Hopefully, when one thinks of “home,” they’re quick to jump to their own combinations of security, comfort, sentimentality, and pride. Imagine if you could take that thing called home and change the view out the front door anytime you wanted by moving it around and pitching it in some of the wildest and most beautiful places on Earth. WELCOME TO #THEULTAMIDEXPERIENCE
Category: Ultralight Backpacking Tips
Photo by @nicholasreichard // Pacific Crest Trail
Ultralight backpacking tips, straight from the trail to you. We tapped our local, national and international crew of collaborators for this collection of insights, tips, hacks and tricks that make going lighter—longer—easier. From Triple Crowning thru hikers to expert alpinists, ski mountaineers to packraft toting desert rats on fat bikes, they’re here to help you maximize your fun and mileage, ideally all at once.
Looking to lighten your load? Thinking of trading your tent for a tarp? Wondering where the line between “essential” and “excessive” actually lies? It’s always our goal to break ultralight backpacking down to its essence. It’s our hope that these tips help to cut out the background noise, so that anyone experiencing the outdoors with the help of our gear can focus on the task at hand. Simplicity can be complicated. While we may not have all of the answers ourselves, we have great faith that, with the swift current of expertise that runs through our community, together we can get where we need to go.
One of the biggest differences between mainstream brand backpacks and ultralight backpacks is the amount of bells and whistles. Removable brains, sleeping bag compartments, built in rain fly, and trekking pole carry straps might work for some people, but for a lot of backpackers, these features are over-designed and under-used, which in turn becomes unnecessary weight. Each extra zipper adds grams and another weak point for water to enter the pack, which is why a weather-resistant, roll-top style pack is the preferred design for a growing number of hikers. With only one entry point at the top, gear can be a little harder to organize but there are some tricks to make packing easier.
Celebrate without limits. From deep in the Grand Canyon backcountry, ambassador Rich Rudow demonstrates his preferred way to mix up some ultralight margaritas while offering personal speculation into what ancient agave roasting in the region was really about. Recipe: Backcountry Margaritas Ingredients: Water Tequila Crystal Light (or similar) Lemonade Mix Instructions: Mix water + tequila. […]
No Matter Where You Are. Every Piece of Gear Matters. A perfected ultralight set up results in more time to enjoy the experiences of your endeavor. Our Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber) Stuff Sacks and Pods let you achieve that perfection with myriad ways to dial in, organize, protect, and even lighten the system […]
Cabins, barns, attics, garages or closets all work for storing your outdoor gear.
Taking care of and storing our outdoor gear is an art we’re still trying to master. After all, outdoor gear is an investment, and for the sake of the environment (and your bank account), you want it to go the distance to avoid repeatedly replacing items. Here’s a break-down of a few of the essential things we consider before packing gear away for the season.
ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE
The first thing that we’d suggest, is to find someplace to organize your gear. You want somewhere dry and out of the way, with bonus points for being able to regulate the temperature. An attic or garage with a free wall for hanging gear and a few shelves is ideal, but even a small closet will do for a simple setup. Depending on the level of your gear addiction, be warned that gear storage can get out of hand quickly. Before you know it, you could have an entire room in your house dedicated to gear, with your bouldering crash pads doubling as a couch for out-of-town visitors. We’ve seen it happen, and have to admit that we fully support it.
After you’ve got the space identified, lay out all your gear and give everything the yearly “do I really need this” test. We’re all guilty of owning gear that never gets used, so this process is critical.
There are lots of different DIY ideas around, so we’d recommend doing some research with a quick Google search (but we’ve also included a few relevant links below for some inspiration).
If you’ve got wall space to spare, a combination of pegboard and/or shelving is a great way to go. Even without a wall, picking up a few storage totes from your local hardware store is a must-do. They usually come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can swallow up clothing, winter gear, helmets, backpacks, etc… And stack neatly pretty much anywhere. Organize your gear by category and remember to label your storage totes. This small investment is 100% worth it.
