Backpacking Ultralight: Stay Safe, Warm, Well-Fed & Happy

The Myth of Backpacking Ultralight: It Doesn’t Make You Less Safe, Colder, Wetter & Hungrier

Text & photos by Alan Dixon.

In fact, I’ll wager that with my 5-6 pounds of ultralight gear I’m more comfortable, sleep better, and eat as well or better than most campers carrying 20 to 30 pounds of conventional/heavier backpacking gear. This is true for three reasons:

  1. Good camping skills: Good camping skills rule! They are far more important than the weight of my gear for keeping me safe, warm and dry. And I don’t mean fancy skills—just the basic, garden-variety skills that every backpacker probably knows how to do (or should know)—like putting on rainwear or a warm jacket when needed, selecting a good campsite, and doing a decent job of pitching a tarp or pyramid shelter, etc.
  2. Light gear appropriate for the conditions: I pick the lightest fully-functional gear appropriate for the actual conditions I backpack in. E.g. my light down sleeping bag/quilt, down jacket, and 6-8 oz rain jacket work as well as conventional (heavy) gear at 3 times the weight. I take gear that is appropriate for actual conditions for the time of year and location I am backpacking. E.g. I don’t take a 4-pound, 4-season dome tent, a +20F sleeping bag, and a down jacket for a warm May trip on the Appalachian Trail with expected lows in the 60s—you’d be surprised how many people do!
  3. Nutritious high-calorie food: Intelligent selection of my food, gives me 3,000 nutritious and filling calories of complex carbs, protein and healthy fats for around 1.5 pounds/day. This is the same number of calories provided by 2 pounds of average backpacking food. Over a 3 day weekend backpacking trip I get as many calories and as much nutrition, possibly more than someone carrying almost twice the food weight.

In summary: It’s not the weight of your gear but poor camping skills, poor gear choices and uniformed food selection that will make any backpacker more prone to being cold, wet and hungry. This is just as true for conventional (heavy) backpackers, as it is for lightweight or ultralight backpackers.

Good campsite selection: While I had the opportunity to camp higher up on the canyon wall on a slickrock shelf with great views, I chose to camp in a warmer and more protected location in the trees. And discreetly camping out of sight, away from the trail and in the trees is a favor to others sharing the canyon with me. [Note that one tarp ridgeline is solidly anchored to a cottonwood]
Good campsite selection: While I had the opportunity to camp higher up on the canyon wall on a slickrock shelf with great views, I chose to camp in a warmer and more protected location in the trees. And discreetly camping out of sight, away from the trail and in the trees is a favor to others sharing the canyon with me (Note that one tarp ridgeline is solidly anchored to a cottonwood).

Read on to learn more about going ultralight.

Carry a Lighter Pack: 3 Tips To Reduce Food, H2O & Fuel Weight

Streamline Your Consumables to Carry a Lighter Pack & Enhance Your Adventure.

Carry a lighter pack: always make sure the water you are drinking is safe.

Text by Philip Werner

Ultralight backpackers spend a great deal of time and effort reducing the weight of their gear, or base weight. But reducing the weight of your consumables, (food, water and fuel) is just as important and can lead to significant weight savings with little extra expense.

For example, when I started hiking the Vermont’s Long Trail eight years ago, I filled a three liter hydration reservoir with water every morning, carrying six liters of water, even though water was plentiful along the trail. It took me about 100 miles, but I figured out that I never needed to carry more than a liter at a time, shaving four pounds off my pack weight just like that, without spending a cent.

It takes a little bit more planning, but this is a good example of how to skills and experience can help you reduce the weight of your consumables.

Here are a few more strategies that I use to reduce the weight of my food, water and fuel: <!–more Check out the 3 tips to carry a lighter load.”

#1 Food

  • Remove all excess packaging.
  • Replace low-calorie foods with calorically dense foods like nuts, olive oil or ghee.
  • Bring less food per day. There’s no need to pack 5000-6000 calories per day like a thru hiker if you mainly take overnight or weekend backpacking trips. Try bringing 3000 calories per day instead. This should still be sufficient to keep you satisfied and alert, and you’re unlikely to starve to death, even if you burn more energy than you consume. The goal is to come home with an empty food bag every time.

Read the other two tips now.

