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Charlie Duane at Cap Gaspé, Québec

Gaspé Lighthouse

Charlie Duane at Southernmost Point in 2004

Southernmost Pt.

East Coast Hike

Charlie thru-hiked the
Appalachian Trail in 2001,
then hiked north in 2002
and south early in 2004.

Life Lesson

"One step at a time"
accomplishes more than
you think possible.

About C. Duane
Contact Charlie

What is ultralight hiking?

An ultralight hike is a type of long-distance hike.

By keeping base pack weight below 10 pounds, the total pack weight with consumables can
total well under 20 pounds. For example, 6 pounds of dry food for 3 days, plus 2 pints of water,
adds about 8 pounds to the base pack weight.

Ultralight how-to

The ultralight style of backpacking begins with weighing and tabulating every piece of gear, including the pack itself. An ultralight hiker mercilessly trims extraneous gear weight. For example: cutting a toothbrush in half and then drilling holes in the remaining half.

Ultralight hikers have traditionally made their own equipment or modified store-bought gear. A sewing machine helps to customize light fabrics and encourages self-reliance. Umbrellas and running shoes with tongues cut out can be seen during summer months.

Cooking usually involves adding dehydrated food to 1.5 cups of boiled water. Very simple alcohol stoves, made with tuna cans and oven foil, can be remarkably efficient.

Where to buy ultralight hiking products

The best advice can often be found by word of mouth from other hikers with similar characteristics of age, experience, conditioning, and so on. Internet forums help hikers share experiences.

Today outfitters carry more lightweight camping products. Remember that models of equipment sometimes change annually, especially in the case of shoes. So if you find certain gear useful, you might get spares for backup.

Ultralight pro & con

Ultralight hiking has the benefit of allowing more miles to be hiked in greater comfort, when the distance hike lasts for weeks. A difference of 2 miles per day can mean 2 weeks of elapsed time over 100 days.

However, novices who view ultralight techniques of hiking as a substitute for real outdoor experience put their own safety at risk.

A classic mistake involves neglecting physical training during the preparation stage. The logistics of planning a hike can disrupt your exercise program.

Walking and day hiking

If you walk daily for 2 or 3 miles, you may already be an ultralight walker. Suppose you add a second daily walk after a couple months and later phase in a third walk over time. At this rate you would thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in about 7 months.

So ultralight hiking simply repeats the success of a daily walk ten times per day! A long-distance hike can be thought of as a series of day hikes.

After the ultralight thru-hike

The body's metabolism kicks into high gear on a long-distance hike, so the hiker can eat "anything" and still lose weight. Few sports allow the participants to subsist on a junk food diet.

A nutritionally balanced diet, including lots of salad with garden vegetables, helps to down-shift the hiker's metabolism. This also means limiting bread, sugar, and animal fats.

Post-hike exercise should include gentle, systematic stretching - especially when spending a lot of time indoors.

Ultralight Resources