After any number of days out on the trail your pack will inevitably start smelling “natural”, for lack of a better term. This is acceptable on the trail, but not what anyone wants at home. And while we admit that our white packs won’t ever be brand-new-white again (wear your Trail Patina with pride), giving the outer fabric a rinse after each trip helps keep it looking fresh.
|Care + Storage Tips|
Setting up your shelter out on the trail only to realize that it’s moldy will ignite a rage from deep within. Trust us…we’ve all been there. And while cleaning it after every time out is a great thought, it is rarely the reality. And don’t get us started on forgetting to count your stakes until arriving at camp. That’ll get you every time. So get out in front of the problem: Double-check your stakes and make sure everything is packed away together at the end of the season (or better yet, before and after every trip).
|Care + Storage Tips|
SLEEPING BAGS + PADS
Down and synthetic sleeping bags will have varying care instructions depending on your specific model, so be sure to check with your sleeping bag manufacturer to see what they recommend.
The crew over at Feathered Friends are, in our opinion, masters when it comes to caring for (and creating awesome) sleeping bags. Check out their Washing and Care Instructions for a head start into the process.
|Care + Storage Tips|
It should go without saying, but it will benefit you greatly to send your seasonal outerwear and activity-specific clothing through a wash cycle before packing it away for the season. Make sure to empty pockets and follow specific fabric care instructions as well. Although stuffing your jackets into their pockets is great in practice out on the trail, it’s not a good long-term storage idea. Let the fabric breathe and hang or fold it for storage.
Remember what your mother told you: Wash your dishes. Especially before putting them away for the season.
And make sure you toss any empty fuel canisters that might be laying around. If you’ve ever accidentally brought an old canister on a trip, you’ll understand why this is a good idea.
FIRST AID KIT
Re-stock your kit with any items that were used throughout the year. Floss, tape, antibiotics, lighter, and aspirin are a few items that we like to swap out regularly. Adding a Dyneema® repair kit might come in handy as well. The tape and patches included are great for lots of different field repairs. And if you don’t have a standardized first aid kit yet, check out our blog post: How to Make Your Own Ultralight First Aid Kit, Redux.
WE ARE ONLY SCRATCHING THE SURFACE HERE, AND WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW TO IMPROVE THIS LIST.
We understand that a lot of this information is specific to to our ultralight products, but the general concepts transfer well to any outdoor gear you may have laying around. And please feel free to share any of your personal insights and/or photos of your storage area. We’re in need of installing something at our offices here in Maine, and would love some inspiration.
Words & Photos by Annie MacWilliams
For me, not every trip needs to be epic, #sponsored, or Type 2 fun.
In fact, they rarely are.
Often just being there, outside, feeling small and exposed to the elements, with nothing more than the belongings on my back, is all I need to be filled with satisfaction. I’ve been lucky enough to spend months in the wilderness, both domestic and abroad, all months of the year, and now I’ve developed a strong infatuation for my backyard. Some of my favorite trips include nothing more than a Daybreak daypack filled with the essentials, a headlamp, and 12 hours. I wish I had weeks, months, years to wander, but the critical part is that I still wander.
Quick Hit Tips For Day Hikes and Overnight Backpacking Trips
I’ve never declared myself as ultralight or fast. But put me under a starry sky and my soul brims over with joy and gratitude. For me, carrying light gear just means I can get away easier; my escape into the wilderness is pure fun, unburdened by heavy gear or mental anguish. I don’t get gnarly, I rarely need to bust out my med kit, and I’m usually back at work on time the next day, with a subtle eau de campfire.
Frequently these quick-hitter trips are solo, but I’ve also managed nights with friends, family, and even Tinder matches. The only thing that truly matters is that I go. My backpacking kit is ready at all times, and I’m endlessly seeking out local adventures so that when a window of free time presents itself, I can be packed and out the door in under an hour. I know all the best places to camp just beyond the wilderness designation, and I’ve spent hours spinning around my hometown on Google Earth. If anything, these trips could fit in the category of “training,” but my reason for going is often much less loaded. I just like it out there.
