Light weight backpacking gear and techniques

New to this forum so apologies if I am missing something. Also I do not mean to criticize but there does not seem to be a nice way to say this.

Why is there nothing on this web site about light weight backpacking gear and technique?

All the BOB lists are pointlessly heavy and far less useful than they could be.

I am from the long distance thru-hiking community. We expect to hike 20 miles and climb 2,000 feet with a full wilderness grade backpack weighing in at (or less than) 20 pounds. Day after day after day for 4 to 6 months at a time.

Heavy weight gear will demand more calories & water, slow you down, make you so tired that you cannot think straight, roll outs will sprain your ankles, continuous impact will blow out your knees and damage all sorts of muscles.

There must be dozens of serious web sites, forums, and manufactures to research and choose light weight gear from. The professional grade stuff is crazy expensive but most pricing is comparable with heavy weight gear.

There are two concepts which are foundational to light weight backpacking and are totally free: 1) Look after the grams and the ounces will melt away 2) The more you know the less you need to carry.

Happy Trails!



  • Comments (17)

    • 3

      Here’s the relevant page, with light, medium, and heavy pack lists.


      The light pack list (level 1) is under 20 pounds. Do you have suggestions for improving that list?

      • 3

        Hi Eric

        I will review your lists and recommend the changes that seem (to me) most useful. It Will take a few days.

      • 2

        Thanks, looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

        Also, gear aside, what would be a good starting point for reading about good backpacking technique? Do you have a favorite beginning article on that topic?

    • 6

      Chance, welcome to the forum! I am sure you have lots of great advice to share with us all from your adventures thru-hiking. Not only on how to shave those grams but many other things you have experienced. 

      You bring up very valid points. Heavy gear = more calories, water, risk of injury, and slower movement. Personally I would want a bug out bag as light as possible, it would just make everything so much more enjoyable. 

      The Prepared wrote up an article a while back called Why ultralight gear isn’t always the best for preparedness. I’d like for you to read it and argue some of the points made in there if you feel like the market has changed since it was written in 2019. Just up above you said “The professional grade stuff is crazy expensive but most pricing is comparable with heavy weight gear.”, so maybe the light stuff is becoming more affordable. 

      I will copy and paste the conclusion summary of that article for those who don’t want to read it: 

      We love ultralight gear, and we buy it, own it, and recommend it for all sorts of reasons. The key is to avoid getting caught up in the cool factor and think about when it makes sense to spend more money in exchange for the weight savings, while considering how durable you need that gear to be and if you’d be better off having more of a cheaper version.

      For example, when planning for a bug-out scenario where you grab your bag and leave on foot, clearly saving kit weight will be helpful (even though you might not actually end up on foot when it happens). But you may need to rough it in the wilderness with whatever you have in that bag for a long time. So while optimizing for the lightest spork might be fine because it’s no big deal if it breaks, you might care more about having a shelter tarp that’s one pound heavier but can withstand all of the friction that comes from exposure to rocks, pointy bark, hail, and constant line-tension.

      So for me, I would like the ultralight gear if it isn’t too much more in price than the heavier item and is just as durable.

      Please teach us more what you know. How can we save weight on our existing packs, what products out there should we 100% go with the lighter option, and anything else you have to offer. 

      • 7

        Hi Gideon.

        Thank you and Eric for asking for my opinion on these matters. I do not claim to be a teacher. I am just a hiker (and traveler in general).

        The article you have linked to seems more about conditions under which gear is used. The base assumption is that emergency conditions may be rougher than what is normally found in hiking.

        This is a topic well worth looking into. I will start by reviewing the BOB lists then turn to the concerns expressed in the article. Hope to get you a reply by early next week.

      • 4

        I would love to see your thoughts on that article, too, Chance, and on TP’s BOB lists.

        I was a backpacker before I was a prepper— not ultralight, but I have definitely sawed off a toothbrush. 😉 When I first came to TP, I had sort of the same reaction that you’re having— “sort of” because, again, I wasn’t an ultralight backpacker, but I definitely couldn’t stomach the idea of using military- and tactical-inspired gear in lieu of backpacking stuff (SO HEAVY), and felt like I was being steered that way by this site at times. But when I started interacting on the forums, I found that a LOT of people here have an outdoor sports background and prefer to use that kind of gear in their preps, or prioritize low pack weight for other reasons.

