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Shelter, Sleeping Bag and Stove: An Ultralight Hiker's Guide

Updated on October 14, 2009
Fire, the ultralight backpacker's stove of choice.
Fire, the ultralight backpacker's stove of choice.

When I'm backpacking people often stop me to comment on the size of my pack. "Do you have everything you need in there?" they ask.

The most common misconception about ultralight backpackers is that we skimp on the essentials in order to save pack weight. But with the right amount of research and planning (and a little bit of creativity), you can carry everything you need without carrying extra pounds:

1) Shelter

A good shelter should keep you dry and cozy no matter what the weather. To reduce shelter weight, look at tents and tarps made out of sil-nylon or cuben fiber. Both materials are lightweight and waterproof. For added weight savings, consider a shelter without a floor. Tyvek makes a great lightweight groundcloth, and so does the plastic you use in the wintertime to insulate your windows. Smaller companies such as Mountain Laurel Designs are your best bet for lightweight shelters tailored to meet your needs.

2) Sleeping Bag

When buying a sleeping bag, down-filled mummy bags are the way to go. Companies like Western Mountaineering make bags tailored to people of various heights, and they even offer several lightweight options. The cost of a good sleeping bag may scare you, but consider that this essential piece of gear could save your life. Also, with the proper care, your sleeping bag can last a lifetime.

3) Stove

Don't get bogged down searching the Internet for the perfect stove - you won't find it. Gasoline fueled stoves are bulky and heavy. Alcohol stoves are better, but you still have to carry extra fuel for any hope of a lasting boil. Consider learning to build a fire and cooking over the flames. Make sure you take a Tyvek mailing envelope or plastic bag to store your pot in. It will get dirty, but that's half the fun.

Remember, lightweight backpacking does not have to mean sacrifice. You can carry everything you need without carrying excessive weight. Take these suggestions into consideration for your next adventure. I guarantee your feet will thank you!


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    • Rob Dee profile image

      Rob Dee 

      9 years ago from Florida

      i use the always popular MSR Windpro as my stove. Boil time varies by altitude, but it's a great overall stove.

    • kephrira profile image


      9 years ago from Birmingham

      I like backpacking that doesn't involve tents! I love to travel but I do like to have a bed to sleep in. Anyway, interesting hub, thanks.


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