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Come, Child: I Shall Teach You the Ways of the Ultralighter

Like a seed pushing through the hard spring soil in search of the sun, so too must you push through adversity to the glorious ultralight of backpacking. 

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Ho! Who is it I hear at the door of my cuben-fiber yurt? Enter stranger, seeker of knowledge! You need not speak. I know why you have come. The question is, are you prepared? Do you have the necessary strength of mind and purity of purpose? Are you ready…to walk the Path of the Ultralighter?

But first, make an offering to our sublime and ancient order. Take out your toothbrush. Now, snap off the handle. Burn it in the holy flame of this alcohol stove, which I have wrought from a cat food can. Repeat with me the mystical formula: ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. 

Now give me a pint of your blood. Not because of the ritual. Nay! Because it weighs a full pound. 

There. The pact is sealed. You are ready.

This world is weighty, my child. It will seek to weigh you down as well. It will slip fripperies into your pack: pocket knives, deodorant, toilet paper. The True Ultralighter needs not these baubles. Live in vigilance. Guard against that which would add to your burden.

Let us begin the Ritual of Shakedown. Empty your possessions on the ground. Do it now! Like a seed pushing through the hard spring soil in search of the sun, so too must you push through adversity to the glorious ultralight of backpacking. 

You fear the cold, child. I can see your fear, reflected in your 800-fill down sleeping bag, your hooded puffy jacket, and your insulated sleeping pad with an R-value of 6.9. But you must lay down your fear, along with any pieces of insulated clothing that are too big to compress down to about the size of a baseball. The True Ultralighter carries exactly as much gear as needed not to die of hypothermia, for only on the margin between life and death do the gates of the universe open. Be not afraid! Take instead this ultralight quilt that costs $900 and will let cold air in as soon as you move; take as well this child-sized foam mat, so you might sleep with the gravel digging into your back. Be one with the frozen ground.

Read More: 5 Honest Reasons to Tarp Camp

Extra underwear, extra shirts, extra pants? Vanity upon vanity! The True Ultralighter wears their clothes like a second skin, anointed by grime and sweat, their odor wafting a prayer to the divine. (You may bring one extra pair of socks. I have heard from thy spouse. They have their limits.)

An Apple watch, Bluetooth headphones, extra batteries? You have been deceived! The true purpose of backpacking is not to spend thousands of dollars on expensive, breakable technology. No, my pupil, the true purpose of backpacking is to spend thousands of dollars on expensive, breakable tents, backpacks, jackets, and footwear, then argue about their relative merits on Reddit! Such is the hard, lonely road an Ultralight Backpacker must tread.

A paperback book? Tear out the pages you have already read, for the past is but an illusion. Snacks? Bring only one breadcrust, and trust Providence not to leave you starving. A baggie with a full ounce of weed? That’s fine, actually. Hang on to that.

When you came here, you were but a donkey, hauling the weight of the world on your back. Now, look at you: A Frogg-Toggs-draped Ultralight Master! 

I charge you with this final task, child: Spread the message of Ultralight Backpacking through the world. Tell your family. Tell your Tinder dates. Tell your friends, even when they keep trying to change the subject. 

Spread the Gospel of Ultralight Backpacking! Tread lightly!