Wait…what? We’re hiking 650 km? Our Gear List and the Philosophy of Ultralight Backpacking

Posted by in get outside

If you’ve always dreamed of doing an extended, multi-day backpacking trip, but the thought of carrying back-breaking, heavy loads over challenging terrain has held you back, then it is time to consider a new way of thinking about backpacking.

Philosophy of Ultralight Backpacking

Ultralight backpacking is a style of backpacking that adopts the Less Is More philosophy. The idea is that by carrying lighter and multi-purpose equipment, backpackers can cover longer distances per day with less wear and tear on the body. This has two advantages: you can travel further and faster if that is your goal, or you can simply enjoy the backcountry in greater comfort with a lighter load. This is particularly useful when through-hiking long distance trails.

Ultralight backpacking can best be achieved by combining the following elements:

  1. Reduce each item’s weight: Modify items to reduce excess weight or replace items manufactured using heavy materials with items made from lighter ones, such as titanium utensils.
  2. Weigh everything: To determine how much weight you are carrying and saving, you need to weigh each item and record its weight. Only with precise before and after weights can you really see how much you are saving. We weigh our gear for every trip, using a kitchen food scale.
  3. Carry less. Omit unnecessary items such as camp chairs, coffee makers, electronic gadgets, multiple items of clothing, etc. Consider clothing made from lightweight natural fabrics such as merino wool. Merino wool is lightweight, warm and naturally resistant to odour-causing bacteria. I have worn Ice Breaker merino wool shirts for 5 or 6 consecutive days in the heat of summer, with no offensive odours clinging to the shirt! This means you can take less items of clothing.
  4. Share gear with others. For example, one person carries the tent, one person carries the cooking system, and the food is split up. Avoid bringing duplicates of items such as first aid kits or tarps.
  5. Work on your outdoor skills: Through reading and practice, you can increase your skill and confidence level in using the outdoor environment and your gear, and thereby become less dependent upon multiple tools and gadgets to carry along.
  6. Lighten your feet. Trail running shoes can replace heavy hiking boots and are both more lightweight and comfortable.
  7. Rethink, Reduce, and Repackage. Carry only the amounts of what you’ll need for the trip in terms of fuel, sunblock, insect repellant, batteries, etc. This often means repackaging items into smaller containers.
  8. Multi-purpose. Try to use items that can serve more than one purpose or task such as hiking poles that can be used for tent poles or your cooking pot used to cook, serve, and eat from.
  9. Replace gear. When you need to replace or buy new gear, consider buying lighter weight gear. Start with the shelter, sleeping, and carrying systems (commonly called the Big Three). There are many new technologies, such as Cuben Fibre (now called dyneema), which is lightweight, durable, and waterproof, and is used in tents, backpacks, and rain gear.

With a little planning and consideration, and an honest look at what you really need, you can achieve a lighter backpack. You will be truly surprised at how little you need to be comfortable in the great outdoors.

A lighter backpack makes getting to views like this much easier.

With that being said, here are our gear lists for our 35 day, 650 km thru-hike of the Sentier International des Appalaches – International Appalachian Trail in Quebec. You will notice that the Big 3, Shelter, Sleeping, and Carrying systems, are all under 2.5 pounds each, and this makes a huge difference in the total weight carried.

The following are some terms we will use to describe various weight calculations.

The base weight of the pack is all of the gear and clothing carried inside the backpack, plus the weight of the backpack.

The consumables weight includes the water carried and the weight of the food. For our purposes, we calculated carrying 1 L of water each, which weighs 2.2 lbs. The amount of food we carry will vary from 3 to 9 days, depending on the number of days between food drop pick-ups. We averaged this for the purposes of this article only, to a 5 day food supply, at 1.5 lbs per person. This weight will fluctuate daily as food and water are consumed and we pick up re-supplies along the way.

The full pack weight is the total of the base weight and the consumables weight.

We also calculated the weight of everything worn, which includes the clothes on your back, shoes, cameras, hiking poles, waist packs, etc.

Finally, we calculated the skin out weight, which is the grand total of everything worn and everything carried. Basically this includes everything but your own skin, bones, and body!

 

LEANNE’S GEAR LIST

  • Base Weight: 18.71 lbs
  • Consumables: Food calculated at 1.5 lbs per person per day x 5 days = 7.5 lbs; 1 L of water = 2 lbs; total rounded up value to 10 lbs
  • Full Pack Weight: 28.71 lbs
  • Weight of everything worn: 8.36 lbs
  • Skin Out Weight: 37.07 lbs

 

