This post is for those who are already familiar with ultralight hiking and want to make changes to their pack to trek even lighter. I’m excited to share this post because this is what HykLyt is all about. Innovative gear design is the backbone of the HykLyt brand. For those thru-hikers out there who constantly want to hike lighter, I plan to launch our own items that are made with minimalist designs in mind that are not only lighter than what the market currently offers, but also eco and budget friendly.
Good clothing for your thru-hike is step number one. Here’s the crazy part: pack ONE set of hiking clothes, one set of sleepwear and one set of cold-weather thermals… and that’s it. You’d be surprised how much weight you can remove from your pack by doing away with all of the extra clothing you’re trying to bring along.
Alternate the clothing as you would on a normal day at home, day clothes for the daytime, night clothes for bed time. Except this time, choose your alternation wisely. One thing about hiking light is that you have to hike smart. Let’s give an example of hiking smart when you only have two pairs of clothes to alternate if it’s not cold out (remember, thermals are your third set, but only to be worn underneath your ONE hike set or your ONE sleep set).
Example: If the evening is approaching and you only have another two hours of daylight, swap clothing. Wash the day set with unscented cleaner. Use little amounts of water to rinse the clothes. Then, hang the set on the back of your pack to dry while you slow your hike down on a cooldown as not to sweat in your sleepwear, keeping your night set dry and warm. In the morning, swap back to your day set. Also, you can save weight and skip the cleaner altogether. Water streams work wonders.
Quilts can save you more weight. Many people start out hiking with mummy-shaped bags with degree ratings lower than the weather that’s anticipated. That’s exactly what they should do.
Though mummy bags can be very comforting, they are by far the lightest option for overnight warmth. This tip is not to be taken lightly, I only recommended swapping to quilts if you know the weather you face, and are an experienced hiker with the knowledge to warm up via friction or fire making techniques if the weather drops quickly without warning, which can very well happen when you find yourself in the mountains.
Quilts are super comfortable and lightweight, but do not retain the heat a mummy bag can simply due to heat escaping from the top of your head. Take this into consideration if you choose to “quilt” instead of “bag”. A beanie is a good idea in case extra heat retainment ends up being needed.
Swapping your sleeping bag out to a lightweight quilt will save you a good amount of weight. In recent surveys of thru-hiker experiences, many are opting to bring a quilt instead of a sleeping bag.
Thru-Hike Sleeping Mats
Preferably, you’ll be carrying an ultralight foam cell sleeping mat on your bag. The air up mats may be a bit more comfortable than the foam cells that can sometimes feel rigid, but the foam cells are usually always lighter weight unless you’re venturing into the more costly ones like Klymits or Thermarest. as a budget friendly option, Nemo switchbacks are only around $50. If you do use an air up mat, leave the pump at home and breathe your way to inflation. Either of these options are both viable ways to cut down on your pack out weight.
Want an insider tip for foam cell mats to make it even lighter? Cut 1/3 of the foam cell mat off. You read that right. You most likely won’t notice much difference from your legs no longer being on the mat. Primarily, if you keep your upper torso on your sleep mat, then you’re getting it’s use as your hips, back and head are the heaviest pressure points.
Thru-Hike Water Storage
One of the most popular brands of lifestraw squeeze tops are the Sawyer Squeeze tops. If you’re into thru-hiking you may already know this one, but I’m going to jot it down here just to cover all of our bases.
The Sawyer Squeeze top filters fit perfectly on a one liter Smartwater bottle. Don’t be surprised if you come across die-hard thru-hike enthusiast who do not carry a 3L water bladder with them. Not only are those super heavy, but take up precious space. Get yourself two one liter Smartwater bottles and fill the empty one every time you pass water sources. While setting up your sleep area, take the time to make sure both water bottles are filled.
You should be sleeping near a water source to be able to fill both for the night and to start your morning. Remember, you need at least a liter of water for every two hours spent hiking, and that’s on a ration. Don’t catch yourself straying too far from a water source for too long. This tip is not for beginner hikers! Take your bladder if you’re new to hiking!
Thru-Hike Rain Gear
My wife and I found ourselves battling the option of heavy duty rain gear in comparison to lightweight rain gear.
One one hand you have heavy gear but it provides warmth. On the other hand you have very little weighted gear but it is nearly breathable and the wind cuts right through it.
I recommend investing in ultralight weight non-breathable rain gear. Something made with impregnated silnylon will do wonders for warmth and rain protection. Adding to this, grab a lightweight rain cover for your pack. You don’t want to risk getting all of your stuff wet if you’re pushing long distance.
Tents are one of those things that I consider to be of utmost importance. A good tent with good ventilation goes a long way, unless you like waking up in a puddle of water form moisture collecting on the inside walls of your tent. However, tents are often the heaviest portion of your kit. Even with an ultralight tent, you’re looking at around 2 to 3 pounds. Unless you’re able to purchase hyperlites which can run you upwards of 700 dollars!
To seriously reduce the weight in your pack, you can utilize a makeshift tent. To do so, find a cutout of impregnated silnylon (so it’s waterproof) that’s larger enough to circle you completely and still be raised in the center to cover you while sitting up. Then, use that cutout of fabric, a trekking pole, and six ultralight tent stakes. Voila! You now have an extremely light option for shelter.
Tents like this won’t provide a whole lot of cover, so it’s best to prepare for the elements if you choose this option as shelter. However, in favorable weather conditions, saving a couple of pounds out of your bag is huge in the ultralight world.
If your tent isn’t the heaviest thing in your bag, then it’s probably the bag itself that’s weighing you down. You can reduce your total weight by a great deal if you invest in a durable, but hyperlite bag.
A frameless bag is one of your best options when wanting to hike at the lightest weight possible. I recommend a Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack for this option, though, they are a bit costly.
This one will be short and sweet. Don’t go without a lightweight battery pack. You need the capability of charging Gaia GPS and your phone for downloaded map systems. These are getting lighter with new releases, so see what’s available on the market when you’re preparing. Do not risk your safety to shed a few ounces. This is one of the few times I’d tell you NOT to save weight.
Thru-Hike Final Thoughts
If you have taken these steps to lightening your pack, you’re probably amazed by how little your pack weighs in comparison to its prior state. Remember, sometimes lightening the load means sacrificing comforts and even safety measures. I strongly suggest slowly incorporating these tips into your thru-hiking routine. Just like HykLyt, take it One Step At A Time.
This post was written by Evan