        My BOB is definitely not ultralight, and never will be. In an emergency, I want things that I wouldn’t want in the backcountry, like a solar panel to charge my cell phone, for example. I also want some flexibility for different scenarios, and figure it’s always easier to ditch something I have and don’t need than to find something I need and don’t have. But, my BOB is nowhere near as heavy as a TP Level 3 BOB, I don’t aspire to that (for a variety of reasons), and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment here.

        And yet… my BOB is also heavier than I want it to be! I know that it would be really rough on me to carry it long distances or over many consecutive days. I’m basically counting on the fact that I’ll either be in a vehicle for part of my bug out, or able to ditch some gear after a few hours. I would LOVE to have someone with ultralight backpacking experience dig into where they would cut weight from TP’s recommended lists, just to present more of the range of possibilities to those of us grappling with pack weight as a limiting factor and spark some new ideas about what’s necessary and what isn’t. (I feel like some of my favorite forum threads are the ones that begin with, “So do I really need an x in my BOB?”)

        (Edited to address some weird formatting.)

      • 3

        I would LOVE to have someone with ultralight backpacking experience dig into where they would cut weight from TP’s recommended lists, just to present more of the range of possibilities to those of us grappling with pack weight as a limiting factor and spark some new ideas about what’s necessary and what isn’t.

        I second this! I don’t want a heavy pack either, so help me learn what I can do to shave off the ounces and make my bag more manageable.

    • 4

      I’m in complete agreement with you over the pack weight of bug out bags or get home bags, they’re no use if you can’t carry them with you. If a BOB/GHB is too heavy, bulky or obvious then you’ll be forced to leave it behind in some situations but different situations require different load-outs and some peoples bags will always be heavier than others eg. not carrying extra water in a desert environment would be pretty foolish.

      The comment about “the more you know, the less you need” implies that skills and knowledge (which are weight free) will allow you to live off the land. This is probably true as long as you have the third weight free resource of time. Living off the land takes a lot of time and extra energy. Unless you can balance your diet you will end up weak, tired and confused just when you need you wits about you the most.

      • 2

        Many bug out bags and bug out bag guides (including The Prepared’s) include a survival guide book. 

        An emergency is not the time to break out the survival guide and learn what to do. The time to learn what to do is now so that when the emergency comes, it is second nature and you can just act. If you really do need a reference though, condense that entire heavy guide book onto a small 1/2 sheet of paper and laminate it. With small font and front and back, you can fit anything you need in there.

      • 3

        If you or someone else has a 1/2 sheet size emergency reference guide, could you share it please? I’d be interested in seeing it.

      • 2

        That’s a great idea and something I will work on getting to you. I need some help on ideas of what to put in the reference guide though. I started another forum thread to have people pitch in their ideas.

    • 3

      Hi Chance – as you dig deeper I think you’ll find that more thought has been given to this topic on this site than you noted at first glance (though all contributions and improvements you can make would be welcomed).

      I’m a light-to-ultralight backpacker and definitely salute the principles of reducing weight (within reason for purpose and durability) and choosing multi-purpose gear whenever possible. Skill, knowledge and technique also can be leveraged to reduce weight. 

      There are so many good sites and forums out there, but one I recommend is backpackinglight.com (full disclosure: I tested gear and edited for them a decade or so ago). They back up their recommendations with evidence-based testing and lots of real world experience. 

      • 4

        Thank you all for your interest and support. I agree that there is a lot of good information, practices and techniques on this site and you are correct that I have not spent enough time looking it over.

        Have spent the weekend writing out my thoughts. Came to the conclusion that it will be better for me to present my view of lightweight backpacking with some notes on how your community can take advantage of this technology than to try to critique what has already been posted.

        Be a few more days. In the meantime I have very limited internet access. I live on a remote ranch in New Mexico. I cannot respond to the posts on this thread in real time.

        Thankx Again!

      • 2

        Sounds good, Chance. Looking forward to whatever you come up with.

      • 1

        I’m eager to read whatever you decide to share whenever you get the time and internet connection to share it. Thanks in advance!

      • 2

        Will be able to finish writing over this weekend and post on Monday. Thank you for your patience!

      • 1

        Hey everyone! Chance created a wonderful write-up of his thoughts on lightweight backpacking. Definitely go check it out, I learned a lot.