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Lightweight Backpacking - Ten Tips

Lightweight backpacking or the even lighter version called ultralight backpacking is about going more comfortably. The whole point of cutting the weight is to be able to enjoy the hiking more. Thus even though a tarp weighs less than a tent, if a tent is more comfortable for you, you should bring one - just look for a lighter one. Here are ten tips you can use to lighten your load. Use the ones that work for you.

1. If the rain fly on your tent weighs more than 12 ounces, consider getting a light tarp to pitch the tent under instead. You might save weight and also have a "roof" over your entrance area. You also can keep the tent drier when setting up in the rain, because you'll pitch the tarp first and then set up the tent under it.

2. On summer nights, you can wear clothes to sleep and use just a sleeping bag liner instead of a sleeping bag. I have done this and slept comfortably on cool nights with just a 5-ounce liner.

3. Trim your closed-cell pad so it covers just all the pressure points, from your hips to your shoulders. Doing this took mine down from 12 ounces to 4, without much loss in actual insulating ability (I throw my pack under my feet at night). Two of these mini-pads stacked up will keep you more comfortable than one regular, and even then save you 4 ounces.

4. Keeping the contents of your backpack waterproof with several plastic bags will save as much as five ounces over using a pack cover over the outside of the pack.

5. Ever fight with the zippers on those convertible hiking pants/shorts? Skip the convertible pants. Bringing both lightweight nylon-derivative hiking pants (8 ounces) and unlined nylon shorts (2 ounces) will give you the same flexibility for less weight and trouble.

6. The lightest sweater or insulating layer? I used a homemade insulating vest for years, even though I made it as a disposable one. It was simply poly batting, the kind that comes in a roll for making quilts or pillows. Cut a piece about 18 inches by 48 inches, then cut out a hole for your head. It is worn like a tunic, under a jacket or other layer. Lots of insulation for 4 ounces.

7. With underwear, pants, and long underwear, It is often uncomfortably crowded in there. Try cutting apart an old pair of long underwear so you can use just the legs. They need to cling sufficiently to stay up, of course. This may reduce the weight by a couple ounces and make you more comfortable.

8. You can carry less water if you know an area well, or learn beforehand where you will be able to refill your water bottles. In some areas water is so frequent that there is no need to carry more than a pint of water with you at any time.

9. The most obvious way to reduce the weight of a backpacking stove is to not bring one. This may be a problem for you or not. Personally, I rarely cook on a backpacking trip. There are many tasty foods that don't need cooking. This saves not just the weight of the stove, but also the fuel and the pot.

10. For an easy pillow at no extra weight, use your sleeping bag stuff sack. Just fill it with any extra clothes you have and fold the end over.

About the Author: Copyright Steve Gillman. To get the ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips)" for FREE, as well as photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, visit:

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