One of my favorite things to chat about on trail with other hikers is gear. People are often shocked that I am carrying everything I need to be comfortable for camping. Compared to the REI or Boy Scout model, my kit looks small and insufficient; not enough straps, whistles or bells. But for me, that’s the best part about an ultralight system. The simplicity means it’s simple to spend time outside. I strongly believe that if every backpacker carried a kit as light and comfortable as mine, they’d be more eager to sleep under the stars on any given Wednesday. With each night outside, I refine my system, keep my camping knowledge sharp, and the longer trips get easier to plan and execute.
June just so happens to be National Camping Month and I encourage you to think small, and local. The lighter and more efficient your gear, the easier it is to grab and go, and the more nights you get to spend outside. Backpacking trips don’t always need freeze-dried meals and plane tickets. Often they just need a little effort and motivation. And trust me, every sunrise is better spent outside, any time of year, with the right gear.
Annie MacWilliams saw the world at 3.5 mph on the Appalachian Trail (’09), Pacific Crest Trail (’11), and Continental Divide Trail (’13). She considers the days of Tarzan-swinging kudzu vines, sunburn-soothing snow angels in the Sierra, gruff-ranchers-turned-hosts in the West, and intimately knowing the cycles of the natural world to be some of the best days spent of her life. She now spends her time in Park City, Utah walking slowly over short distances with a goofy dog, and up snowy mountains to slide down them. But every April she dreams of trail markers.
Follow Annie’s quick hit adventures in and around her home on Instagram @little.endorphin.annie
Wondering what Annie throws in her bag for day hikes? Read: A Season-to-Season Guide to Day Hiking Gear Lists
Words by Mike St. Pierre
Stripped Down Backpacking Stuff Sacks for Waterproof Redundancy & Organization
Most backpackers and thru hikers use stuff sacks, sometimes almost by default. A lot of gear comes with them—tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and even stuff like stoves. More often than not, what comes straight from the manufacturer is more of an after thought than anything else. Most backpacking stuff sacks are out of the technological orbit of the products they are made to contain. Cheap-o nylon, poorly constructed, outdated: they aren’t as light as they could be or as water resistant as they should be.
So I always recommend that people who are just getting started with ultralight stuff sacks begin by replacing the less-than-ideal standard stuff sacks they’re already carrying. It’s a great way to drop sometimes up to a pound of weight, just by switching materials from nylon to Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF, formerly Cuben Fiber). If you’ve already invested in a high tech product like an ultralight sleeping bag, quilt or pad, why not protect it from the elements and wear-and-tear with an equally high tech product that is lighter, waterproof and will also last longer than any other alternative?
There are a few easy substitutions to be made right off the bat:
- Three-season down: Extra large drawstring or Medium roll-top
- Three-season synthetic or Four-season down: Jumbo drawstring, Large roll-top)
- Ultralight sleeping pad like Thermarest NeoAir: Medium drawstring
- Most two person tents on the market will fit in an Extra large drawstring stuff sack, minus poles (see notes below for our approach to our own shelters). This would be optional depending on your tent’s design and how waterproof it is.
A Quick Note: Ultralight Packs vs. Organization
If you look at any of our ultralight backpacks, you’ll notice first and foremost that they’ve been stripped of all bells and whistles. When it comes to the body of the pack, there are no internal zippers, pockets, dividers, adjusters, doo-hickeys, add-ons or attachments. Why? Because in modern backpack design, those are all of the things that make a pack heavy. And you don’t need them.
Then how do you keep your pack organized? Stuff sacks. They’re the unsung heroes of ultralight backpacking, the Clark Kent to its Superman, the Carleton to Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air. They’re a little nerdy, a little too eager to please, but when it comes down to it, they’re a critical part of what we like to refer to as the pack system.
Pair like items (clothes, food, personal stuff/toiletries) divide accordingly into appropriate-sized stuff sacks, and suddenly you have a modular set of building blocks for the inside of your pack. Need a fresh pair of socks? Rather than digging deep and praying, you can simply remove three or four neatly organized bags, find those new foot coozies, re-load and be on your way.
