When selecting clothing for lightweight backing it is important to think about a “clothing system.” A clothing system typically consists of 3 layers, and allows you to effectively manage your body’s heating and cooling system. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a brief discussion of what we feel is the most overlooked piece of clothing to take along if you are backpacking. Companies like ProLite Gear specialize in lightweight backpacking, and can help you select the right gear for you. BackpackGearTest.org is a site where backpackers evaluate new gear in the field over a four month testing period.
Do You Need A Tarp for Lightweight Backpacking? A few years ago a tarp shelter was your only practical choice for Lightweight Backpacking. Thankfully, advancements in materials and design have produced excellent options for lightweight tents and we suggest you go with one of these lighweight shelters if you are just getting started with lightweight backpacking. There are now several full solo tents that weigh a little over 2 lbs, as well as 2-person tents that weigh just over 3 lbs. A tent has obvious advantages over tarps. It keeps you out of the weather more effectively. It gives you more protection from insects. It gives you more privacy. However, even a good lightweight backpacking tent is heavier than your other options. Read about our favorite Lightweight Backpacking Tent.
A lightweight backpacking sleep system consists of a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and perhaps a ground cloth. When attempting to reduce weight, some makers of sleeping bags make the the bag smaller, and use less insulation. Often times this results in a sleeping bag that is uncomfortable to sleep in because it is overly restrictive – not allowing for free movement in the bag. Because these sleeping bags are tight fitting, they don’t allow you to wear additional insulating clothing to bed if nighttime temperatures drop below the comfortable temperature rating of the bag. For these reason we suggest that you utilize a sleeping bag that is designed to accommodate insulating clothing. This allows your insulated clothing to become an important part of your sleep system. It allows you to carry a sleeping bag that may not be comfortable at the minimum temperature you experience on the trail, but because it accommodates the use of additional insulated clothing the comfortable range of the sleeping bag can be extended into lower temperatures. Montbell Ultralight Super Stretch down sleeping bags utilize elastic bands that allow the sleeping bag to stretch. This makes the sleeping bag very “roomy” and comfortable, but the elastic allows it to “shrink” up next to your body which reduces the dead air space your body needs to warm, and helps keep the warm air from escaping out of the sleeping bag. The lightest and least expensive sleeping pads are closed cell foam pads. Read about our favorite Lightweight Sleeping Bag.
A well-designed backpack that fits you, has the proper capacity, and has the features that are appropriate for the specific task will help you maximize your enjoyment and hiking comfort. The most common mistake people make is purchasing a pack before they purchase the rest of their gear. We suggest you purchase a pack after you purchase your other items so that you know how much weight you need to carry, and the volume of pack you need(capacity). Overloading a small backpack by connecting equipment at the outside of the pack is a bad solution as it disturbs the center of mass and the load distribution. You should determine your needed volume for internal storage inside the backpack. It might seem strange to fit a backpack but it is definitely something that is very important. Most backpacks have adjustable hip belts, shoulder harness, and stabilizer straps but even then, the basic shape of the hip belt and shoulder harness could not be compatible with your body. Read about our favorite Lightweight Backpacks.
When Choosing a lightweight stove and cookset, be aware of your cooking needs and where you expect to hike. Climate makes a big difference on the performance of various stoves. Will you be traveling in larger groups, in pairs or solo? What type of climate do you plan to hike in? Will you just be boiling water or cooking a multi course meal? Ask yourself these questions before you chose a stove. Read about our favorite Lightweight Cooking Gear.