Ultralight Backpacking Checklist

Are you a traveler and not necessarily a backpacker? Do you ever want to get out into the backcountry for a single day and night, but don't have the equipment, planning, life-long backpacking skills or expertise in cooking yourself a hot meal? Is the backcountry prohibitive because you carry something heavy - a camera and tripod, a birding scope, or a Gopro drone?

As a large-format travel photographer, the problem of a large camera on top of a full load of backpacking gear has plagued me my entire life. But in recent years, with the help of my backpacking brothers and tips from Backpacker Magazine, I've been able to put together a pack that is simple and light enough - just under 15 pounds before food and water weight during the warmest summer months - that I have the backpack space for a full set of camera gear and tripod.

Below is all my gear for an overnight trip before I add a camera or a birding scope. My tips follow the photo.

Ultralight Backpacking Checklist

Packing Light for an Overnight Trip

Here are some things I've learned about putting together an ultralight traveler/photographer backpack over the years.

  • The key to an ultralight pack is the backpack itself, the tent, the sleeping bag and the sleeping pad. These are the items where you really shave the weight.
  • Hot meals are an important part of a true backpacking experience, but a quick purpose-oriented solo trip into the backcountry becomes much simpler if you eliminate the cooking stove, pots and pans.
  • Use iodine pills in place of a water filter to shave off weight.
  • Collect tiny, but solid containers for essentials. Keeping a quiver of small, inventive containers shaves weight on small items.
  • Starbucks Via packets are a great way to make yourself coffee in the morning. Without a stove, you'll need a small water bottle, and that coffee will be cold.
  • An ultralight, stove-free pack can easily double as a traveler's pack. My pack below, minus the knife and lighter, can act as an MLC carry-on as as a single piece of luggage for world travel.


Ultralight Pack and Shelter List

REI Flash Sleeping Bag 1 lbs. 10 oz.
REI Quarter Dome Tent 2 lbs. 10 oz.
REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad 1 lb. 6.3 oz.

Ultralight Clothes and Walking List

Cotton T-Shirt 6 oz.
Patagonia Capilene 3 Midweight Crew Long Underwear Shirt 5 oz.
Patagonia Capilene 3 Midweight Long Underwear Bottoms 5 oz.
Patagonia Wind Shield Hybrid Soft Shell Jacket 1 lb. 5 oz.

Ultralight Food and Water, Kitchen and Essentials List

Knife 2.7 oz.
Black Diamond Headlamp 3.25 oz.
Mini Bic Lighter .5 oz.
1 Oz. Visine 2 oz.
.5 Oz. Neosporin 2 oz.
Tiny Capsule for 10 Advil 2 oz.
Travel Toothbrush 2 oz.
Toothpaste 1.5 oz.
Mirror 1 oz.
Gilette Razor and Blade 3 oz.
Kleenex 1 oz.
Spare Contacts + Rubber band .5 oz.
Opti-free Contact Solution 2 oz.
Contact Case + Rubber Band 1 oz.