There are two very dominant trends in outdoors and hiking today: the ultralight and the bushcraft movement. Ultralighters are willing to sacrifice durability and features to save weight, and only carry the bare minimum. Bushcrafters carry traditional, durable equipment that may end up weighting a veritable crap ton. Whereas ultralighters will carry a pen knife, bushcrafters will hike with an axe.
Ultralighters generally recognize that they are a bit crazy and are good humoured about it, but non-ultralighters often look at them with a bit of disdain. In this post I present 7 reasons why you might consider going lighter for your next trip.
If you feel like ultralighting is taking the fun out of staying outdoors, then this article is for you. Maybe I can make you see the (ultra)light.
1. Ultralight may be the difference between can and cannot
I originally started shaving weight from my kit out of pure self indulgence. Few people enjoy carrying 20kg+ (or 40lbs+) backpacks. But after a single day’s trip with the 20kg+ backpack, my achilles tendinitis that I thought to be gone for good started flaring up. Other ailments that may tolerate an ultralight backpack are knee problems, back problems, or sciatica. If carrying a heavy bag is not a problem for you, symphatize those for whom it is a problem — and consider saving your knees and back even if you do not yet have any problems with them.
2. Ultralight hikers can seize opportunities that a heavyweights will pass by
When you are travelling ultralight, you can climb up rocks or balance on fallen trees with little effort and go down ravines or grooves where you might not even fit with a huge backpack. If hoisting that backpack back onto your back (pun intendend) feels like a daunting task, you already have a mental block against going exploring on your hikes. Consider: what would you do if you weren’t limited by your backpack?
3. Light begets light
When you start to shave ounces from your kit, it quickly opens room for even more weight saving. Having a small (in volume, not necessarily in weight) enough sleeping pad (like the Exped Synmat Hyperlite) and sleeping bag enables you to downsize your backpack, opening room for saving pounds of weight. That may make more sense to you than drilling holes into your toothbrush, which is the caricature of an ultralight backpacker.
4. Ultralight is ultra available
When your backpack gets small enough, it is easier to not only store, but to take with you. My ultralight kit is always in the trunk of my car, making it easy to seize any opportunity for a night out (camping).
5. Ultralight is ultra simple
In my last, tendinitis inducing trip I carried among other things, a frying pan to cook waffles with. While having waffles for dessert was better than I expected and my daughter certainly loved it, cooking sessions with the multiple pots, plates and utensils became a hassle. Contrast that to only having a 1l pot that doubles as a pot, plate and coffee cup.
For someone who wants to wind down in the nature and not continue the performance oriented culture we are so mired in, the simplicity may be more valuable than any weight saved.
6. Ultralight does not have to be your only option
If you decide to start building a lighter kit, it doesn’t mean your old equipment needs to go to waste. You can start to go down the ultralight path with small steps. Replace one piece of equipment at a time and save the old kit for backup, give it to someone who might put the old equipment to good use or loan it to your friends or family in order to lure them to accompany you into the great outdoors.
7. Ultralight is simply more comfortable
Often we feel remember the hardest trips the most fondly. That still doesn’t mean that causing yourself unnecessary discomfort will make the trip better. Hiking should not be about proving yourself to anyone, not even to yourself. It should be about experiencing things. Save on the discomfort in carrying your equipment and choose the harder routes, if you want a bit of soul purifying suffering. Taking undue pride in how heavy your equipment is simply makes no sense.