive. 

Beneath is a hyperlink to my total present gear listing. Most objects listed are precisely what I used final 12 months towards the top of the Japanese Continental Path. Additionally it is the listing of drugs that I plan to make use of on my subsequent thru-hike of the Continental Divide Path, which I embark on within the subsequent few weeks!

Peg Leg’s Gear Checklist on LighterPack

Featured picture: Graphic design and background picture by Zack Goldmann. Backside proper picture through Peg Leg.



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