Ultralight Hiking: Benefits and Concerns of Going Ultralight

The Mantra of Ultralight Hiking

Weight was not really too much of an issue for me before I discovered the hiking style and trend of ultralight hiking. Now, whenever I buy new products, weight is an important factor on the lines of quality and comfort.

The mantra of ultralight hiking is basically to:

shrink the weight of everything in your pack but your naked body to as low as possible without comprising on quality, safety or comfort.

When is your pack considered 'ultralight'?

Here, we will usually take a look at the Base Pack Weight: everything in your pack except for consumables (food, water, and fuel for your stove). There are no rules set in stone, but the following hiking categories are widely accepted within the ultralight hiking environment:

  • SuperUltraLightweight - under 2,2 kg. / 5lb.
  • UltraLightweight - under 4,5 kg. / 10lb.
  • Lightweight - under 9 kg. / 20lb.
  • Traditional - under 13,6 kg. / 30lb.
  • Heavy - over 13,6 kg. / 30lb.

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The Mindset of a UL Hiker

Terms like base weight, worn weight, and skin-out weight have been around for a long time, but they are been used more and more due to the phenomenon of ultralight hiking. Many hikers have adapted this style and use forums like the ultralight subreddit on reddit.com to evaluate their choice of gear, discuss new products on the ultralight market and to ask for someone to give their gear listshakedown (= hiker lingo for constructive criticism of gear choice).

The typical ultralight hiker is minded towards multi-day hiking or long distance hiking like the 4500 kilometer Pacific Crest Trail or the 150 kilometers The West Highland Way (which I am planning to conquer with my partner-in-crime, Amalie, in summer 2018). When planning long-distance hikes or thru-hikes, gear lists often come in handy and I made about how I do my hiking gear lists.

Ultralight Hiking Glossary

Base Pack Weight

Everything in your pack except for consumables (food, water, and fuel for your stove).

Worn Weight

Everything that is not in your pack, but it still carried with you on the trail (e.g., sun umbrella, worn clothes, trekking poles).

Skin-Out Weight

Everything that you have brought with you on the trail except for the weight of your naked body.



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 Benefits of going ultralight

  • A lighter pack is always more comfortable than a heavy pack
  • You can travel challenging terrain where a heavy load might limit you
  • You can crush more miles a day
  • Less stress on hips and legs

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Concerns about going ultralight

  • Going too light can make you unprepared for emergency situations (e.g. stripping too much off the first aid kit)
  • Going too light can also sacrifice comfort (e.g. ditching warm clothes, etc.)
  • Going ultralight can be god damn expensive (unless you get creative and make your own)

Key take-aways from this post

  • UL hiking is about going as light as possible without compromising quality, safety or comfort
  • UL hiking has a lot of perks, but it is expensive
  • Base weight is what matters on paper, skin-out weight is what matters on the trail