Long-Distance, Lightweight Thru Hiking Gear List (for the Grand Canyon)

Stripped Down Thru Hiking Gear List for Extreme, Lightweight & Extended Backcountry Adventures, By Mike St. Pierre

Long-Distance (Lightweight) Thru Hiking Gear List

“I used this thru hiking gear list for my Grand Canyon section hike, but minus the technical climbing and canyoneering gear, it’s basically what I’d bring on any long-distance section, thru hike or weekend backpacking.” -Mike St. Pierre 

Photos & article by Mike St. Pierre

As an ultralight long-distance adventurer, I dial in my systems to conserve energy with every step I take. The lighter my gear, the further I can go; the less weight I carry, the less the strain on my body and the less food I need. Going light just makes sense. And it absolutely doesn’t mean I’m uncomfortable when in the backcountry. I’m always warm enough, well fed and hydrated, and I sleep well at night. In this blog post, I share my thru hiking gear list from my recent 200 mile off trail section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. This extreme adventure incorporates long-distance hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering and serious map and compass skills, and is one of the most difficult thru hikes in the world. Water is scarce, established trails nonexistent, and the terrain is steep and difficult to navigate. It’s a trip that fewer than three dozen people have done (consider that 40 people summited Mt. Everest in one day in May 2016!). However, despite the specialized nature of some of the technical gear I carried, the basic equipment I bring on any thru hike or long-distance backpacking is the same. And my pack base weight is typically 8-15lbs., depending on the discipline. Check out my full gear list below.

Read the first two articles in this series here: “Planning & Prep: The Thru Hiker’s Guide to Multi-Sport Expeditions” and “Thru Hike Expedition Gear Planning & Food Prep.” As well, I detail my food planning for my first trip to the Grand in, “Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures.”
Check out St. Pierre’s Gear Checklist.

Ultralight Gear for Appalachian Trail Hikers: 2-Person Planning & Prep

Exactly what you need & nothing more: ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikers

Ultralight gear for the Appalachian Trail. Everything Tenderfoot is bringing.

 

Text & illustrations by Tyson Perkins

Early summer 2014, my girlfriend, Kendra Ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikes.Jackson, and I took on our second 5000-footer together—Mount Katahdin. Soon after waking up the day of our ascent we met a 20-something New York City-based mountain guide, Peter. A veteran thru-hiker, he had a wealth of knowledge about backcountry travel and the Appalachian Trail. He taught us about shelters that set up with trekking poles instead of your common tent poles, trail names, “Trail Magic,” “Zero Days,” “Nero Days,” “Hiker Hobble” and cleaning yourself with baby wipes. We immediately got overly enamored and stoked on this magically ridiculous world and decided to hike the “AT.” Fast travel to the summer of 2015, and Kendra and I began taking on adventures such as the Mahoosuc Range between New Hampshire and Maine in a weekend and returning to work on Monday.

On our first forays into the wilderness, we took awkward thrift store backpacks and a beaten-down double sleeping bag. We cooked dinner on a heavy propane stove right near our Walmart dome tent. Needless to say we had a ton of fun using terrible gear, but knew there had to be better options out there. Through my job as a tent maker at Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I gleaned a ton of ultralight knowledge from the owner, Mike St. Pierre. The more I learned, the easier our trips became. And, more importantly, we enjoyed our backcountry adventures even more. And now’s the time. We’re taking all that we have learned since 2014 and heading out for our Appalachian Trail thru hike. In this blog post I detail our planning, preparation and gear.

Planning:

We really enjoyed planning the logistics of this trip, regularly geeking out over Excel spread sheets and line art graphs (Kendra developed the one published to the right) and the ultralight Appalachian Trail Gear we planned to take. We’ve meticulously categorized and sorted all our mail drop supplies along the AT, and we’ve mapped out our post office stops and planned out how we will meet up with Kendra’s parents in Shenandoah National Park. Everyone needs to take breaks, and we have come up with a plan to take some without compromising our March 4th to July 22nd timeline. If we stick to the plan, we’ll hike 16 miles a day on average. We’ve developed a “bank” system. Essentially, any miles we do over the 16-mile average we add to the bank, and once we have a days worth of miles in it, we can take a full day off. Also, we built in two full Zero Days. And, we planned our food and gear very carefully…

Shakedown:

Home-made dehydrated meals or Mountain House? Nalgene® or a SmartWater bottle? Eucalyptus or almond soap?!?! There are so many choices, some of which are easy to make, and some that seem like you are perpetually leaving something behind. Will I need a footprint for my shelter? Will down be a superior sleeping bag choice? These are things that we will not find out until we really take them out and put them to the test. Gear is really fun. Planning what to take was actually my favorite part of this whole endeavor.