The same goes for when you get to camp at the end of a long day. Instead of exploding the contents of your pack onto the forest floor, you can quickly disassemble your pack system, and everything will already be organized and right where you need it to be. That part of the experience—what some people call “pack discipline”–is a big part of why we do what we do. We believe that well-made gear that is as simple as possible fades into the background of a wilderness experience. With minimal distractions and without the attendant frustration, you’re primed to be in the moment, enjoying it (and the people you’re with) for everything its worth.
At the same time, it’s actually easy to overuse stuff sacks. I’ve done it. After all, it feels good to see all your stuff neatly lined up with its own little baggy. But is it necessary? Not likely.
I always consider three key things when choosing my stuff sacks for 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.
|Draw String (DCF-8 + DCF-11)|
|Nano||4″ x 6″||iPhone 7
DIY ultralight first aid kit
Toiletries (TP & lighter)
Alcohol stove & windscreen
|Small||8″ x 9″||iPhone 7+
Point & shoot camera
Ultralight down jacket
|Medium||9″ x 12″||Hat & gloves
Small stove & cookset
Ultralight sleeping pad
|Large||10″ x 14″||Clothes
Down belay jacket
|Extra Large||12″ x 17″||Three-season down sleeping bag
|Jumbo||14″ x 19″||Three-season synthetic sleeping bag
Four-season down sleeping bag
DCF-8? DCF-11? Draw string, Roll-top + POD?!
Deciphering the options available can be tricky at first, but we always make a point of providing the most options possible when it comes to our products. As with our range of pack sizes and various shelter options, choosing the stuff sack that’s right for you is primarily a matter of personal choice.
Along the way, you can factor in a few variables, and the end result will be gear that’s custom-tailored to your trip and the environment in which it will take place.
DCF8 vs DCF11:
- You can read up on the basics of Dyneema Composite Fabrics (formerly known as Cuben Fiber, more on that here) on our Dyneema Technologies page. The quick, dirty explanation: Dyneema Composite Fabrics are made when Dyneema Fiber is laid out in a cross-hatch pattern and laminated. DCF11 has a greater density of Dyneema Fibers within a give area of the material. It is therefore heavier, but stronger and more durable.
- DCF8 Draw String Stuff Sacks = slightly lighter, slightly cheaper, slightly less durable. DCF11 Draw String Stuff Sacks = slightly heavier, slightly more expense, but slightly more durable.
- For the true purist gram-counters, choose DCF8. Put things with harder edges in DCF11 if you want your stuff sacks to last longer.
Draw string vs. Roll-top vs. POD:
- Draw string stuff sacks are by far your lightest option. They’re also the most versatile. They can fit a variety of shape and size items, and the drawstring can be used into some pretty creative ways. Some people swear by draw string stuff sacks for hang bags (just fold a couple inches of the material at the top of the sack over once and use a clove hitch or other cinching knot to tie your bag shut) and other campsite hacks.
- When you absolutely, positively have to keep something dry, go with a roll-top stuff sack. Most people, myself included, will use one for down jackets and sleeping bags when warmth is critical. They’re great for electronics and generally awesome for everything anywhere it rains a lot. Again, some people are roll-top stuff sack hang bag devotees. Choose your own side in that battle.
- PODs. PODs! Maybe the smartest thing we’ve dreamt up so far, a POD is stuff sack designed to fit the contours of your pack perfectly and stack together flawlessly. Why? Because even roll-top stuff sacks, which are cylindrical, end up with some angles and corners that waste space and can bunch up over the course of a long day on the trail. Using PODs delivers even greater pack organization and discipline, and a nice comfy flat spot up against the back panel of your pack. They’re great for clothes, and I like to divide my meals out into them by type on longer trips. That way, when I’m famished at camp at the end of the day, all of my dinner options are right in front of me.
Other Recommendations, Tips + Tricks
Sleeping Bag: I often see people just cram their bag into the middle of their packs without a stuff sack. I don’t recommend this. At all costs you want to keep your sleeping bag as dry as possible. I typically use an oversized stuff sack for my sleeping bag. That way I can easily create a moldable “layer” in the pack. I.e. I can form it around other things in my pack and fill in any holes on the sides in order to make my pack as compact as possible.
