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Windermere Weekend

Going Ultra-Light: 6 free and easy ways to pack lighter

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

What is ultra-light backpacking?

Ultra-light backpacking is about carrying the lightest gear safely possibly for a given trip. It's sometimes defined as having a base-weight (that's the weight of your bag and all gear but excluding food and drink) below 10kgs for 3 season camping, which is what you'd tend to look for here in the UK.

One of the biggest downsides of ultra-light backpacking is that it often means often means expensive kit with eye-watering price tags, designed to save you a few grams/ounces here and there.

Not everyone wants to shell out on expensive gear for every new trip, so here are 6 free and easy ways to go ultra-light.

6 free and easy ways to go ultra-light

The key to packing light making lots of small savings that soon start to add up. If you're planning anything more than just a few days, I'd recommend getting those kitchen scales out - I'm geeky enough to have had a spreadsheet and a 'weight saving vs costs' analysis before hiking the John Muir Trial in California (21 days).

These are 6 free and easy ways you can save weight on your next adventure.

1). Save 75g: Leave the keyring behind.

Just take the one key you'll need; usually either for your car or for your front door.

2). Save 100g. Leave your purse/wallet.

You probably aren't going on a shopping spree anyway so you don't need all those reward cards. Take a bit of paper cash (not lot of heavy coins!), one bank card and put another card or two into the 'wallet' app of your smart phone as a back up.

3). Save 135g. Dump the travel towel.

On my last hike (Cape Wrath Trail, 13 days) I left my towel at home (intentionally!). I stayed in a youth hostel a few times where you could hire one whilst you were there if needed. You can dry naturally, or if you're inventive either use clothes you're about to wash to dry or use the hair dryer for a quick warm drying off! It would be nicer to have a towel but it's for you to decide if it's worth the weight of carry a damp towel days/weeks for a few 'nice to dry off' moments. Alternatively, take a microfibre flannel to dry yourself with and can be wrung out.

4). Save 230g. Leave your book at home.

Reading whilst away is a lovely idea but often you're so tired at the end of a days' activities you're ready to crash out early anyway. Take some photos of the next 10/20 pages in your book or use a reading app on your smart phone if you need. When I motorcycled through Africa I cut all of the countries I wasn't visiting out of the book before I left, and once I'd been through a country I cut those pages out too.

5). 560g. Carry fewer toiletries.

Adventures should be about living, not looking and smelling your best! Arguably you only really need toothpaste and a toothbrush. On longer trips I take a razor with me and leave the handle for it at home; it's surprisingly easy to use without the handle (if you don't believe, try it at home before you go!). I take a 'mostly used' tube of toothpaste with me, and just take a small manual brush (the last one was a child's one for 99p with a tiger head that protected the bristles). Leave the deodorant behind; you'll survive without it for a while. If you're passing youth hostels or anything on the way there's often soap or shampoo available (or left behind by others).

6). Save 1000g. Don't carry too much water (it's heavy)!

If you're in the wild and passing streams and other fresh water sources regularly (or houses with taps where you can knock and ask for a top up, you may well be offered a chat and biscuit too) you can often top up more often than you think. A handful of water purification tablets are a good idea and they weigh next to nothing. You can also drink more in the morning before you leave to ensure you're already fully hydrated before you set off, without having to carry it all (or not for long anyway, it'll soon pass through!).


You've reduced your weight by 2kg with these 6 free and easy ways to pack lighter - that's roughly 20% less weight on your back next time you're on an adventure! Know someone else that might like these tips? Please share the article with them. And if you have tips, experience or suggestions about other topics that you'd like to share with other Adventure Breakers, we'd love to hear from you.

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