Ultralight Done Right: Customize & Adapt

Your pack's excess straps weighing you down? Cut 'em off. Plus how to maximize the gear you do bring.


1. Slice off or trim your pack's excess straps and daisy chains, shorten zipper pulls, and remove tent guylines. But be careful, warns Lichter. "Get to know your gear first. If you cut it too short, there's no going back."

2. Build your own first-aid kit. Must-haves: antibiotic ointment, duct tape, gauze, bandages, and blister treatment. Some hikers start with a commercial kit (like Adventure Medical Kits' Ultralight & Watertight .5; $17, adventuremedicalkits.com) and adjust contents to their liking.

3. Downsize toiletries by repackaging sunblock, soap, hand sanitizer, and contact lens solution in .25-ounce plastic dropper bottles.

4. Photocopy and carry only the map section you need, not the whole thing.


1. Bring just one set of baselayers and take advantage of body heat to dry them when they get wet or sweaty. Keep the damp shirt on while setting up camp; if you're chilled, layer the wet shirt over your long-sleeved midlayer. Either way, body heat will quickly dry the fabric.

2. Add layers (even a puffy down jacket), a hat, and gloves
if you feel cold in a light sleeping bag. Some ultralighters even plan on getting up in the coldest hours of the morning and hiking to warm up, stopping later for breakfast.

3. Carefully scout a sheltered campsite when using a tarp. Look for natural windbreaks behind trees, bushes, and rocks, and avoid any places where water will pool. In windy conditions, pitch tarps low to the ground on the windward side.