I am not going to lie. I am not an ultra-light backpacker.
But sometimes I dream about it but I am cheap and not willing to lay out a ton of money. I am slowly converting as my gear needs replacing.
I seem to fall into the lightweight category in that I carry less than 30 lbs. When I started backpacking a million years ago I was carrying way too much so 25 lbs feels great. But deep in my heart, I crave carving that down another 10 lbs.
The way the cool kids see it, 30 lbs and under is the new normal average joe on the trail (though from seeing people lugging mountains of gear, I wonder about that). 20 pounds is the new sexy ‘ultra light’ packer. Then the 12 pounds and under crowd, well sexy ike John Muir, but 10 pounds heavier.
So what would that mean? The big weight objects people carry are the food, the backpack, sleeping bag, tent/shelter and stove/fuel.
Because I don’t have a lot of sleeping bags for different weather, I have a 15 degree down bag (3-4 lbs.). That covers most of the circumstances I am likely to find myself in. Mostly, it is too much bag for the trips I take. I could easily shave a little there by getting a 32 degree bag or so. If I eliminated the tent, I would probably go with a synthetic bag in case of water.
My backpack is not a super light but is relatively small. I don’t remember exactly, but is 3-4 pounds or so. This can be trimmed by, say 2-3 lbs. The reason I like my pack is that is sits well on me and so even when scrambling or (occasionally) climbing I can move freely and it is stiff enough to not shift around. If I trim down the pounds, it may not matter how well the fit is. The ultra-light packs are gossamer light with no real support, but if you carry no real weight, that may be enough.
Ah the tent. When last my partner and I were tormented by many hundreds of mosquitos, we retreated to the tent until it got cold enough to make the little bastards go away. It is light and split between two in buggy country, is something I can’t say I am ready to give up. This adds 2-3 lbs to my pack depending on who is carrying what.
Shoes are also an issue for a lot of people. I stopped wearing boots in the backcountry unless I know I am in for days of snow. I use my trail running shoes. If you have gortex runners, use gaiters and that works on most non-winter snow/mud/rain too.
Since switching (and this is with lighter packs), I have not had foot issues (blisters etc) partially because I have worn them a lot and they are molded to my feet. It is also easier to jump rock to rock, scamper up small rock bands and down talus piles. Bonus points – they dry faster too.
I have been dry camping – no stove – for shorter (3-4 day) trips. Over time, it is nice to have tea or coffee (OK, coffee) and warm food – especially if it is cold. The new stoves are incredibly light, but you still have to carry fuel. No stove means no pots or pans either. It does mean a less varied diet, but be creative of bring a friend who is a master chef. Really, a cracker and a can of salmon is a huge treat anyway.
So, my dreams are to drop 10 pounds off my gear. My problem is the cost. I figure at my comfort of spending money, it will be another 7 years before I am down there. Ah well.