Most hikers first head out on the trail with the borrowed, metal-frame backpack their dad used back in the 1980s and some old Timberland work boots strapped to their feet. But after grueling weeks and some mild scoliosis, a few decide to go lighter. Cutting weight from 50 to 25 pounds means upgrading the sleeping bag and tent and dumping half their paycheck at REI in the process. After doubling their daily distances, they’ve suddenly developed an obsession: pack anorexia. Every ounce is evaluated, every piece of redundant gear eliminated. “Caloric density” and “base pack weight” get thrown into normal conversations. Suddenly packs weigh less than an elementary schooler’s Jansport.
These obsessives with less than 10 pounds strapped to their backs are considered “ultralight” hikers, a term as ubiquitous and unregulated in the hiking retail market as “organic” and “grass fed” are in the food industry. But trust us: the following gear truly is ultralight, and it’s perfect for those committed to the church of the minimalist trail pounder.