Ultralight Backpacking Tips

Michael Balle Hansen by Michael Balle Hansen

During my military experience and just overall hiking out in nature it's become painfully obvious to have a very disciplined backpacking setup. You really only make a few mistakes before you learn how important it is. It's my goal with this short article to save you the mistakes I’ve made.


Ultralight outdoors (Remove Any Non Essentials)

This is the most obvious of the tips. Always ask yourself “Do I really need this item?”. It helps to lay out all your gear to get a good visual view of it. 


Ultralight tips (Weigh everything)

Lets cover a few tips for ultralight backpacking. A good tip is to weigh everything and then enter each item into a spreadsheet so that you can view all items and their associated weight essentially. There will often be a few items where you’re surprised and you can remove them. I like to do 3 columns:

  • Description
  • Weight. I use grams, but oz will do.
  • Percentage of total

Then in the bottom create a sum of the total weight and in the percentage column you can calculate the percentage weight this item has out of the total weight. It becomes very obvious then if you really need a certain set of items. 


To save you time I’ve uploaded a spreadsheet with all the formulas here:


Click here to download spreadsheet


Drink the local water

Limit how much water you bring. It's far better just bringing a days supply and then using water filtration units or water filtration tablets.


Cut a few extra pounds

This one might be a bit unpopular but since we’re talking tips here and not political correctness I’m going to include it. Upset that I’m including this? That might be a sign that you should look into this more. We often push away the things we deep down know we need.


If you cut a few months before your hiking trip you’re now carrying a lot less weight and you’ll also feel a lot better. A good amount to aim for is to lose 1-2lbs of fat per week. More than that and you’re cutting too hard and less than that and you’re not really pushing yourself hard enough. My personal favorite is circadian fasting 5 times per week and then doing a 18:6 fast 1-2 / week. 


Circadian Fast

You’re here following the circadian rhythm. This has been thoroughly studied by Dr Satchin Panda. When you wake up wait 2 hours before you eat and don’t eat within 3 hours of going to bed. In the period where you do you not eat you can only have tea, coffee and water. Exceedingly easy once you’ve done it a few times and a great way to get used to fasting. If you’ve never fasted before start with this. Don’t go hard and pick a one meal a day since you read about it. You will fail eventually since you're simply too dependent on willpower. Willpower is finite. You want to structure your goal so that you don't have to depend on willpower.



This one is harder to do than circadian, but it gets very easy after a few times. It's simple. You have a 6 hour eating window. Once that passes you cannot eat anything. Only tea, coffee and water. 


Eat Cold Foods

This way you can skip bringing your cooking equipment and you save in weight very easily. 


Don’t bring electronics

This makes the trip far more enjoyable as well. Aren’t we going out in nature to get away from “it all” after all?


Tips for ultralight backpacking

Ensure all your equipment is lightweight. I’ve created a good article on how to choose the right hiking tent which I recommend you give a read. 


Use a tarp instead of a tent

When we were on exercise in the military this is how we slept. It's a great way to dramatically lower the weight you're carrying since a tarp weighs so much less than an entire tent. We would get all the way into the sleeping back and close it up so that the opening was by the back of our heads so that no creepy crawlies would get in. 



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