Outdoor Articles and Reviews

Going Ultralight: Refining the Essential

Having taken preliminary action in the first article we have established a decent starting point for an ultralight base weight. Depending on the quality and cost of your existing gear you should have a current base weight somewhere close to mine, perhaps even lighter. From here there is still a surprising amount of weight to be saved just by customising what we have already. In this installment I will be making small weight reductions in several places, retaining all of the functionality and spending very little indeed. Scissors are an ultralighter’s best friend!

First up, water; there are some easy reductions to be made here simply by switching to retail plastic water bottles. The hiker’s favorite brand seems to be Smart Water at the moment due to the fact that the thread of the bottle top matches perfectly with Sawyer filtration products, and the slim design makes it easier to fit them into free space in your pack.

Supermarket water bottles make for cheap ultralight alternatives to aluminium and heavier plastic camping equipment.

I couldn’t find any 1L bottles so I bought 3 600ml bottles for 60p each; sans the plastic ring and label they come in at 30g each, I’ll upgrade to two 2L bottles when I can find them. I added a 7g scoop because it makes filling the bottles in a stream much easier, really reducing the chance of cross-contamination. These bottles are cheaper than my existing water containers and save me a total of 98g.

The next easy saving can be made with my cooking system; while my Trangia 28-T is fantastic, the burner makes up two thirds of the overall weight and I hardly ever use the frying pan. I did a quick bit of research into homemade soda can stoves and after some deliberation settled on the [Yak Small] stove design from Logan Watts at This stove features roughly the same burn time and a faster time to boil as the Trangia but weighs 90% less. I got straight into it with my scissors and after a few cuts and scrapes ended up with a 10g stove which not only replaces the 115g Trangia stove, but also functions as its own pot stand. Weight saved: 258g.

At only 360g the cute Trangia mini is already light but being able to leave nearly 3/4 of it behind is even better.

A reduction in overall carried weight means that I can afford to have a more flimsy, lighter backpack with less padding and structure. By reaching for the scissors once again and mercilessly attacking the straps which are now surplus to requirements, I can make the final easy weight saving move.

The first to go are the adjustment straps for the waist belt and the extra length on the shoulder strap adjustors which I only use when carrying enormous weight. Next I removed the extra elastic attachment points which I have never used and took the heavy aluminium frame from the main compartment. If my pack weight continues to drop, removing more adjustment straps and even the waist strap will become an option. Chopping up my pack saved me a total of 245g.

The lighter your pack contents, the fewer comfort measures your pack needs, the more enjoyable your hike; a cascade of happiness!

So, I’ve spent a grand total of £2.40 and saved 601g / 1lb 5.2oz. Now I have refined the essential components of my ultralight set up, I am going to add a small bag of toiletries and quality of life improvers which I think are well worth the weight.

Extra items:

  • Sawn off toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste
  • Sunblock
  • Alcohol gel and toilet paper
  • Tiny but useful microfibre towel
  • Compass

Total weight: 171g.

My beginner ultralight pack.

This completes the basic set up and turns it into something I think provides the maximum comfort for the smallest weight. The best part is that even brand new this whole system will only set you back about £120; a great intro to ultralight backpacking and a perfect way to start microadventuring or taking longer overnight trips with little to no impact on your wallet or legs! My beginner ultralight pack for a total of 3913g / 8lb 10.0oz.

Now the ultralight pack is complete you might think that everything is sorted, but there is still quite a lot to think about if you are serious about carrying the bare minimum. I will continue the journey to true ultralight camping in part 3: Worn items and food.