Ryan Jordan is the co-founder and Publisher of Backpacking Light. He originally wrote this article as a celebration of the evolution of lightweight backpacking as part of GoLite's 5th Anniversary catalog.
Ultralight backpacking, contrary to proclamations by Those That Carry Heavy Packs, is not practiced by that crazy fringe segment of wilderness society that derives their calories from obscure edible roots and their shelter from two twigs and a waterproof handkerchief. Well, at least, it’s not practiced only by that crazy fringe. Rather, it’s a way of backcountry travel that has permeated virtually every outdoor sport: day hiking, trail running, horse packing, packrafting, backcountry hunting and fishing, mountaineering, mountain biking, and adventure racing. The Ultralight Ethic no longer stands in the shadow of conventional backcountry theology that proclaims “more is better”. An increasing number of people, including elite Alaskan alpinists, Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, parents with children, and even aging baby boomers are entering the wilderness with an astounding level of self-awareness rooted in a simple ethic: Less is better. Lighter is better.
Ultralight backpacking is not hard, nor does it discriminate against those with physical challenges. Anyone with a mind to change, and a desire to cultivate their own ultralight ethic, can do it. Here’s how.