How to Switch to an Ultralight Pack

A backpack is arguably the most important piece of your hiking equipment. It needs to withstand the weight of your gear and allow you to hike comfortably over a long distance.

As a conventional backpacker, you may be hesitant to take the leap to an ultralight pack. That’s where bridge packs come in. According to Rick Light, author of Backpacking the Light Way, “bridge packs are heavier than ultralight packs, more comfortable in general, sometimes with more features. They are still much lighter than the conventional alternatives while including some of the characteristics that make conventional packs user-friendly.”

Here are some tips on how to shift to a bridge pack without sacrificing comfort:

  • Make a list of all packs under a specific weight that are sized appropriately (in volume) for your needs.
  • Pick the lightest one and try it out.
  • Does it meet your comfort needs? If so, you’re done. If not, figure out what’s missing and why it is not meeting your needs. This tells you what to look for in a different pack.

Finding a lighter bridge pack that still has comfort features, such as pockets on the hip belt, functional load lifters, form-fitted hip and shoulder padding, and a ventilation system, may be the perfect solution for you. As Rick Light says,

“Ultralight backpackers consider “a few more ounces” to be the wrong attitude. However, those of us who know and love conventional backpacking might need a transition—a bridge—from conventional backpacking gear toward ultralight. The result will not be a base weight of 8.5 pounds. But it will be a base weight that is some dozen or more pounds lighter than what we have been carrying! We “transitioners” just need to be sure we don’t make that ‘just a few ounces’ into a mantra.”

If you’re interested in lightening your load and packing efficiently while still being fully prepared, check out Backpacking the Light Way.

Tanya Twerdowsky
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