When you’re trying to reach a remote camping, hiking, or fishing spot on foot, the weight of your backpack is something you need to think about before you’re several miles into a long day on your feet. A heavy backpack can cause back and shoulder pain, not to mention increasing fatigue considerably so that you’re ready to call it quits while you still have miles ahead of you. Thankfully, ultralight backpacking is a straightforward solution to a potentially ruinous problem. Here are five steps to get you started.
Step 1: Choose the right backpack
When you start to get serious about ultralight backpacking, you’ll start accumulating different packs for different trips. For beginners, the tradeoff between a frameless and framed backpack can be troublesome. A frameless backpack can shave as much as two pounds off your load, but a framed backpack helps distribute the weight and minimize muscle strain and is critical if you plan to bring in more than 15 pounds of gear. If you’re trying to decide on your first backpack, try selecting a comfortable and lightweight pack with a frame; as you become more accustomed to ultralight packing, pick up a frameless pack.
Step 2: Think about your shelter
Think about where and how you’re going to sleep. Check the weather and plan accordingly. If you’re camping somewhere relatively dry where insects aren’t a problem, you can get by with a lightweight hammock or tarp spread on the ground beneath your sleeping bag. If you plan on dealing with moisture or insects, invest in an ultralight tent, which weigh in at approximately three pounds. When you become more experienced and comfortable, try out a bivy sack, which can weigh as little as a pound.
Step 3: Be ruthless with yourself
Remember, ultralight backpacking isn’t about the creature comforts. This is minimalist camping. Ask yourself if what you’re putting into your pack is something that you really need or just something that you want. Don’t bring your entire toolkit when a multi-purpose tool will suffice.
That said, don’t forget about your feet. After fishing all day, you may not feel safe or comfortable wearing soggy shoes on the trail again, so think about whether or not you need extra footwear. Generally speaking, as long as your shoes are comfortable to wear while they’re wet, and you can ensure your feet will fully dry overnight before you hike in damp boots all day, then you should be all right, but try it out first with a shorter hike. If your feet feel blistered or raw, consider packing in extra footwear.
Step 4: Carrying your tackle
Using a vest while wearing an ultralight backpack is going to be uncomfortable at best. Consider the combination of a hipbelt pocket and a pouch lanyard, the latter of which can carry a fly box, tippet, your license, leaders, and additional tools. Wear it around your neck or stow it in your pack as needed. You’re also going to want an ultralight fishing rod and case, keeping the size of the disassembled rod down to about two and a half feet for easy storage.
Remember that the weight of everything you bring is critical. You want your rod case to weigh in around five ounces, and your reel ideally should be around the same weight (or less, depending on your budget).
Step 5: Learn from your mistakes
After you take a trip, evaluate everything in your backpack and all of your fishing equipment. Remove anything you didn’t need (and can be sure you won’t need next time). Eventually, this streamlining process will leave you with the ability to perfect your pack every time.