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The hike through West Clear Creek to Hanging Gardens is far from easy, but what made the trip downright difficult was the size and weight of my pack. As I trudged over slippery rocks and waded through deep waters, I never felt like I had my footing. I was constantly top heavy and off balance, and most of that was thanks to the 35+ pounds on my back.

The ultralight community is hardcore, so I’m using the term lightly. There are some ultralight hikers out there drinking unfiltered water and using sticks for tent poles—I’m not ’bout that life. I’m simply looking at the heaviest gear in my pack and finding ways to lighten the load.

My Current Setup

9 to 5 Hiker Original Pack

Backpack: Osprey Kestrel 48 (M/L)
Weight: 1588g

Tent: ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2
Weight: 2637g

Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardware Ratio 15 (L)
Weight: 1191g

Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All-Season (L)
Weight: 743g

Pillow: Cacoon Ultralight Air-Core
Weight: 108g

Water Filter: MSR Miniworks EX
Weight: 525g (499g without stuff sack and scrub pad)

Cookset: MSR Trail Lite Duo System
Weight: 625g

Stove: MSR PocketRocket
Weight: 111g (86g without hard case)

Toiletries: Assorted Items
Weight: 447g

How the Weight Breaks Down

9 to 5 Hiker Lighter Pack Original

Already at 17.5 pounds and this doesn’t even include water, food, clothes, and other random items I usually carry during hikes. These are, however, probably the biggest opportunities to start shaving weight.

Plan of Attack

Ultralight gear gets expensive when you buy the best, but I’m not ’bout that life either. You can get light gear for cheap with some creativity and a little DIY effort. For example, a two-pack of down throws from Costco is only $40 and each one weighs less than 500 grams—that’s less than half the weight of my current sleeping bag. They’re nothing more than blankets out of the box, but a little sewing can transform them into the perfect summer quilt. Upgrades like these are great cost-to-weight values. Spending $40 on a DIY quilt amounts to roughly six cents per gram on weight saved. Searching for deals like these will pay off especially when shopping for a new backpack and “tent” (I put tent in quotes because I’ll be looking at tarps too).

This will be an ongoing series where I cover one item per post. When the ultralight pack is complete, I’ll go back to West Clear Creek for round two and finally make it all the way to Hanging Gardens. If you have any DIY ultralight tricks of your own, leave them in the comments below.