Here is a quick breakdown of our ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikes: Check out the full list.

Ultralight Winter Backpacking Through Canyon Country

Ultralight Winter Backpacking in The Grand Canyon
Elyssa Shalla and Matt Jenkins have completed a thru hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Photos & text by Matt Jenkins

Rangers Matt Jenkins and Elyssa Shalla recently joined an exclusive group of just 26 backcountry experts to have embarked on this extreme thru hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. As well, they are among the eight most recent people either thru hiking or section hiking below the rim who are using Hyperlite Mountain Gear equipment. In this post Jenkins shares the gear choices they make specifically tailored to ultralight winter backpacking. You can read the other posts in his series, including their Ultralight Winter Backpacking Sleep System Strategies. And read more about what it takes to do a huge adventure like this in Rich Rudow’s blog, “The Grandest Walk.”

Read the rest of the article & check out gear weight charts.

Lightweight Backcountry Recipes for Thru Hikers & Backpackers, Part 2

Two Rangers Share the Calorie-Rich Food Recipes They Use for Winter Adventures in the Grand Canyon

Clay Wadman eating dinner deep in the backcountry of the Grand Canyon while on a section hike with Mike St. Pierre.
Clay Wadman eating dinner deep in the backcountry of the Grand Canyon while on a section hike with Mike St. Pierre.

Matt Jenkins and Elyssa Shalla, backcountry rangers at Grand Canyon, have been exploring the southwestern deserts together since they met in 2008. After living and traveling extensively abroad, the couple’s next adventure will combine many of the backcountry routes near their home on the Coconino Plateau into one, extended, mostly trail-less adventure. They planned and succeeded in becoming two of just 16 people to hike the length of the Grand Canyon below the rim (and they did it in the winter!). Their thru hike of “The Canyon” took them from the Grand Wash Cliffs to Lees Ferry. The trip took place during the 2015-16 El Nino season (Read about their adventure and gear in our blog, “Lightweight Gear for The Grand: Ideas for Winter Canyon Country Hikes.”) The raison de etre for their long walk centered around a quest to reduce their belongings, live a simpler lifestyle, and better know the vast wilderness that lies in their backyard. As rangers, they constantly sought ways to share their passion and enthusiasm for traveling lightly and efficiently through wild places. This series of articles Hyperlite Mountain Gear follows Matt and Elyssa as they outline winter travel tips and lightweight backcountry recipes for thru hikes and long backpacking adventures. This week’s recipe focuses on high fat levels so you can better be prepared for snowy conditions.

During high-output, overnight, winter backcountry adventures people often need to increase their fat intake to meet the additional demands of traveling through snow and sleeping in frigid conditions. Compared to a typical three-season, high-carb menu, these backcountry recipes significantly increase the ratio of fat to carbohydrates by incorporating large portions of summer sausage and macadamia nuts, two calorie dense backcountry foods. Vegetarians, vegans and die-hard ultralight enthusiasts can easily modify this menu by increasing the amount of nuts or nut butters, which typically have even more calories per ounce.

Calories: 4090
Calories/oz: 121
Weight (oz): 34
Price/day: ~$17.00
Fat (g): 250
Carbs (g): 348
Protein (g): 124 Read More

Ultralight Winter Backpacking Sleep System Strategies

An ultralight pyramid tent set up for winter backpacking in Alaska.
Photo by Bayard Russell. Winter camping in Alaska.

Text by Matt Jenkins & Elyssa Shalla

 Matt Jenkins and Elyssa Shalla, backcountry rangers at Grand Canyon National Park, have been exploring the deserts of the southwest together since they met in 2008. The couple’s next adventure will combine many of the backcountry routes near their home on the Coconino Plateau into one, extended, mostly trail-less adventure. Their plan, a winter thru hike of the Grand Canyon from the Grand Wash Cliffs to Lees Ferry, will take place over the 2015-16 El Nino season.

