One of the main reasons to minimize your pack weight is to maximum your freedom on the trail. Backpacking with a lighter pack will reduce stress on your body, give you more free time on the trail, and allow you to hike farther with less effort. Hiking lighter will make the hiking part more fun, and that can be a huge game changer for your backcountry trips.
Lightweight and Ultralight backpacking are really the same thing, just with different weight ranges. A lightweight pack has a base weight (pack minus food, water, fuel) of 20 pounds or less and an UL pack has a base weight of 10 pounds or less, but the concept is the same.
Many people have heard about ultralight backpacking because of thru-hikers. Thru-hikers hike long trails from one end to the other, often covering thousands of miles over many months. Thru-hikers often average around 20 miles of hiking a day in order to complete the trail in a single hiking season.
You might think that thru-hikers must have extreme strength to complete that type of expedition, and they are very tough, but the key is in pack weight reduction. The less weight you carry on your back and feet, the less energy you use on the trail. Having more energy means more flexibility and more free time. Thru-hikers use that energy to hike more miles, but you might choose to chill in camp, go for a swim, explore an off-trail area, or read a book.
Many people also believer that buying ultralight equipment is an expensive commitment. It’s true, there are a lot of spendy UL tools on the market, but you don’t have to shell out a ton of money to go ultralight. A lot of UL tools are built by small, specialized companies that aren’t selling in large outdoor retailers, so they can pass the savings on to you.
Another nice benefit to lightweight backpacking is that it gets easier as you get into it. For example, if you start by leaving some unnecessary gear at home and replacing your heavy shelter, you’ll have a lot of space in your old backpack. Now you don’t need that heavy, rigid pack to carry all your gear, so you can switch to UL pack and save even more weight. After that, your pack will be light enough that you won’t need those heavy boots for ankle support, so you can switch to lightweight trail runners for more comfort and efficiency.
Now that you’re sold on backpacking light, how do you get started?