5 Tips for Ultralight Backpacking

This is a guest post by Aaron's Worldwide Adventures. Packing light.  Sounds so cliche, doesn't it? It may well be, but it's a subject many backpackers don't seem to fully grasp. I would know...I was one! I traveled across Asia with a whopping 90 liter  pack that could have fit me inside! I thought I was doing a grand old job of packing light, until, that is, I had to hike up a mountain with my very heavy pack on! [caption id="attachment_2926" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Taktsang "Tiger's Nest" monastery near Paro, Bhutan"]
Hiking from the bus stop to Ping'An village, first stop at the Longji "Dragon's Backbone" Rice Terraces near Leshan, Guangxi, China.
Right there and then was the moment I became an ultralight backpacking convert! Here are 5 great tips that helped me and can surely help you too! Buy a Small Backpack Now, when I bough that 90L pack, I went in with the mentality that I wanted extra space to be able to buy souvenirs along the way. But here's the problem. If you have the space, you will be inclined to fill it! By buying small, you are limiting yourself, and that's not exactly a bad thing! If you buy souvenirs along the way, ship them home! Sure, that's an extra expense, but you will save yourself so much trouble by not having the space for it! When I bought a new pack earlier this year, I downsized all the way down to a 32 liters! Seems small, I know, but I have definitely made it work and the convenience and comfort is worth its weight in gold! Pack Less I know this one really seems obvious, but take your packing list and then start crossing things off that list! Let's think about this realistically though...if the goal is to get the weight of your pack down, you have to think about what not to bring. Like your entire guidebook! It weighs a ton and you could just bring copies of the relevant chapters you need.
[/caption] And when traveling, it's not like you're seeing the same people over and over again (except your travel companion who will be in the same boat as you) so nobody will care if you wear the same thing or don't "look cute." Hate to say it, but backpacking is about "roughing it" to some extent, which means wearing the same outfits repeatedly. In fact, you really only need to bring 2 sets of clothes if you follow my next tip... Wash Your Clothes in the Sink If you want to pack enough clothes to be considered ultralight, you're going to have to wash them with some regularity. I know this can sound like a huge pain, but it really doesn't have to be! Using the "one to wash, one to wear" mentality in bringing 2 outfits, you can wash the basics in the sink every night. To do this, pack a universal sink stopper, an elastic clothesline, some clothespins and some liquid detergent...even a 3 oz. bottle (to satisfy that carry-on requirement in the U.S.) will last you ages if you totally ignore the instructions and only use a few drops vs. half the bottle. Trust me, it does the trick! After soaking your clothes for a couple minutes, wring them out, roll them in a towel, and hang them up to dry overnight! But what if it's super duper humid and you're worried your heavier things like socks won't dry in time? Well that's where this next one comes in to play... Invest in Right Gear I can't even begin to emphasize the importance of investing in the proper gear for traveling. More than anything, you want quick drying, breathable fabrics, as chances are you'll be doing a lot of activity on your trip! These fabrics tend to be pretty lightweight, allowing you to shave off a lot of space! These can often by found in the travel or hiking sections of most outdoor retailers. Now, you're probably thinking, "but how can I pack so light when I need warm clothes?" Fear not, you can either ship your winter gear around or take to those very same outdoor retailers who carry a variety of fancy layering systems to keep you mighty toasty without all that bulky winter wear that people think of! Be forewarned though, these clothes are not cheap but totally worth it! [caption id="attachment_2927" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Moon Hill near Yangshuo in China's Guangxi province"][/caption] Walk Around the Block With Your Gear I know this is the most cliche thing on this list, but it really is a true statement! Had I heeded this advice before leaving for Asia, I would have known that I couldn't have hiked up a mountain with my gear! Look at it this way. You are going to be spending a lot of time wearing your pack and you need to ensure that you will be able to handle it. So go ahead! Walk around town with your pack on for a while and see how you feel! If it's too heavy, then it's time to rethink what you're bringing! About the Author:  A world traveler since age 4, Aaron has lived on 3 continents and blogs about unlikely places and ultimate experiences. When he's not blissfully on the road, he's busy planning his next ultralight backpacking adventure in New York City. You can follow his adventures at Aaron's Worldwide Adventures, on Twitter or on Facebook.