As rangers, Matt and Elyssa constantly seek ways to share their passion and enthusiasm for traveling lightly and efficiently through wild places. In this article, the pair explore ideas that have made ultralight winter backpacking more fun and comfortable for them in the vast wilderness that is their backyard.

Sleep System Strategies for Ultralight Winter Backpacking

Wherever you’re headed, planning a trip during the winter requires couples and teams to re-evaluate every piece of gear in their standard ultralight set up. That means considering a given piece of equipment’s purpose in relation to efficiency and weight with extra scrutiny. Sometimes this results in more questions than answers for people who are new to winter backcountry travel: What are you bringing, should I bring one too and who gets to schlep this heavy thing around!?

In this post, we will briefly discuss some key tweaks we’ve made to one system of the “Big Three”– our winter sleep system. Our approach is the result of an evolution over time and many trips, and we hope you’ll find it useful as you head outside this winter. Read more…

The Best Of 2015

We took our blog in a new direction this year, adding more “how to” articles and posts on what going light or ultralight really means, among other things. We hear loud and clear that you want to learn how to lighten your load. These are the top ten most-read articles of 2015. They range from tips on how to pack or cook lightweight food in the backcountry to how living with less allows you to experience more. Enjoy these articles, plus some of the most popular photos we published this year!

Photo of the High Uintas Wilderness by Neil Provo
Photo of the High Uintas Wilderness by Neil Provo

The Top 5…

Mike St. Pierre carefully planned his food for this extreme Grand Canyon thru hike.Stripped Down: Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures 
In order to get ready for a 16-day expedition below the rim of the Grand Canyon, Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre carefully planned out his meals. He needed light, compact, nutrient-rich food that would be easy to carry. He spent weeks prepping everything so that all he needed to do was add water to his dehydrated meals (which he dehydrated himself). Learn more about how to prepare food for an ultralight thru hike, and check out some of St. Pierre’s awesome recipes.

Read on…

 

Greg Hanlon Alaska Packrafting tripStripped Down: Gear Check For Thru-Hiking & Backpacking: 
“I believe embracing lightweight translates to going further, faster and suffering less in general,”says Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre. In terms of outdoor escapades, the first thing he did to lighten his load was address the “Big Three” (aka “The Three Heavies”)–pack, shelter and sleeping systems. This article outlines what St. Pierre takes with him on the trail during the warmer months. Plus, he offers some recommendations for stoves, clothes, filters, shoes and more.

Read on…
Read the rest of the posts and see the photos here.

Pro Mountaineer Kurt Ross Shares His Alpine Climbing Gear List

Kurt Ross on "Crazy Train," on the Lower East Face of Longs Peak. Photo by Ryan Vachon.
Kurt Ross on “Crazy Train,” on the lower east face of Longs Peak.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Kurt Ross is a renowned climber and videographer. A self proclaimed “dirtbag,” Ross spends as much time as possible exploring icy wilderness areas. Last May he climbed the Southwest Ridge of Mount Francis, the West Face of Kahiltna Queen, an unreported route on the South Face of Peak 12,200, Bacon & Eggs on the Micro-Moonflower and the French Route on Mount Hunter with various partners. We recently caught up with him and asked him for his go-to alpine climbing gear list for serious lightweight adventures.

The decision of what to wear on your person and in your pack for a big alpine objective can be as nerve wracking as deciding what to wear on a hot date with someone who’s way out of your league. Why did she agree to go out with you anyway? You’re an alpine climber; you have no social skills. She’s probably just doing a favor for your friend who set you up. Wait. Don’t be so hard on yourself. She wouldn’t have agreed to do it if she didn’t see anything that she liked in you. You may as well give it a chance. Like, cast a large net or whatever. What was I saying?

People sometimes make fun of weight-obsessed climbers, but it really is important to cut as much fat off of your gear as is reasonable before attempting hard objectives. I’m not sure that breaking your titanium spoon in half and cutting the pockets out of your jackets is going to make the difference between sending or not, but I do think that general weight consciousness is worthwhile for big adventures. After all, the physical consequence of carrying every extra ounce is correlated to the the amount of spacetime you’ll be hauling it through. The simple unfortunate truth is that spending a bit more money to get that 900 fill, carbon, Dyneema®, helium filled stuff will make you a better climber/hiker/whatever to an extent. C’est la vie. Read More

Ultralight Photography For Thru Hikers and Backpackers

As part of our Stripped Down series, Ambassador Samuel Martin talks ultralight photography in the backcountry.