Brand Item Weight in Pounds
ULA Epic with Sea to Summit 65L Dry Sac Backpack 2.00
Western Mountaineering Sleeping bag 1.09
Exped Downmat Lite 5 Sleeping Pad 1.45
MEC Backpackers pillow 0.34
Exped Dry sac and snozzle bag 0.15
Black Diamond Ultra Mountain Trekking poles 1.21
Patagonia Fanny pak with small items such as sunscreen, bug spray, bear banger, etc 0.78
Miscellaneous Extra t-paper, wipes, fire starters 0.57
Ditty Bag Toiletries, pack towel, medications, etc 1.72
Black Diamond Head lamp (rechargeable) 0.28
Canon Rebel t5i with Tamron 16-300 lens and Envy harness system Camera and harness 3.05
Camera accessories Extra batteries, memory cards, lens filter, etc 0.92
Iphone 6s 0.36
Goal Zero Solar charger and accessories 1.64
REI Pot and untensils 0.54
Various Trail guide book, french dictionary, journal, pen, etc 0.70
First Aid and Survival Kit First Aid and Survival Kit 0.98
Flags Tibetan prayer, Canada 0.23
Montrail Mountain Masochist Trail shoes 1.22
Keen sandals Camp shoes 1.10
Outdoor Research Hat 0.12
Buff Buffs 0.15
Ice Breaker T shirt 0.21
Ice Breaker Long johns 0.50
North Face Long sleeve Fleece 0.40
Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket Puffy jacket 0.39
Z packs, Outdoor Research Rain kit – pants, coat, gloves 0.91
Bandana Bandana 0.06
Z packs Windshirt 0.11
Ice breaker, North Face Toque, gloves 0.18
Outdoor Research Dry sacks x 2 0.18
Sunglasses Prescription 0.09
Prana Hiking pants 0.85
Bug hat Bug hat 0.08
Columbia Long sleeve shirt 0.35
Generic Extra hat 0.15
Bra and panty Bra and panty 0.22
Extra bra and panty Extra bra and panty 0.24
Saucony, Outdoor Research Vest and hat for Matane Wildlife Reserve Hunting Season (neon) 0.28
Tank top Tank top 0.24
Outdoor Research Skort 0.41
Ice Breaker Socks 0.13
Ice Breaker Extra socks 0.29
Ice Breaker Tank top 0.17

 

STEPHEN’S GEAR LIST

  • Base Weight: 20.02 lbs
  • Consumables: Food calculated at 1.5 lbs per person per day x 5 days = 7.5 lbs; 1 L of water = 2 lbs; total rounded up value to 10 lbs
  • Full Pack Weight: 30.02 lbs
  • Weight of everything worn: 6.86 lbs
  • Skin Out Weight:  36.88 lbs
Brand Item Weight in Pounds
Hyperlight Porter 3400 Backpack 2.57
ZPack Duplex Tent/8 Stakes /Stuffsack 2 person Shelter 1.54
Western Mountaineering Sleeping bag 1.10
Exped Downmat Lite 5 Sleeping Pad 1.43
MEC Backpackers pillow pillow 0.34
ZPack Sack dry sack for SleepBag/Clothes 0.13
Yukon Carbon Fiber Poles Hiking/Shelter Ploles 0.87
Ultraspire WaistBelt Knife/Lighter/BearBangers 0.55
Trangia Burner incl. Fuel Cookstove(A) 0.44
Spare Fuel Burner Fuel (Methylhydrate) 1.06
Solo Wood Stove Only(No Pot) Cookstove(B) 0.63
MSR Titanium NonStick Fry Pan 0.35
MSR Titan 2L Titanium Pot set Cook set 0.66
Pot Cozy Hand Made 0.08
Stove Wind Screen Folding Aluminum 0.12
1L Platypus PlusBottle Water Bladder 0.08
2L Platypus Water Storage(Extra) 0.19
Aqua Tabs Water Filtration 0.02
IceBreaker Merino LongJohn Base Layer Bottom(Sleeping) 0.44
IceBreaker Merino Wool Top SS Layer Top 0.26
Ice Breaker Boxers Spare Boxers 0.16
Darn Tough 1/4 Sock Light Cushion Spare Socks 0.14
IceBreaker Merino Wool Long Sleep Socks 0.18
Illuminite PolyPro Gloves Gloves 0.11
Ice Breaker Beanie Warm Toque 0.09
MH Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket Insulated Jacket 0.51
NorthFace Pullover Fleece wear 0.52
Zpack Challenger Rain Jacket Rain Jacket 0.39
Zpack Challenger Rain Pants Rain Pants 0.25
Gortex socks WaterProof Socks 0.19
Maps Section Maps 0.54
Garmin inReach Explorer+ GPS 0.55
Silva Compass 0.09
Black Diamond Cosmo Head Lamp 0.19
SOL Emergency Whistle 0.01
SOL Signal mirror 0.02
Tape Duct Tape 0.02
Washrag/Towel Microfibre 0.13
Iphone IPhone 6S & LifeProof Case 0.48
Bear Bag CF & 50m Hanging line 0.76
Flip Flops In Camp Footwear 0.61
Columbia LS Hiking Shirt Shirt 0.56
North Face Hiking Pant Pants 0.76
Patagonia PolyPro Boxers Boxers 0.14
Darn Tough 1/4 Sock Socks 0.14
Montrail Trail Shoes Shoes 1.35
Superfeet Carbon Insoles 0.20
Patagonia Bucket Hat Hat 0.13
Safety UV SunGlasses 0.08
Pearl Izumi Running Vest Neon Vest(Hunting Season) 0.30
Salomon Running Cap Neon Hat(Hunting Season) 0.08
ZPack wind Shirt Wind Shirt 0.11
Go Pro Camera & Gear 2.09
Tarp CF 8×10 Tarp 0.37
Ditty Gear Rope/Saw/Patch kit/ reading glasses/Bug Hat etc. 1.80

This is what 35 days of gear looks like!

When packing for extended multi-day backpacking trips, it’s always a struggle to balance wants vs. needs, or luxury/comfort items vs. necessities. However, you quickly learn from mistakes on the trail, that even a few ounces can make a huge impact on the overall weight you are carrying and how you feel over many kilometres, challenging terrain, and long hours.

Our gear lists have been tested out and modified over several years of backpacking. For us, this combination works. Each person will ultimately have to determine their own balance of comfort and necessity.

We would love to hear your thoughts on gear lists. What are some of your comfort items? What are some of your can’t leave home without it items?