Master Class: Lighten Your Pack

Drop 5, 10, or 15 pounds (or more!) by packing smart, planning ahead, and fine-tuning essentials.

Shed the Easy Stuff Reduce your pack load by just a few pounds and you’ll hike farther, cut injury potential, and reduce trail fatigue.


Ο Leave Nonessentials at Home

Take a critical look at your packing list and off-load (or substitute) these items.

>> Wallet6 oz.Bring only your insurance card, ID, and some cash

>> Food packaging4 oz.Discard boxes; measure servings into zip-top bags

>> Pillow6 oz.Fill your sleeping bag hood with rolled-up clothes

>> Extra pot 8 oz. Plan one-pot meals, use nonstick for easy cleanup

>> Camp shoes10 oz.Unlace boots and switch socks to walk around camp

>> Stuffsacks20 oz. Stuff clothes into pack corners; roll your tent

>> Guidebook 9 oz. Photocopy the pages you want to reference

>> Trowel 3 oz. Dig catholes with a sturdy stick or tent stake

>> Repair kit4 oz. Pack a tiny sewing kit, tube of SeamGrip, and safety pins

>> Water filter 15 oz. Use chemical or UV treatment instead

Weight saved 5+ lbs.

Ο Streamline Your Pack

Don’t purchase an ultralight hauler until your baseweight (all your gear not including food, water, or fuel) is less than 15 pounds; lightweight packs lack the suspension and comfort features (like hipbelt
padding and frame stays) that you need for heavy loads. Instead, cut up to 20 percent of your pack’s weight by ditching the top lid and trimming unnecessary features like extra buckles, webbing, and pockets.
You can shave pack heft without sacrificing functionality or comfort. Learn more cutting tips in our video tutorial.

Weight saved 12oz.

Ο Ditch Unused Gear

Count individual items like tent stakes, guylines, trail bars, and lengths of TP. After each trip, make a list of gear you carried but didn’t use. If a piece of your kit makes the list after three
consecutive trips, leave it behind next time (exception: first-aid supplies).

Ο Plan Calorie-Dense Meals

Combine high-calorie foods for efficient fueling on trail and in camp.

All these foods have more than 100 calories/ounce.

>> Fruity PB Roll-Ups

Spread peanut butter on a tortilla and top with dried apricots and chocolate squares, then roll it up. 6.5 oz., 522 calories

>> Buttered Hot Chocolate

Make hot chocolate using 2 packets of powdered mix; stir in a tablespoon of unsalted butter. 2.5 oz., 348 calories

>> Cheesy Salmon-Pesto Pasta

Cook 2 cups of pasta; toss with a 5-ounce pouch of salmon, 2 tablespoons pesto, and 1/4 cup Parmesan. 8 oz., 640 calories

Go Stoveless Pack a no-cook menu on short, warm-weather trips, and you can unload your stove, pots, and fuel.

Weight saved 2 lbs.

Upgrade Core Gear

You don’t need all-new equipment to shed another five pounds, but a few ultralight investments can add up to huge weight savings. Rethink your layering and sleep systems to drop double-digits.


Ο Dress Down

What do ultralighters wear? Use Mike Clelland’s three-season packing list as a guide to dropping your layering system below 4 pounds.

Wear while hiking

Short-sleeve baselayer top (4.3 oz.); sun hat (1.7 oz.); thin, synthetic running shorts as underwear (3.5 oz.); long, quick-dry pants (10.4 oz.); thin, shorty running socks (.6 oz.).

Carry in your pack

Long-sleeve baselayer shirt (7.5 oz.); windshirt (3.3 oz.); lightweight puffy (10.2 oz.); rain jacket (7.1 oz.); rain skirt (2 oz.); warm hat (1.3 oz.); liner gloves (1.1 oz.); one pair of thin, shorty hiking
socks (.6 oz.); one pair of warm, sleeping socks (1.4 oz.)

Ο Wear Light Shoes

Build ankle strength to stay injury-free as you transition from overbuilt boots to trail runners. (Click Here.)

Weight saved 1.5 lbs.

Ο Reboot Your Sleep System

A tent/bag/pad combo can weigh 10 pounds. Here’s how to whittle that down.


Potential weight savings 3+ lbs.

>> Light Ditch your tent’s inner canopy on mild, bug-free nights; pack and pitch the fly and footprint only. In bug season: bring a headnet.

>> Lighter Pack a waterproof tarp with reinforced seams like Brooks Range’s Ultralite Mini Guide Tarp ($115; 10 oz.;

>> Lightest Sleep under the stars. Set up on high ground in forests; depressions and meadows collect condensation.

Sleeping bag

Potential weight savings 3+ lbs.

>> Light Carry a bag that’s rated 10 degrees above expected lows, and wear insulating layers to bed to make up the difference.

>> Lighter Buy a premium down-filled bag with gram-saving features like a 15-denier shell, 1/2-length zipper, and efficient fit (click here).

>> Lightest Carry a single-sided blanket like GoLite’s RS 1+Season Quilt ($120; 1 lb. 7 oz.; in temps down
to 40℉.

Sleeping pad

Potential weight savings 1.5+ lbs.

>> Light Upgrade to a light pad that’s cushy and warm enough for a deep sleep. We like Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XLite ($160; 12 oz.;

>> Lighter Cut the corners off a closed-cell foam pad and chop material extending below your knees. Cushion your legs with your pack.

>> Lightest Create a body-sized, six-inch-tall pile of boughs topped by leaves, moss, and/or grass. Cover with a Tyvek groundsheet.

Carry Less With Careful Planning

Jettisoning the last five pounds requires thorough trip research, confidence in your trail skills, and, yes, sacrificing some creature comforts. The prize? Easier hiking every step of the way.


Ο Research Trail Conditions

Pack only what your route requires.

>> Get seasonal beta. Call park offices to ask about campsites, trail conditions, water access, and other seasonal issues. Are fires allowed? Leave your stove at home. No snow in the
passes? Don’t pack crampons or an ice axe. Also review recent trip reports at

>> Be weather-wise. Research backcountry forecasts at Subtract 4℉ for every 1,000 feet of elevation above the
forecast area. Warm front approaching? Ditch your puffy.

Weight saved 5+ lbs.

Ο Carry Less Water Weight

Water’s heavy—two pounds per quart. Schedule breaks to coincide with water sources, drink at planned refill stops, and tote no more than two quarts on the trail (unless safety requires it). Plus:
Shed bottle weight. A 32-ounce-capacity Gatorade jug weighs 1.6 oz.; a similarly sized Lexan screw-top weighs 6.2 oz. Prefer a hydration bladder? Only fill it to 60 ounces (use as a pillow at night).

“I don’t carry toilet paper. I haven’t had any in my backpack for well over 20 years and it’s not an issue. There is plenty of natural toilet paper out there.”
-Mike Clelland

Potential weight savings 3 oz.

Ο Switch Your Pack

Baseweight below 15 pounds? Downsize to a frameless midsize hauler; the lightest are made of waterproof (but delicate) silnylon and weigh just 5 ounces. Use your sleeping pad to add structure to the backpanel,
pad sharp gear (stove, tent poles) with clothing so fabric doesn’t wear, and don’t yank compression straps or secure heavy items to them, which might cause seam blowouts. See reviews of
our favorite UL packs .

Night Lite Save high-power headlamps for caving. For backpacking, use a single-battery unit like Mammut’s S-Lite ($23; 1.7 oz.;

Weight saved 6 oz.