4400 Windrider Atop the Forester Pass. Photo By Samuel Martin
4400 Windrider Atop the Forester Pass. Photo By Samuel Martin

Samuel Martin maintains he’s an adventurer first, photographer second. His stunning landscapes and surreal trail photos bring the wilderness to life and show his love for the outdoors. However, photography is not something that truly meshes with the idea of lightweight backpacking. The heavy gear only serves one purpose; so lightweight photographers often find themselves facing the choice between sacrificing the quality of their photos or bringing along extra pounds. However, Martin has found a sweet balance between ultralight backpacking and the camera equipment he carries, producing photos while still being efficient and mobile. We caught him between adventures and asked him a few questions.

Do you leave other things behind so that you can bring more photo gear?
I definitely make sacrifices so that I can carry my camera gear. For example, on my recent thru hike of the John Muir Trail I ditched a second short sleeve shirt, a pair of pants, a pair of gloves, and many small miscellaneous items to make room for my gear. Personal preference and needs play a large part in what I leave behind. On some trips I don’t need a lot of warm clothes, so those get ditched. Other times I don’t need warm food, so the stove gets left behind. It’s important to evaluate the needs of each particular trip and go from there. Read the rest of the article.

Ultralight Backpacking: Making The Transition & Prepping With Less Gear

 Andrew Altepeter

Editors Note: NOLS instructor Andrew Altepeter regularly contributes educational articles to our blog on how to teach ultralight backpacking skills. We got the chance to chat with him about his personal transition to lightweight, techniques to lighten your pack weight, some of his favorite equipment and the inspiration he continues to find as a instructor. Read Altepeter’s other articles here.

Andrew Altepeter fell in love with the outdoors at a young age after a transformational hike up to Knapsack Col in the Wind River Range. Pushed past his limits by his father, incredible views of the northwestern Wind River Range awed him. He was hooked. This passion stayed with him through four years at Whitman College, where he regularly participated in the school’s outdoor program. Next came work in the energy industry as a drill-site geologist, but still he managed to find time to adventure when not at work. However he soon moved on, taking an instructor course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). There, he started to learn about lightweight hiking. “By summer of 2010 I had worked a few courses, and I was hooked,” he says. And five years later he shows no signs of slowing down. He says the the chance to be an instructor has “provided an avenue to support transformational experiences for others” and helps him appreciate the importance of the wilderness. Plus it has given him the opportunity to hone his ultralight hiking skills and how he teaches these skills to others.

What do you appreciate most about your transition to ultralight backpacking?
My first experience with maximizing efficiency of all systems involved with backcountry travel was in 2009 on the instructor course that I took at NOLS Southwest. The instructor team that facilitated the course emphasized lightweight hiking principles to help us think critically about everything we put in our packs and on our bodies. What I love about going light is the mindset of thinking systemically about the group and personal gear that you bring. This practice of being hyper-aware of your abilities, yourself, the group, the environment, and what you have with you to make it all happen is very satisfying and translates into rich experiences. Read the rest of the article here.

Stripped Down Lightweight Backpacking Tips: Minimize Utensils, Optimize Toiletries, etc

Dade Lake, below Bear Creek Spire, Eastern Sierra. Photo by Brian Threlkeld
Dade Lake, below Bear Creek Spire, Eastern Sierra. Photo by Paul Clifford

A National Outdoor Leadership School Instructor (NOLS) for five years, Andrew Altepeter has taught hiking, lightweight hiking, climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering and skiing courses. Always looking to optimize his adventures, he modifies everything from his backpacks to his cooking kit and toiletries. He also carries the lightest gear he can find. As a NOLS instructor, he has the opportunity to share his knowledge of ultralight hiking with his students. Here are a few Lightweight Backpacking Tips ideal for students or any aspiring thru hiker or backpacker:

Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures

Stripped Down Ultralight Recipes, By Mike St. Pierre

I live for adventure. I love owning and operating a growing ultralight outdoor gear company (even the stress and chaos!) But I thrive in the middle of nowhere. The backcountry is where I perfect our packs and shelters, come up with new product ideas and continue to hone my lightweight/minimalism skills. This fall I’m heading into the Grand Canyon for 16 days to accompany the foremost expert on that natural wonder of the world, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Rich Rudow. Rich is thru hiking about 700 miles down river and then back up the other side, all below the rim of the canyon and all off trail. The route is roughly mapped out, but the terrain will dictate the path; some days we’ll be walking (or bushwhacking) by the river and other days we’ll be scrambling 4th– and low 5th-class terrain through the seven layers of rock that make up the cliffs of the canyon; we may hike up to 6000 feet on any given day, gaining 3000 to 4000 feet in elevation. In this Series of blog posts I’ll be focusing on what it takes to prep for a major expedition like this. This first post is about ultralight food preparations for a multi-day thru hike in the backcountry. Plus, I’ve included some of my recipes.

Table2

Read the rest of the article & get some backcountry recipes, including our favorite,

Lightweight Backpacking for Teenagers

Tassie Adventure Club for teens.
Tassie Adventure Club for teens.

By Mark Oats

As an Outdoor Education teacher at a school in Australia I often get asked by parents as to what is the best pack to buy for their teenage son or daughter. My response is typically exactly the opposite of what they want to hear.

There are those who want me to name a particular brand and exact model (usually the one with the most bells and whistles on it that looks really fancy and goes by a cool name of an impressive Himalayan mountain); and then there are those who want me to reassure them that buying a cheap pack is totally okay and justifiable. Instead I explain what not to buy, and I often discourage parents from buying anything–that is until they can be sure that they are spending their money wisely and that it is a pack that is going to be of significant benefit to their teenager.

Simple Is Best

Lightweight backpacking for teenagers isn’t about buying bells and whistles; it’s about keeping it simple. The more compartments, pockets, zips, straps and accessories the item has, the less I endorse it. All these “extras” complicate packing and waterproofing of gear and add up to more things that can go wrong and obviously also add up to unnecessary additional weight. Likewise, only carrying the essentials makes life on the track much less complicated. Teens love living simply. Sometimes they do need to be reminded of this and it takes a little time, but ultimately it is less stressful for them and reminds them of the truly important things in life.

Go Light, But Go Durable 

My primary goal when teaching youth and leading them on two-week expeditions is to have them develop a passion for the natural world. The easiest way to put teenagers off enjoying the outdoors is to strap ridiculously heavy packs on their back and march them off into the distance. I have certainly made this mistake during my career, but it is something I try really hard to avoid these days. Having a very specific equipment list can really help here as it helps avoid the situation of well-intentioned parents and nervous students throwing all the superfluous “just in case” items in that are actually not necessary. Read the rest of the article here.

Ultralight Gear List For Thru Hiking & Backpacking

Stripped Down Ultralight Gear List (3-season), By Mike St. Pierre

Mike St. PIerre - Grand Canyon 2016

by Mike St. Pierre

Going lightweight is not just a goal for my backcountry travel; it’s how I live my life. I believe embracing lightweight translates to going further, faster and suffering less in general. Less gear (and ultralight gear) equals more adventure. In terms of outdoor escapades, the first thing I did to lighten my load was address the “Big Three” (aka “Three Heavies”): my pack, shelter and sleeping systems. This article outlines what I take with me on the trail during the warmer months. Plus, I offer some recommendations for stoves, clothes, filters, shoes and more.

Read Mike St. Pierre’s list here.

Stuff Sacks for Thru Hikes & Backpacking Trips

Stripped Down Stuff Sacks for Redundancy & Organization, By Mike St. Pierre

Grand Canyon

Most backpackers and thru hikers use stuff sacks. And more often than not, they aren’t as light as they could be or as water resistant as they should be. I always consider three key things when choosing my stuff sacks for thru hikes—Do they help me organize my pack? Do they protect my stuff? Are they lightening my load? If a stuff sack doesn’t answer all these questions, I won’t use it.

It’s easy to overuse stuff sacks. I’ve done it. All thru hikers have, especially when they’re just starting out. After all, most outdoor gear you purchase comes with a nice stuff sack. And it feels good to see all your stuff neatly lined up with its own little baggy. But is it necessary? Not likely. Read on…

Live With Less; Experience More

KT Miller ski mountaineering in the Grand Tetons.
KT Miller ski mountaineering in the Grand Tetons.

