Backpacking is an exciting way to connect with nature and explore the outdoors, but there’s no one-size-fits-all style approach.
Nevertheless, three main camps emerge: traditional, lightweight, and ultralight. Are you ready to learn more? Let’s go.
Backpacking includes three styles, primarily differing based on the weight of your pack and the level of luxury comforts during your adventure.
1. Traditional Backpacking
This involves carrying heavier packs. Traditional backpackers bring extra gear and comfort items such as camp chairs, books, larger tents, and bulkier sleeping bags, allowing for added camp luxury.
2. Lightweight Backpacking
Lightweight backpacking involves trimming your pack weight down by bringing less gear and using more lightweight options. The focus is on reducing weight while maintaining reasonable comfort.
3. Ultralight Backpacking
Ultralight backpackers aim to cut their base weight down as much as possible. This requires minimalist gear, often homemade, and leaving many traditional comfort items behind. The emphasis is on traveling fast and light.
The heavier your pack, the more challenging hiking will be on your body. While you may enjoy you camping comfort items, a lighter backpack is appreciated by everyone. Less weight makes it easier to cover more mileage and elevation each day.
A 5-10 pound (2.3-4.5 kg) reduction in weight can lead to a 20-30% decrease in strain on your back, knees, and ankles over the course of an extended (multi-day) trip.
Thus, it is important to understand the concept of base weight so you can determine if your pack is too heavy for your liking.
Calculating Base Weight
Your total pack weight includes consumables like food, fuel, and water. Base weight refers to just your backpack, shelter, sleep system, clothing, and other gear. It enables a fair comparison between backpackers.
There are general base weight ranges that define the different backpacking styles:
Knowing your starting point is crucial. Use LighterPack to keep track of your gear and its weight.
To cut pack weight, focus on the ‘Big Three‘ – your pack, shelter, and sleep system. Here are some example options to see where you can make the biggest difference:
1. Shelter Options
|Tents||1 – 5 lbs (450-2200g)||Opt for lightweight solo tents|
|Hammocks||1 – 2 lbs (450-900g)||Require additional accessories|
|Tarps||1 – 2 lbs (450-900g)||Versatile and ultralight, not for beginners|
|Bivys||12 oz – 2 lbs (340-900g)||For extreme minimalists, not for beginners|
2. Sleep Systems
|Bags||1 – 3 lbs (450-1250g)||Higher fill power for lighter warmth|
|Quilts||1 – 2 lbs (450-900g)||Often lighter then sleeping bags|
|Pads||9 oz – 2 lbs (260-900g)||Ample lightweight options due to new tech|
3. Backpack Types
|Framed||2 – 5 lbs (900-2200g)||50 – 80L||Structured; good for heavy loads|
|Frameless||1 – 2.5 lbs (450-1000g)||30 – 60L||Less structure; for lighter loads|
|Daypacks||8 – 28 oz (225 – 800g)||15 – 35L||Minimal; for short trips|
Selecting your ideal style always requires balancing comfort, cost, and durability. In our opinion, it’s perfectly fine to alter your style to different trail conditions:
Your backpacking style is entirely up to you. We believe it’s perfectly okay to adjust it according to the different trail conditions. For example, we like to go ultralight during the summer but choose a lightweight setup during the winter.
Regardless of your choice, having a lighter backpack is always a good idea because it reduces the strain on your body. No matter your style, you can make your load lighter by focusing on three essential items: your backpack, shelter, and sleep gear.
So give it a try, even if you take small steps towards it.
Ultralight backpacking, with a base weight of under 10 pounds (<4.5 kilograms), focuses on maximizing your outdoor experience by minimizing what you carry. This approach significantly reduces the strain on your body, with a 5-10 pound weight reduction translating to a 20-30% decrease in back, knee, and ankle stress during extended trips. It’s all about efficiency, self-sufficiency, and a deeper connection with nature.
The difference between traditional and lightweight backpacking lies in the approach to gear weight. Traditional backpacking often involves carrying heavier (>30 pounds; 12.5 kilograms) and more extensive equipment, while lightweight backpacking emphasizes reducing gear weight (10-20 pounds; 4.5-9 kilograms) to enhance mobility and comfort during outdoor adventures.