Ultralight

How light can you get your backpack and still be safe and comfortable? Pretty light is the answer. It can be pared down to well under ten pounds for everything other than your food and water.

Lately I’m more of an armchair backpacker. But when I’ve backpacked in the past I always tried to take as little as possible.

Now longtime backcountry guide and cartoonist Mike Clelland, has written and illustrated a cool little book called “Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips.” It’s full of interesting ideas for getting your gear weight down to an almost unnoticeable load.

By adopting an anti-hoarding mentality and using a (postal type) scale you can go a long way to lightening your load because every once or gram left at home will make you more comfortable on the trail. Probably more than anything, using a scale and noting weights just creates an awareness and removes guessing.

After the weigh-in, start separating your wants and needs. That fancy knife, for example, will rarely be used. Clelland takes along a cheap single-edged razor blade in a cardboard sheath made from a piece of cereal box.

What about the cost of going ultralight? Lighter is often cheaper. He has lots of tips like the razor blade instead of a knife such as a reused water bottle instead of a heavier more expensive nalgene bottle, a tarp instead of a high-tech tent, or a reading clipped articles instead of a book.

Test drive your new kit in the backyard or on a quick trip first to know it all works for you. It does work. Mike Clelland is part of the lineage of ultralight backpacking pros who (in my mind) started with Ray Jardine. As a side note, Jardine is one of the most accomplished outdoors person, not just in backpacking, I know of. I’ll tell you about Ray another time.

If you’re in the least bit fascinated by minimalism, comfort, or being able to more fully enjoy the backcountry without a pack animal, or being one yourself, get Mike’s book. You’ll be entertained and come away smarter. And that’s not all! His illustrations are part of the Robert Crumb lineage of drawing, which is a compliment too.