Simplifying can be Scary, but the Rewards are Great, from our Stripped Down series.

Photos and text by KT Miller

It all started after I spent a week skiing with Beau Fredlund outside Cooke City. More literally I followed him around, unsuccessfully trying to keep up. I didn’t know it back then, but that was the beginning of my transformation—a transition from being a passionate backcountry skier to an athlete. At 23, I finally started settling into my body and honing my physical stamina. I also learned, finally, to use efficiency as a tool to compensate for being small.

I had a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack that I had been using for climbing and absolutely loved, but for some reason I hadn’t even considered using it for backcountry skiing. Instead I used an old go-to pack that had a rear entry zipper I used to access my camera, a separate pocket for my rescue gear (shovel, probe, snow saw), a goggle pocket, a helmet pocket and more. It seemed perfect, but it weighed just under 4 lbs empty. After a few weeks of skiing Beau noticed I had an Ice Pack. He had been a Hyperlite Mountain Gear fan and user for years. He picked it up and then picked up my other ski pack. “Why aren’t you using this one?” He asked holding the Ice Pack a little higher. Read the rest of the article.

Why You Won’t Freeze or Starve Going Ultralight

Stripped Down Ultralight Backcountry Travel, By Mike St. Pierre

going Ultralight doesn't mean freezing your butt off or starving
Going ultralight doesn’t mean freezing your butt off or starving.

People new to thru hiking and backpacking often don’t realize they need far less than what they think or what their local big box outdoor store salesperson tells them they need. They base what they bring on their fears. Don’t fall into this trap. Understanding what you need is the secret to knowing what you don’t. You absolutely need something to sleep on, to sleep in and to sleep under. Plus you need insulating layers, waterproof layers, some kind of water treatment, a knife, a headlamp and the right kind of food at the right time. Anything else is gravy. I’m not saying you must leave your nonessential, favorite items behind; I simply recommend you strip down to the bare essentials, and then rebuild your list from there with your wants.

These are some common fears or questions we’ve heard over the years:

  • How warm is that tent?
  • I’d better bring 2 layers of fleece in case I get cold!
  • What if I don’t have enough food?
  • I need a stove to cook.

These fears are misplaced, and here’s why.
Read the rest of the article here.

Going Light: The Evolution of Lightweight Gear

Stripped Down: The Philosophy of Going Light

Mark Hudon relaxes while on a hike in Red Rocks National Recreation Area.
Mark Hudon relaxes while on a hike in Red Rocks National Recreation Area.

By Max Neale

Read the other posts in this series, “What is Lightweight Exactly” and  “Going Light: Not Just about Buying Lighter Gear.”

Though going light doesn’t mean just buying lightweight gear, this is still key to your safe and fun adventure. The two most important things to consider when buying high-quality gear are adaptability and durability. Maximize your return on investment by buying a few very good products that are multi-useful and sturdy.

Adaptability
Adaptability is the capacity of a product to adjust to a wide range of activities and/or environmental conditions. Gear that is adaptable is a good value because one single item can perform many different roles. Adaptability is a key component of Hyperlite Mountain Gear product design. For example, our Southwest ultralight backpack performs very well for all types of backpacking and also for high altitude mountaineering at very high altitudes, such as on K2 or Mount Everest. Another example is our UltaMid pyramid tent, a four-season fortress for everything from summer backpacking to ski touring, to basecamp cook tent. Read the rest of the article here!

6 Tips for Light Hiking: It’s Not Just About the Gear

Stripped Down Series: Going Lightweight or Ultralight is a Philosophy and a Lifestyle. Light Hiking is Not Just About Buying High-Tech Gear (though that helps).

Light hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Photo by Josh Stewart.
Light hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Photo by Josh Stewart.

By Max Neale

Read the other posts in the series, “What is Lightweight Exactly” and “Going Light: The Evolution of Lightweight Gear.”

Whether your objective is to lighten your load for more comfortable hiking, reduce your pack weight for a long-distance hike, or prepare for the most challenging alpine climb of your life, a lightweight approach can have tremendous long-term benefits. With good information, skill and high quality gear, you can engage in more enjoyable and more rewarding outdoor adventures. Read more about the key tips now!

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