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Lightweight Backpacking – How to Go Light Fast

Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Backpack
Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Backpack

A few years ago, lightweight backpacking used to require a religious conversion or at least a change in your packing “philosophy.” Those days are over. You don’t need to learn new skills, read an eBook, take a mentored backpacking trip, or even watch a video series about ultralight backpacking.

Today, if you want to go light, you just need cold hard cash.

I don’t want to discourage you from learning more skills, but if you don’t have time and just want the increased comfort that comes from cutting your gear weight by 10-15 pounds, just buy it down.

In fact, there are so many manufacturers producing quality lightweight gear that you can buy all of the stuff you need at  REI (see below) and use their guarantee to return it if the gear you buy doesn’t work out. And if you have problems with any of the gear, most of these manufacturers listed below have lifetime guarantees.

If you are a little more adventuresome or want to shave your gear weight down further, you can still buy ultralight gear from the cottage manufacturers like Hyperlight Mountain GearTarptent, ULA, and Six Moon Designs, but they’re not the only fish in the sea anymore. Lightweight backpacking has gone mainstream.

To their credit, REI has even added gear weight as a filter option in their web site search, so it’s easy to see which products are lighter weight than others!

So, if you want to radically reduce the weight of your backpacking gear and not waste a lot of time, quit screwing around, go to REI’s web site, and buy one of the following products from each category. These are all good products.

For extra credit, trade in your old pump-style water filter for a Sawyer Squeeze (3 ounces) and your White Gas Stove for a Jet Boil Zip Stove, which includes a pot. (11.75 ounces)

Now stop obsessing about your gear weight and go hike somewhere! The point is to get out and have adventures, not sit around indoors and surf lightweight backpacking web sites.

The most expensive gear is gear you never use. 

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  1. The assumption that light is always better may be wrong. Comfort is better. Safety is better. I’ve tried extremely light packs that are not comfortable at all. Using a pack with a hipbelt to transfer the weight is usually worth the little ‘extra’ weight for the comfort. Having a 2 lb bombproof double walled tent eliminates the discomfort of bugs, wind, cold, condensation and time to set up a tarp. Knowing you sleep cold and being prepared with a warm bag and thick pad is so much more comforting than a miserable night.
    Knowledge of your own body and learning the skills necessary to balance comfort and safety and reasonably light gear is very individual and takes some experimentation. It is never a contest to have the lightest gear. It is about the whole wonderful experience of taking the time to look and savor what you are seeing without having to worry about your gear.

  2. Going light is great, but I agree with mhaffler that the assumption that lighter is better may be wrong. Please people be sensible here. Comfort is king. Waterproof, warm, well fed, safe………Oh, and don’t forget to cut your toothbrush in half!!!!! What a load of utter tosh!

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