As well, I’ll often use a roll-top stuff sack because I can compress the sleeping bag down if I need to. This is the only situation where I utilize “compression.” In most circumstances I highly recommend you do not fill your backpack with five or six hard, round balls that result from using too many compression stuff sacks. Not only are standard nylon compression sacks heavier with all their straps and extra material, but you’ll end up with a lot of little spaces that you can’t fill in (i.e. wasted volume), and a less-comfortable, bulkier backpack.
Clothes: No-brainer. Keep your clothes as dry as you can so you stay warm. You’ll be able to stay out in the backcountry longer and be more comfortably if you pay close attention to keeping your clothes dry.
Food: Thin paper coatings for your oatmeal, coffee or other food items could easily break when wet, creating a mess in your food bag and wasting precious calories.
Personal Stuff, Toiletries: Stuff sacks are ideal to compartmentalize all your personal items, including knife, spoon, toothbrush, extra guyline, etc. Need advice on how to piece together a minimal kit of toiletries? Check out our post on how to pack your personal items here.
Toilet Paper & Lighter: I keep my toilet paper and lighter in an extra small, separate sack for added protection. Wet toilet paper. No thanks. Wet lighter. No fire.
Smart Phone or Small Camera: I put my iPhone in a small stuff sack so if/when I’m walking through tall, wet weeds or grass, it will stay dry in my pocket. Another cool trick is that phone touchscreens still work inside DCF8 stuff sacks. And because they’re transparent, you can see the screen right through the material, even in the rain.
Other tips and tricks:
- I believe bigger is better. Use slightly larger stuff sacks for backpacking. They’re so light you pay almost no weight penalty, and you’ll be able to create nice, flat layers in your pack to make it as compact as possible.
- Use bonded stuff sacks whenever possible. Pack stuff too tightly into a sewn Cuben Fiber stuff sack, and you will elongate the stitch holes allowing more water to get into the sack through the seams. All Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sacks are fully bonded and are not sewn.
- Put the head of your tent stakes in first to avoid puncturing the bottom of your stuff sack. Titanium stakes have sharp points, but turning them upside down solves that problem.
- Because I use a shelter made with 100% waterproof Cuben Fiber fabric, I don’t need a sack for my shelters. Since Cuben Fiber doesn’t retain water, I simply stuff it at the very bottom of my pack. Thus, my pack becomes the stuff sack for my shelter. Even if it got drenched on the night before, water from my shelter will just pool at the bottom of my pack.
- Create a “packing system,” is also a great way to work towards keeping all of the stuff in your pack dry. My system is comprised of a shelter, backpack and stuff sacks all made of Cuben Fiber. I understand not everyone can use Cuben Fiber for everything, but regardless of what you use, always consider your pack as a system, and brainstorm the best ways to keep your stuff compartmentalized and dry.
- Is the weather getting a little colder than expected and you’re feeling it in your fingers and toes? Use stuff sacks as gloves or socks. It doesn’t breathe, but for a quick warm up it works great.
Words & Photos by Mike St. Pierre When you’re first learning the ins-and-outs of how to pack light for backpacking, it’s important to understand that it’s a process. I still constantly refine the gear I take on trips, and learn something new every time I pack my pack. That’s because I aspire to adhere to what […]
The post Never Not Learning: How to Pack Light For Backpacking with Mike St. Pierre appeared first on Hyperlite Mountain Gear Blog.
Photos by Bryan Carroll Over the past several years, we’ve been lucky enough to build a pretty substantial community around Hyperlite Mountain Gear as the business has grown. Making gear that people really connect with has translated to a lot of relationships and a lot of stories—a major side-benefit of doing what we do. […]
The post Hike Stronger: Get Prepared for a Great Season with Specialized Exercises appeared first on Hyperlite Mountain Gear Blog.
Words & Photos by Cam Honan Nine Reasons to Try Tarp Camping The essence of going lighter in the woods is not so much about gear, as it is about the adoption of a simpler, less cluttered approach to one’s time backpacking. Insofar as this philosophy relates to shelters, tarp camping fits the bill both […]