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It’s Time to Give in to the Madness of Ultralight Camping

The allure of ultralight camping comes from the freedom of traveling deeper into the wilderness with less on your back as well as an almost psychotic desire to cut ounces. Ultralight backpackers are open to admitting to their OCD and the creation of the perfect bag is part of the compulsion. It`s a process of trimming and removing the unnecessary.

The payoff from trimming ounces and quarter ounces adds up to pounds off your back. I have seen some very interesting “hacks” for the ultralight backpacker and I think it`s an interesting undertaking. I always envision a large wooden table with a digital scale, an open backpack and a mad scientist adventurer at the table measuring every item going into the bag.

I want to explore three pieces of equipment that have garnered the respect of ultralight hikers across the nation. If you are new to the concept of ultralight camping you will be blown away by what`s possible. There are tents that fit into Nalgene bottles! Technology has gripped the outdoor adventure niche and it`s time for you to take advantage!

The Ultralight Camping Tent

The Nemo GOGO Elite

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This one-person tent is an incredible creation. It is perfect for the minimalist. What is your tent running you these days? 4-5lbs? The GOGO comes in at 1.2lbs and packs down to fit in a Nalgene bottle. If you so desire!

This tent is designed for one person and you won`t get much more out of it. This is not a tent for visitors. In a harsh climate, you will not have much refuge either. All that aside it`s the perfect shelter for the backpack ultralight camping enthusiast.

This tent works because of the AST or Air Supported Technology. The frame of this tent, rather than being a pole, is a tube of air that is pumped to support the lightweight shell. This is how you can carry a nearly nonexistent tent on your person and be prepared to set up camp in any location.

The Ultralight Camping Sleep Pad

Sea to Summit Ultra-Light Insulated Sleeping Pad

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The sea summit is a seriously thoughtful sleeping pad. It is powered by air and fills in about 5-6 breaths. You are not going to pass out blowing this thing up. It packs down to nearly nothing and makes it ideal for the ultralight camper.

The insides of the sleeping pad are coated with an anti-microbial to protect it from all the nasty that your breath will deposit inside. Probably not an issue you thought of when you started reading this but it is a reality. This mold will break down your inflatable sleeping pad over time.

This pad proves that even ultralight campers needn`t sacrifice comfort for a great adventure. This is not the only air pad on the market and I encourage you to shop around and find the one that works best for you. The Sea to Summit weighs in at 1.3lbs

The Ultralight Camping Sleeping bag

TETON Sports TrailHead +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag

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In ultralight camping your equipment needs to both pack down effectively but still work efficiently. How small can you make a sleeping bag that will keep you warm. Thanks to fabric technology we have new options like the TETO Sports TrailHead Ultralight Sleeping Bag.

The 7-denier fiber fill offers comfort in temperatures over 20 degrees. The drawstring hood and TETON`s innovative polar light insulation offers incredible reliability in chilly weather. The world of fabrics and fillers has changed so much in such a brief period that it`s hard to believe things like this exist.

If there is one area where you want to spend a little extra on quality it`s your sleeping bag. You don`t want a sauna bag. You must have optimal breathability. You get that in this 2.9lb bag.


If you have been keeping count you may realize that you can pack a tent, sleeping bag and pad for just over 5lbs. That`s probably what your standard tent weighs by itself.

Crazy Lightweight Tips You Gotta Try


Things get so serious that people have been known to cut the handles off their toothbrushes just to save a couple ounces. If your goal is to cut weight you are going to take every advantage


Only bring two pairs of socks. Each will serve a distinct purpose. One pair will be for the hike and the other will be for sleep. Socks at night are crucial.

Tape Stick

Another crazy tip for the ultralight backpacker is to cut down on the weight of duct tape. Cut a straw a little larger than the width of your tape. Begin to wrap tape from your roll onto the straw until you have just what you will need.

Cooking Pot

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Many ultralight backpackers forgo the traditional camping cook wear. Instead, you will find a quality titanium mug to be you water mug, boiling pot and bowl for food. This is a great weight saver.

Sawyer Filter

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There are a lot of great filters on the market but the Sawyer is the lightest and most effective on the trail. This is because it’s designed to fit your bottle and offer clean drinking water, on the go, from those mountaintop water sources.

Hand pumps are faster but they weigh much more than the Sawyer.

Make Your Own First Aid One

Once of the first things I noticed when I was looking for a lightweight first aid kit is that the biggest downfall is the container. There is a genuine issue when it comes to what they put the bandages and medicines into. This is primarily because they are used for home storage.

The boxes are big bulky and never fit well in a camping bag. My answer to this issue is to designate a pack or even a sizeable pocket for all my first aid needs. I keep them small and effective as well. For meds use the small packs that are already inside your first aid kit.

  • Basic Bandages
  • Rolled Gauze
  • Antiseptic
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Anti-Diarrheal
  • Antacid
  • Antibacterial Ointment
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Tweezers

Add to this anything else you think is necessary. You will be amazed at the minimal footprint this kit takes up.

Homemade Alcohol Stove

Many backpackers opt for the alcohol stove because of its lightweight fuel and ability to get the job done. This Instructable shows you how to make an alcohol stove from a coke can. You will enjoy this. See it HERE.

Adventure Further

This heading says alot. Lightweight backpacking offers a tremendous list of advantages. You will find that you are able to adventure further. Probably the most obvious benefit is in the sheer distance you can cover. What could be more exciting than being able to move further, faster and to see much more.

That is just the beginning. From there you may also adventure further by getting out more often. Less of a load may mean less recovery and it certainly means less commitment. You are not packing 50lbs of gear anymore. Your body will appreciate this.

Once hiking becomes less about the sheer stamina and more about the landscape you can adventure further mentally. Being in control of your pack, not the other way around, allows you to take in the experience all the way to the summit. I have had hikes where those last few miles I was just staring at my boots. I would have made a fine bear meal.

To adventure further also means how you affect the environment. Less gear and lightweight gear will assure you take your time to find the right spot, set it up properly and leave without a trace. This means we will have good camping for years to come. That should be the biggest goal, right?


Space aged fabrics and air-filled tents are just the beginning of this innovation. You will be hard pressed to find a pole tent in the very near future. These ultralight camping technologies are going to take over the adventure industry. They will become more affordable and people will wonder how they ever camped with that great big load

Get in early. Enjoy the benefits of ultralight camping and revel in the madness of cutting ounce and creating the lightest pack you can. Its therapeutic.

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Tent on a Mountain


Monday 6th of August 2018

There are so many things out there to lighten the load. Take time to plan and back as light as possible. Your post is full of wonderful ideas , thanks.


Thursday 12th of October 2017

Great stuff James, Fun to see the awesome things that you can do, and several of the things I often used in the military. The tents look like good options to a poncho, and while leaves work well I am sure that am air mattress sure is good for sleep. I would say though that socks were always a need and I would not skimp. For Medkits, or Blowout kits, I always packed them in a ziplock and then used a food saver to double seal them. Airtight and compact. Thanks for the write-up.