The Ultralight Dilemma

First of all I want to say that I’m not going ultralight by definition. The base pack weight of my coming trip’s gear is 6,6 kg. If you look in the code of law of ultralight backpacking, this means I failed.

Sometimes there are exceptions. For example if you go on a trip in winter and you have to bring all the heavy warming stuff, you get a gracious not guilty verdict from your inner ultralight voice for one or maybe even two kilos more.

My trip will be in Spain. In May. So I deserve the disgrace.
On the photo you can see my total base weight.

Insertion: Ultralight Vocabulary

The Definitions:

Base Pack Weight Everything in your pack except consumables (food, water and fuel)
Total Pack Weight
Base pack weight + consumables
(without everything you’re wearing)
Total Base Weight Base pack weight + everything you’re wearing
(without consumables)
Skin Out Weight Everything except your naked body weight
Base pack weight + everything you’re wearing + consumables
Total Weight Everything, including your body

Which gives me some strange thoughts: It would be really much easier, to loose one kilo of body weight than to decide which kilo of items I don’t want to take on my trip. But this would be really dumb. But sometimes trying to be ultralight is just that: feeling dump.

The Ultralight Weight Limits:

SuperUltraLightweight Less than 2,5 kg BPW Less than 5 pounds BPW
UltraLightweight Less than 5 kg BPW Less than 10 pounds BPW
Lightweight Less than 10 kg BPW Less than 20 pounds BPW
Traditional Less than 15 kg BPW Less than 30 pounds BPW
Heavy More than 15 kg BPW More than 30 pounds BPW

(and I’m happy to be European because Europeans just rounded up the American values from 10 pounds for ultralight, which is only 4,5 kg).

Acting Foolishly

  • After asking several times at an outdoor or sports shop for the exact weight of an item and getting answers like “It’s really light!” I don’t go offline shopping without my kitchen scale anymore (which BTW isn’t ultralight).
  • In my job I hate to use Excel sheets and I don’t have a clue how to work with this tool efficiently. But I use it to list my stuff for my trips. And I know nearly every items weight by heart.
  • If some of my understanding friends make considerations what to bring to my trip, the first thing I think of, is weight.
  • On countless occasions I sweared during online shopping because there was no weight indicated. Even on stuff with “ultralight” in its name or description!
  • I started to indicate the lifespan of my shoes in kilometers.
  • I just cut out the lining of my windbreaker (41g!).
  • I bought something new just because it was 20 grams less than the one I already had.
  • And quite frequently I paid the double amount of money for an item with one third less weight than another.

Where That Led To

Everything started with my desire to do a one month hike but having chronic back pain. After packing and organizing thoughtfully I carried 6,8 kg. I never even felt my backpack while walking. When I carried the pack of a fellow hiker during a short period, I was shocked how horrible heavy weight can feel. Mine was just delightful. This was a trip where I slept in hostels and I didn’t carry a tent or a sleeping pad.

Now I had to start thinking differently again. I had to get rid of stuff I really wanted to have with me, because under no circumstances I want to regret the heaviness of my pack. My kindle has to stay at home (-211g) as well as the guide book (-341g). Instead I want to write more (small bluetooth keyboard, + 190g). I hope I won’t need my puffy jacket (-328g) instead I take my cosy yeti next to nothing down vest (+99g). I had no use for a big knife the last time (-80g) but I hated having to fight for a plug in the evening (Anker charger +345g). I don’t carry four shirts anymore. And my overall variety of clothing will be very, very limited. In general I saved most of the weight with the very big stuff (for example backpack from 1,5kg to a 500g Laufbursche Huckepack) and the very small stuff (less this-could-all-happen-stuff).

Finally I’m now at approximately the same weight than before but with the tent, the sleeping setup and the cooking stuff.


My inner ultralight demon still whispers in my ear. And he is constantly fighting against my heavy-but-cozy demon. This is my actual kind of ultralight. And on my next trip, everything may change again.

Hike your own hike. You have to carry your own shit, and no one else will.

16 thoughts on “The Ultralight Dilemma

  1. Exactly how I feel and behave 😊 Weighing, buying, buying twice because what you already have is too heavy… I wish I had known about ultralight when I started buying hiking gear a couple of years ago! In the German outdoor stores they still have no clue about ultralight…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Finally, someone talks ultralight in metric system :))
    Anyway, The only thing that keeps my basepack weight 6-7 kg is my tent (1.5 kg), and I wouldn’t change it to tarp (tried it, don’t like it). My fellow ultralight friends have 4-5 kg basepack weight with their tarp but hey, I feel really comfortable in my tent so who cares?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t go with a tarp neither cause I don’t like those small animals (ants, flies, mosquitos, etc.). But I recommend my Tarptent Notch which weighs something around 750g.


  3. I really like the photo of all your gear/kit!

    It’s funny to me that the “Ultralight” scene can be so expensive and gear focused, when in reality the gear you don’t buy weights nothing, costs nothing, and takes up no space 🙂 Unfortunately outdoor stores can’t make much money off this approach. And I suppose we have to bring something…at which point I’m right up there comparing spec sheets.

    That said, pack weight is SO situational. For instance, my guiding pack is insanely heavy no matter how light I try and go, where as my personal weekend pack can be almost weightless…but then add my film making gear to my weekend pack and it gets crazy heavy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m at the “Ultralight” stage lol. I haven’t started doing long term hiking yet though so it could be a little over 10kg by then but then again.. all I’ll be adding to me bag is a waterproof jacket, tent and a sleeping bag. (I think)


  5. Very interesting. Hueckepacks look amazing. You make a very good point that (depending on health and lifestyle) it’s not usually very hard to lose a kg in body weight before a trip, that also helps knees and feet and is much cheaper than ultralight gear! 😉 Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Do you have the list with the grams for us to see? I love to check other people’s gear lists for inspiration 🙂 My pack baseweight is at 6kg for 3 seasons but I kept my kindle as my luxury item. Still got some weight to shave before reaching ultralight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s